NASCAR Winston Cup Series NAPA 500: Pre-Race Notebook
16 November 1997
NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pre-Race Notebook NAPA 500 Atlanta Motor Speedway November 15, 1997 HAMPTON, GA - HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE? Buckshot Jones will make his Winston Cup debut starting 32nd on the grid for today's NAPA 400 with a qualifying effort of 191.245 mph. Jones, who finished 7th in the 1997 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division point standings, grew up in Stone Mountain, GA located just east of Atlanta and was thrilled to accomplish the feat in front of the "hometown" crowd. "It means a lot to make this race, especially on our home track," said Jones. "Pulling off pit road was kind of scary because I forgot about all the extra horsepower in these cars. The tires were a little wet, and I almost spun out getting up on the track. I was thinking, 'You idiot!' But that's the best lap we've had all day." While it's reasonable to expect the newly-configured track to even the playing field amongst the competitors, Buckshot has realistic goals for his first attempt in NASCAR's premier touring division. "Now that we've made the race, I'm just going to try and get experience," he stated. "I'm glad to be in a Pontiac because I think they're giving me the downforce I need here. Hopefully, we can get out tomorrow and run all the laps." Jones plans to run a limited Winston Cup schedule in 1998 while he continues his pursuit of a Busch Series championship. WINSTON LEADER BONUS If the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion wins today's NAPA 500 he will collect an additional $70,000 in the form of the Winston Leader Bonus. Of the $250,000 that has been distributed through the program so far this season, Jeff Gordon has won $220,000 while Dale Jarrett has pocketed $30,000. If nobody claims the pot, it will be awarded incrementally to the drivers who finish first through tenth in the final standings. EXTENDING THE STREAK Three teams are looking to extend their streak of consecutive seasons with at least one victory. Richard Childress Racing's streak of 14 straight years is the longest one on the line this weekend. In fact, a victory by Dale Earnhardt will give him 15 years in a row with at least one win in addition to breaking the longest winless streak of his career which currently sits at 58 races dating back to March 1996 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Morgan-McClure Racing has visited victory lane at least one in each of the last seven seasons. The last time Sterling Marlin took the checkers was at Daytona International Speedway in on July 6, 1996. The final team desperately seeking a victory is Joe Gibbs Racing with driver Bobby Labonte. Labonte won last year's NAPA 500 in a storybook finish while brother Terry Labonte celebrated his second career Winston Cup championship.