BUSCH: Watkins Glen driver escape Gilligan's Island

Dallenbach leads 'escape from Gilligan's Island' By Dave Rodman SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 2000) The specter of pitting on "Gilligan's Island" caused an unprecedented number of cars to participate in Bud Second-Round Qualifying on Saturday ...

Dallenbach leads 'escape from Gilligan's Island' By Dave Rodman

SONOMA, Calif. (June 24, 2000) The specter of pitting on "Gilligan's Island" caused an unprecedented number of cars to participate in Bud Second-Round Qualifying on Saturday morning at Sears Point Raceway. Wally Dallenbach posted the fastest time as 18 of 21 non-qualified cars opted to re-qualify. Dallenbach's lap of 71.776 seconds, an average speed of 97.754 mph in the TBS Dinner & A Movie Ford, earned him the 26th starting position. Had he run the lap on Friday in Bud Pole Qualifying, he would have started 20th on Sunday.

Mike Bliss, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr., earned the 27th through 31st spots before the three drivers who stood on their Bud Pole Qualifying lap: Elliott Sadler, Darrell Waltrip and Brian Simo.

Johnny Benson qualified 35th, .033 seconds off Simo's lap. Therefore his Tyler Jet Motorsports team will have to pit its Lycos.com Pontiac in the area between the frontstretch pits and the entrance to Turn 11. The auxiliary pit area is known as Gilligan's Island due to its castoff nature.

Due to the configuration of that area of the pits, their assigned official holds teams pitting there 18 seconds before they can rejoin the race. Teams consider that penalty insurmountable and it loomed large for Saturday morning's qualifiers.

"Yeah, I didn't try to get more out of the car than was there today and I didn't screw up," said Dallenbach, who faced missing the race if had not qualified in the top-36. "The car was actually probably better today than it was yesterday -- we made it better -- but I think the track is probably not as good as it was yesterday.

"I think we've got a good race car for Sunday and that's all that matters. I didn't want to be on Gilligan's Island and we worked on it and got a pretty good car so we'll take it."

"We ran a conservative lap today," Michael Waltrip said after exiting his NationsRent Chevrolet. "We screwed up yesterday, so we just wanted to make sure that we weren't pitting out there in no man's land. That takes away some of your opportunities for a good finish.

"I was just conservative. I guess that was smart, but when it was over, I wish I had gone a little faster. I left some time on the table in a couple of places, and I should have reached out there and got it. It's difficult to pass here, but there's a lot of twists and turns that will develop between the start of the race and the finish. Whether you pit, when you pit, what your strategy is when you pit will have a lot to do with it."

"I didn't want to start 35th or 36th and pit out there on Gilligan's Island," Earnhardt said, summing up 18 teams' feelings. "I'd be there if I hadn't qualified again."

Robert Pressley's Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team went to the greatest lengths to avoid "The Island." The team put road racer Mark Simo in the No. 77 Ford for the morning practice and decided to have Simo attempt to qualify as well. Even though Simo marginally improved over Pressley's Bud Pole run, he did not qualify. The team was then forced to take a provisional to start 41st. Pressley will definitely run the race Sunday, crew chief Ryan Pemberton said.

"We were trying to guard against pitting on Gilligan's Island over there because it's a huge disadvantage," Pemberton said. "We felt like maybe putting a veteran road racer might pay off for us. We did run faster -- we just needed a little more time for Mark to get the feel of running a big race car. He was on his way, but didn't have enough time to be able to put all the corners together at one time."

Dave Marcis was another car owner who tried to put a veteran road racer in his Realtree Chevrolet to make the race. But R.K. Smith, 59, failed to get the car up to speed and was one of three drivers who did not qualify, along with former multi-race NASCAR Winston Cup Series road race winner Geoffrey Bodine and Rick Mast, who had the transmission on his No. 14 Conseco Pontiac jump out of gear in the esses on his qualifying lap, costing him enough speed to make the race.


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Michael Waltrip , Geoffrey Bodine , Robert Pressley , Johnny Benson , Brian Simo , Dave Marcis , Rick Mast , Mike Bliss , Elliott Sadler