Monday, February 15, 1999
DAYTONA 500 NOTEBOOK
Ford teammates touch off crash
BY TOM GROESCHEN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. So much for teammates helping each other out at Daytona.
Dale Jarrett and Kenny Irwin, members of the Robert Yates-owned Ford team, were the key figures in the tremendous 12-car crash on lap 135 Sunday. TV replays were inconclusive as to whether Irwin's car bumped Jarrett, who spun out and triggered the pileup.
Jarrett, a top-three Winston points finisher for the last three years, was knocked out of the race, while Irwin slipped through untouched. Irwin went on to finish third, his best finish since joining Winston Cup in 1998.
I don't know if we touched, or if air got off his spoiler and we touched, Irwin said. I have no idea, but I feel very, very bad about it if it was my fault.
Jarrett, a gentleman racer, appeared upset when he first emerged from his car. But he quickly calmed down and said he wasn't even sure who might have hit him. Did he know where Irwin was?
No, I was just worried about me. He was in the mix there, but I have no idea. These things will happen ... that's how it goes some days.
Mark Martin and Terry Labonte were the other big names caught in the big wreck, along with Ricky Rudd, two-time Daytona champ Sterling Marlin, and several several others.
Martin, who won seven races last year and was trying for his first Daytona 500 win, tried to continue with a badly damaged car. He finally retired and finished 31st.
The big wreck, in which no one was hurt, was the only major accident of the day. The race had only four caution flags.
Marlin, who won Daytona in both 1994 and '95, said, The 28 (Irwin) wrecked the 88 (Jarrett). That's all I saw. We'd run 100 laps and nothing happened. You figured it was going to happen.
No Bull, indeed
Jeff Gordon won a total of $2,172,246 on Sunday, including $1 million for winning the Winston No Bull 5 promotion. The top five finishers of the previous No Bull race, in this case at Talladega last October, were eligible for the $1 million.
Gordon, of course, was one of those. And a pre-selected fan, Ray Grimm of Hagerstown, Md., also pocketed $1 million as Gordon's fan of the day. The program awards $1 million to the winning driver and $1 million to a fan.
Dave Marcis, at 57 the oldest man in the field, ran in his 32nd consecutive Daytona 500. He tied Richard Petty's record of 32 starts in the race.
Marcis had one of the slowest cars, but still managed to finish 16th largely via attrition. It was his best finish here in 12 years.
Other high finishers of note:
Mike Skinner was fourth, his best finish in three Daytona appearances.
Michael Waltrip was fifth, his best Daytona finish in 13 career attempts.
Kyle Petty was seventh, his second-best showing in 18 Daytonas.
Derrike Cope remains the only driver in the past 18 years who started outside the top 10 and went on to win the Daytona 500. He came from 12th to win the 1990 race.
Winston rookies Tony Stewart and Elliott Sadler finished 28th and 40th, respectively, which is about typical for newcomers on the high-banked Daytona monster.
Stewart did start on the front row alongside Gordon, but in racing parlance was quickly shuffled back by drivers experienced in the side-by-side racing here. Should drivers get caught in the middle of a three-wide pack, such as Stewart sometimes was, they quickly lose position to drivers who draft together on the inside or outside lines.
Not to mention, Stewart and Pontiac teammate Bobby Labonte both suffered engine problems that caused frequent pit stops.
I've brought all my IRL luck over here now, Stewart said. Any time I tear up anything, it seems like I tear up a motor.
Stewart, the 1997 Indy Racing League (IRL) champion and '96 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, was known for his all-or-nothing days in the open-wheel cars. He holds the IRL career record for most laps led, but also did things like blow an engine while leading the '98 Indy 500.
Racing folks rank the Daytona 500 up there with the Super Bowl, World Series, and NCAA Final Four, and it has touches of all.
There was the customary jet flyover after the national anthem, fireworks, marching bands, and not one but two blimps overhead.
Not to mention pregame infield music by Ray Charles, some Blues Brothers imitators, and the Bethune-Cookman College marching band. Not to mention, a fleet of parachutists flying into the infield. And yes, those were the Budweiser Clydesdales, all right.
Not to mention, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas as grand marshal and Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre as honorary starter. Favre waved the green flag to begin the race Sunday.
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