ALLTEL 200 Saturday notebook By Shawn A. Akers ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 20, 1999) Some notes and quotes from Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division ALLTEL 200 at North Carolina Speedway: Rockingham continues to be a tough...
ALLTEL 200 Saturday notebook By Shawn A. Akers
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 20, 1999) Some notes and quotes from Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division ALLTEL 200 at North Carolina Speedway:
Rockingham continues to be a tough race track for Dale Earnhardt Jr. The defending NASCAR Busch Series champion, who finished 16th and 14th in two events at the 1.017-mile oval last season, got caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 129 of Saturday's race and wound up finishing a disappointing 35th.
"I just seen a couple cars get crossed up and I thought that the two that I made it through were the only two in the wreck, but there was another one on the other side of them guys and I just didn't see him," Earnhardt Jr. said. "There wasn't anything I could have done just tried to get on the brakes."
The year hasn't begun well for Earnhardt, who hopes to follow Randy LaJoie as a repeat champion. The driver of the No. 3 ACDelco Chevrolet finished 14th in last Saturday's NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona, and is 17th in the point standings after two events, 161 points behind leader LaJoie.
It was a day of hard luck for the Earnhardt boys. Kerry Earnhardt, driver of the No. 40 Channellock Chevrolet, spun out on the backstretch on lap 25 and sustained damage to the car's front-left suspension.
The Channellock car finished last (43rd), 141 laps down to race winner Jeff Burton.
"I was a little bit loose, and one of the cars behind me got up into the rear of me and pushed me around," Earnhardt said. "I wound up hitting the inside wall. It's just one of them deals."
On the other end of the spectrum, 18-year-old Casey Atwood is proving his worth for Brewco Motorsports. After enduring a spectacular last-lap crash last Saturday at Daytona and finishing 17th, Atwood drove his No. 27 Castrol GTX Chevrolet to a solid fifth-place finish this week.
Atwood made his NASCAR Busch Series debut at Rockingham last February, and finished 21st.
"We showed last week we could run up front," Atwood said. "It didn't turn out the way we wanted, but we stayed consistent all day today. The last set of tires was a little tight. We may have had a third or fourth-place car, but we'll settle for fifth.
"I figured Daytona and Talladega would be two of our weakest points because I haven't been there and some of our crew hasn't been there. We came up and were running second on the last lap. I'm just happy we had a good run this week. I think we're going to be up front all year."
NASCAR Winston Cup Series star Burton isn't going to run a full schedule in the NASCAR Busch Series this season, but if he did, he certainly would be a contender for the championship. After his victory Saturday in the ALLTEL 200, Burton is third in the standings with 318 points, 27 behind LaJoie.
Burton started from the 30th position to win Saturday's race, giving him his 10th career NASCAR Busch Series victory. He has a little bit of a deficit to make up with Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin, who owns the career NASCAR Busch Series record for most wins with 34.
"I have to run as well as Mark does because we've got the same stuff," Burton said. "We run the same cars, so we both have to run well. I respect Mark and what he's done in the Busch Series. Hopefully I can have just as much success as he did."
While Martin did not win Saturday's race, he certainly proved that he could be a contender despite pitting on the backstretch. Martin started from the 32nd position and finished as the runner-up.
"That backstretch pit stall kind of hurt us at the end, but that's probably all we could do," Martin said. "We couldn't beat Jeff anyway, but it kind of took our chance away having a shot there. It was an awesome run for the Winn-Dixie team and our car worked well there at the end."
There were six caution flags for 41 laps during Saturday's race. There were 12 lead changes among seven drivers. The average speed of the race was 108.599 mph, and the time of the time was one hour, 56 minutes and two seconds.
Source: NASCAR Online