Coca-Cola 300 Thursday notebook By Dave Rodman DALLAS-FORT WORTH (March 25, 1999) Notes and quotes following Bud Pole Award Qualifying Thursday for Saturday's Coca-Cola 300 at Texas Motor Speedway: Did Mike Skinner think much on Thursday ...
Coca-Cola 300 Thursday notebook By Dave Rodman
DALLAS-FORT WORTH (March 25, 1999) Notes and quotes following Bud Pole Award Qualifying Thursday for Saturday's Coca-Cola 300 at Texas Motor Speedway:
Did Mike Skinner think much on Thursday morning about the accident at Texas Motor Speedway in 1998 that basically wrote-off his season? "No," Skinner said after leaving the infield care center, "but maybe I should have because I was going flat out when I hit this time."
Kerry Earnhardt, driver of the No. 40 Channellock Chevrolet, also hit the wall in turn two when the car got loose and "got away from me." Earnhardt said his biggest mistake was not heeding the advice of his famous father, Dale Earnhardt, and brother Dale Jr. -- the defending champion of this race. Asked what advice they'd given him, the "middle" Earnhardt said "Stay out of trouble."
Dave Blaney proved he was a solid Bud Pole contender when he ran the third quickest lap in the morning practice. Ironically, he has won all three of his Bud Poles at similar tracks: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas. "We ran good in Atlanta so we are looking to run good here," Blaney said of his runnerup finish earlier this year in the Yellow Freight 300. "The track is excellent. They have improved it 100 percent."
Once again the NASCAR Busch Series garage is virtually "standing room only," as 61 cars are on hand after Blaise Alexander canceled his entry for the Lisa Express Chevrolet. Several cars were paddocked in the main garage next to their trailers while more than half a dozen were in another area to the turn one side of the main garage. No less than three teams made late driver changes only former NBS Rookie of the Year Steve Park -- who is driving Grubb Motorsports' Link-Belt Chevrolet -- seems a lock to make the field as he qualified 29th. Kenny Wallace, who took the seat of the No. 25 Dura-Lube Chevrolet for this race, is 38th and Steve Grissom, subbing for Bobby Labonte in the No. 18 MBNA America Pontiac, was 49th after one round.
Larry Pearson, driver of the No. 00 Cheez-It Pontiac, hit the wall in turn four during the afternoon practice and reported he had fallen victim to a delusion similar to that suffered by others when he said "I was running the car wide open and it broke loose in turn three." Neither Pearson nor any of the other drivers who crashed Thursday suffered injuries.
Philip Morris, driver of the No. 01 Llumar Chevrolet, crashed in the second practice. He said, "We were doing a sticker run, and I came upon some cars and the middle path was blocked. All I could do was go up and try to control it, but I couldn't hold on. I eventually lost it. I feel like we had a good run. We went from 50th to 20th in practice times, but now it is going to be harder to go with the new car and no practice. I don't know how we will do." Morris was right as he was 51st in Bud Pole Qualifying.
Kenny Irwin, who debuted Dale Jarrett and Brett Favre's No. 11 Rayovac Batteries Ford, was 16th in the first practice and improved to 5th in the afternoon session before qualifying 10th. Irwin said, "The difference was tires. We scuffed some tires in the first practice to use in the second session and we ran better on them. I like this track. I ran good here with the truck, and we ran well with the Cup car last year. The track is the best it has ever been."
Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 87 BellSouth Mobility Chevrolet, will host a Make A Wish Foundation child for Saturday's Coca-Cola 300. Seven-year-old Jack Scott of Buffalo, Texas, will receive his "honorary crew member" status complete with pit/garage tour, team hauler tour, and time spent with Nemecheck prior to Saturday's event. In addition, the Make A Wish Foundation has arranged for the boy, who has a congenital heart defect and is currently awaiting a heart and lung transplant, to receive a ride around Texas Motor Speedway in a Wal-Mart truck prior to Sunday's PRIMESTAR 500. This brings him one step closer to fulfilling his life-long dream of becoming a Wal-Mart truck driver.
Adam Petty had a sage take on the subject of NASCAR Winston Cup drivers competing in NASCAR Busch Series races. "You can only learn from the best," Petty said after a Bud Pole session that saw NWC drivers grab 10 of the top-25 spots. "Let the big guys come. Everybody else is going to have to step up their game if they are going to get better. Richard (Petty) was happy, but I could tell my dad (Kyle) was really excited for me. Richard will always find something to critique me on, but if he didn't I would never learn."
Todd Bodine, driver of the No. 66 Phillips 66 Chevrolet, was 6th fastest in the second practice session, but he failed to qualify during the first round. Bodine said, "The car didn't get as slick as we thought it would. The track was in good shape. We were too tight. We will wait to see how practice goes tomorrow before we decide about second-round qualifying."
Tony Roper, driver of the No. 61 IWX Motor Freight Pontiac, was very disappointed in his qualifying lap. Roper's foot had slid off the car's gas pedal on his qualifying run. Roper still had his best lap of the day (30.155 sec., 179.075 mph) using his heel to push the accelerator. Roper's time was 25th when the final car, Johnny Benson, hit the track. Benson tied Roper's time. NASCAR rules call for tied spots to go to the car that is higher in car owner's points. Stephen Coulter is 29th in owner's points with 341 markers, while Brian Baumgardner, owner of Benson's car, is 30th with 337 points. The four-point difference has Roper secured in the field. Being in the field allows Roper to utilize all 2 hours and 35 minutes of practice on Friday toward the race setup and not a second round of qualifying.
The Speedway Club, a $35 million facility located in turn one of Texas Motor Speedway, celebrated its grand opening Thursday evening with guest star Wayne Newton. Over 1,000 guests were in attendance at the sold out event. The Speedway Club will feature a state-of-the-art health club, exquisite dining facility and 26,000 square foot ballroom.
Source: NASCAR Online