NASCAR Winston Cup Post-Race Notebook -- Pepsi 400
7 July 1997NASCAR Winston Cup Series
Daytona International Speedway
July 5, 1997
HE SAID, HE SAID
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - The Pepsi 400 ended way too early for pole winner Mike Skinner. An accident just 33 laps into the 160-lap event put Skinner's #31 Lowe's Chevrolet back in the garage forcing him to settle for a 41st place finish.
Jimmy Spencer and Chad Little were also involved and, as is the case with any incident, everybody had their own opinion about who was responsible.
"I think I got wrecked," said Skinner, who currently sits atop the rookie of the year point standings. "All I know is I got hit from behind. I was racing along in pretty good shape. Everything was fine. I went into the corner and the next thing I know I'm going sideways. You'll have to look at the replay and see who it was. I don't know. I know we had a good car, and I think we had a car that could have won this race. I was just waiting for the laps to count down to go for it and then we got nailed from behind."
Spencer, however, had no doubt as to where blame should lie and minced no words in his explanation. "You know he's (Skinner) talkin' like that, I guess he just deserves what he gets. Mike Skinner just made a dumb mistake, but he also took me out with him. Stupid. You know, they call them rookies, and he is definitely a rookie." The driver of the #23 Smokin' Joe's Thunderbird lost a lap during the altercation and despite racing with the lead pack for most of the remainder of the race, he was never able to make up the lap and ended up 31st. "I sure thought I had enough for the leaders," said the disappointed driver who had qualified 5th fastest and was looking for a much better outcome. "I sure ran with them all day long."
Little finished dead last in 42nd but chalked it up to just another racing incident and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. "I was running in the back of that first draft and there was some commotion up front," explained the pilot of the #97 John Deere Pontiac. "I saw everybody bucking dust and drivers signaling to everybody that they were slowing down, and of course I did the same thing. We got caught from behind and that sent me into the outside wall. It tore up the car pretty good. I feel OK. We were just trying to get a good finish out there, but it's part of racing. There's nothing you can do about it and you've got to live with it."
With the exception of a career first Busch Pole Award and a sixth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway -- his only top-10 finish of the season -- it's fair to say that Kenny Wallace has struggled in 1997. The youngest of the racing Wallace brothers has had seven DNF's thus far and the team had to pack up early for the long ride home after failing to qualify for the inaugural Winston Cup event at California Speedway two weeks ago.
But an eleventh-place finish in the Pepsi 400 could be just the shot in the arm that the Filmar Racing crew is looking for to turn their luck around. "That's exactly what we needed," exclaimed Wallace after climbing from his #81 Square D Thunderbird. "We started 27th and were ahead of that all day. We were up to ninth and then got caught up in traffic and got back to 17th. Then we had the restart with one-lap to go."
That final restart resulted in a multi-car crash between turns two and three, knocking out six cars and advancing Wallace the same number of positions. "It was like 'Days of Thunder'," said the 33-year old driver. "I saw them crashing and I never lifted. I just drove right into it. I got clipped in the left rear, and just about lost control. But, I was able to drive through it. I've said all weekend that this is the beginning of a new season for us. I'm looking forward to the second half."
MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
Coming into the Pepsi 400 Ricky Rudd, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Labonte were the only four top-40 drivers in point standings who had yet to post a DNF this season. Rudd and Waltrip were denied the opportunity to extend that streak after an accident, caused by a cut tire on the #10 Tide ride, sidelined both pilots with just five laps to go.
"I cut a left rear tire, and I heard it slap twice before the car turned around," said Rudd, who was credited with a 34th-place finish. "There wasn't anything I could do about that. I was stuck up there in the high groove and I heard the tread." Rudd was checked out and released from the infield care center. He suffered no major injuries but was feeling pretty sore. "It was a pretty hard hit," he said. "Anytime you wreck here and you've got these multi-car packs running, you know it's gonna be a hard lick."
Waltrip's #21 CITGO Thunderbird was collected when Ricky's car spun and shot across the track into the outside wall. "I committed to the one side, and that was the wrong place to be," said Waltrip. He finished 35th, his lowest showing of the season.
Lori Vizza -- The Auto Channel