The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

NASCAR Winston Cup Series NAPA 500: Race Notebook

16 November 1997

 NASCAR Winston Cup Series
 Race Notebook
 NAPA 500
 Atlanta Motor Speedway
 Hampton, GA
 November 16, 1997


Six drivers who finished in the top 10 in the Winston Cup season finale, 
including winner Bobby Labonte, were sitting behind the wheel of a Grand Prix 
giving Pontiac its best showing of 1997. The previous best effort by the car 
manufacturer was four top tens at Richmond International Raceway in March and 
again at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October. 

NASCAR instituted rule changes for the Pontiac in early September in an 
effort to increase downforce and in the eight races since then, Grand Prix 
drivers have recorded two victories and eight top-three finishes. 

"I think the Pontiacs stack up pretty good," said Labonte during his 
post-race interview. "I know with the rule changes NASCAR made a few weeks 
back have added to that. When we made the decision to go to Pontiac last 
year, this is the way (the rules were then). Over the winter they took that 
away. Towards the end of the year they came back to the way it was last year 
when we tested the Pontiac. It kind of got us back to where we were."


Derrike Cope gave MB2 Motorsports a going away present in the form of a 
fifth-place finish -- his best of the season. "We were just a little bit 
tight, and then in one section of the race it was really tight and we had a 
bad set of tires," said Cope who will be moving to Bahari Racing for 1998. 
"We just lost a lot of track position. Our car wasn't good early on runs. It 
was a good end to the season and I can carry something into next year."

The Washington state native felt that his good showing in today's event 
should be enough to quiet the people who have questioned his 
abilities to drive a race car competitively. "There's been a lot of ridicule 
and a lot of stuff said about me driving here and things," he said. "I just 
kept my mouth shut and tried to keep doing what I was doing. It's nice to 
reinforce the fact that when I get something good to drive I can get the job 
done. I had a good race car today and I drove hard all day. I kept it up 
there when a lot of people couldn't." 

Cope finished the season 27th in the overall point standings. 


Just 33 of 325 laps had been put on the board when Brett Bodine and Buckshot 
Jones, competing in his first Winston Cup event, tangled in turn two to bring 
out the second caution of the race. 

Brett, taking great exception to Jones' driving tactics, jumped from his car 
and ran directly to the mangled No. 00 Aquafresh Pontiac to let the youngster 
know just what he thought about the incident. After having words with 
Buckshot directly, Bodine blasted him again over the airwaves. 

"That guy is ridiculous," said an obviously irate Bodine. "In every division 
he's in he wrecks people. I have never seen anything like it. I got in a 
little pit road mishap and had to come back in and fix the race car and got 
back there with some people that don't deserve to be on this kind of race 
track evidently."

Bodine then went on to reference the numerous penalties that have been handed 
to Jones this season in the Busch Series for various actions deemed to be 
detrimental to the sport by the sanctioning body. "All of the penalties and 
fines and everything in Busch obviously didn't mean nothing to him, because 
he comes over here and does it again. It was early in the race and we're 
running at the back, just trying to stay on the lead lap. I don't understand. 
The kid doesn't use his head. He's always had a fast race car, but he don't 
use his head."

The youngest of the racing Bodines, who is still seeking sponsorship for his 
team for next season, was credited with a 41st-place finishing position and 
ended the season 29th in the season point standings. 

Buckshot Jones finished dead last in 43rd was quick to defend himself and 
shot a barb back in the direction of Bodine. "All we wanted to do was run all 
the laps. We were just trying to follow Brett around and see how these cars 
react when you run behind people. I went down into (turns) one and two and I 
don't know if he slipped or he lifted a little. I wasn't trying to get around 
him but I barely got into the back of him apparently. I don't know because 
everything happened so fast. I don't care too much for what he said on the 
radio. Everybody's got a right to be out here. Everybody makes mistakes. I'm 
not saying I did, I'll have to watch the tape first and see. If I did, I 
didn't mean to. Comments like that he makes is probably why he doesn't have a 
sponsor right now. He ought to be careful of what he says."

Lori Vizza -- The Auto Channel