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Daytona practice notes
by dearjoan
10 February 2004

Larry Foyt practice notes (Tuesday):

* Commentators reported that only two drivers, Andy Hillenburg and Kirk Shelmerdine, were struggling to keep up with the draft today in practice. So I assume that means that Larry was able to keep with it. = D

* Tony Raines is currently the team's spotter. He and Bill Elliott (who is spotting for rookie Kasey Kahne) are the only two drivers who are spotting at the moment.

* Larry apparently gave Rusty Wallace a donut on the right side of the car.

Larry's top laps

Saturday (single car practice):

1 - 48.963 seconds @ 183.812 MPH
1.133 s. off leader (Nemechek)
43rd / 46

2 - 48.823 seconds @ 184.339 MPH,
1.296 s. off leader (Sadler)
41st / 46

Sunday (qualifying):
49.297 seconds @ 182.567 MPH
1.523 s. off leader (Biffle)

Tuesday (drafting practice):

3 - 47.629 seconds @ 188.960 MPH,
0.691 s. off leader (Andretti)
36th / 45

4 - 47.916 seconds @ 187.829 MPH,
0.921 s. off leader (J. Gordon)
43rd / 45

How good are Larry's chances of making the race?

Who might not race in the Daytona 500?

The drivers who are most at risk for not making the show are Kirk Shelmerdine in the #172 and Mike Skinner in the #133; neither one of those cars have any owner's points from last season. These guys need to race their way into the show. Shelmerdine and Skinner need to make the top 14 in their respective Gatorade 125s, or they will definitely not be in the Daytona 500.

If either one of those two make it, then Andy Hillenburg is at risk for not getting in. While his #90 car picked up owner's points last season, it ranks 75th out of 77. If either Skinner or Shelmerdine race their way into Daytona 500, then Hillenburg needs to finish in the top 14 in his Gatorade 125 too. If they both miss it, he doesn't have to worry.

If any two of the above drivers race their way into the show, the next group affected are those higher in the owner's points. Larry's in the middle of a five-car clump of drivers who are still in danger of not getting in:

2003 Owner's points standings:
40th #4 (Kevin Lepage)
41st #43 (Jeff Green)
42nd #14 (Larry Foyt)
43rd #50 (Derrike Cope)
44th #09 (Johnny Benson)

So here's what it comes down to: If Larry doesn't finish his Gatorade 125 in the top 14, then two of the following five drivers need to have not raced their way into the Daytona 500: Cope, Benson, Hillenburg, Skinner, Shelmerdine. Both Hillenburg and Shelmerdine struggled to stay with the draft today. Larry's chances are looking pretty good, that he'll run in his very first Daytona 500!

= D

An on-track incident today involving Larry:

Junior takes exception to McMurray's on-track practice tactics
Updated: Tuesday February 10, 2004 8:45PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Ticker) -- Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved in a bit of a spat Tuesday during the final practice session for the Daytona 500.

McMurray, a second-year NASCAR Nextel Cup driver, later calmed down when he discussed the situation.

According to McMurray, his Dodge Intrepid had a run on Earnhardt's Chevrolet Monte Carlo. McMurray kept his foot on the throttle because, if he had let off, he would have been run into, resulting in cars going nearly four-wide at the tri-oval portion of the frontstretch.

"I did something I shouldn't have done in practice," McMurray admitted. "I get pretty upset when guys do that to me. John Andretti just did it to me a little bit ago. You don't want to tear up your car in a practice session.

"He was upset like anyone else would have been. He's like me. He gets real mad. Five minutes later, I went over to talk to him and he was giggling about it. I went over and apologized. There's no need to get somebody mad at you before the race even starts. It was no big deal."

Earnhardt said Larry Foyt was pulling onto the track and Earnhardt attempted to go to the inside of Jeff Gordon entering turns 3 and 4. Gordon then went to the inside of Earnhardt, creating a three-wide situation before McMurray's Dodge moved up.

"With all this shuffling around and carrying on, Jamie had a heck of a run and went to the outside of me going into the tri-oval," Earnhardt said. "So it was four cars, four-wide in the tri-oval with Larry Foyt controlling the inside lane. And Larry probably had no idea what was going on around him because it all happened so fast.

"I don't even think Jeff knew what Larry was doing. And McMurray didn't know Larry was down there. So I think I might have been the only one that knew everything."

Earnhardt said he lifted off the gas pedal in time to keep from causing a chain-reaction crash.

"I just told Jamie -- just like his crew chief or spotter would have told him or might have already told him -- that you can expect that on any lap during a race," Earnhardt said. "Racing is a different story. You can run me all over the race track in the race and that's OK. But in practice -- especially when you don't know how good your piece is off the trailer [back-up car] -- you don't want to pull it out if you don't have to and we don't have to.

"I was kind of upset because it was so foolish. I'm sure I've made a few people scream around here, too, in the past."

Earnhardt has been working with Andretti as a drafting partner as teams prepare for Thursday's Gatorade Twin 125s, which will determine the starting lineup for Sunday's 46th Daytona 500.

"We were just out there drafting together," Earnhardt said. "He's a good teammate. Some guys have their own agenda. But when you put him in the car, he knows how good a race car driver he is. He doesn't have anything to prove. If you give him a good car, he's going to run good. He's out there to help us and we're going to help him."



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