Foyt: 1st at Indy, last Brickyard qualifier

August 06, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- While other teams were hustling to prepare their race cars for the final chance at qualifying for the inaugural Brickyard 400 Winston Cup stock car race, the garage containing Car No. 0 was silent.

Three men sat dejectedly on the work bench at the rear of the gloomy interior.

"We blew our last engine," said crewman Frank Wilson.

"It was our only engine," lamented John Crews, the 27-year-old machinist, who described himself as the "head go-fer."

"We're heartbroken," said Dennis Barrow, the team's body and paint man.

There would be no last ditch effort to qualify for car No. 0 and its driver/owner, Delma Cowart, and his crew of 20 volunteers.

And that translated into no inaugural Brickyard 400 Winston Cup stock car race today.

It was a sad end to a hopeful expedition. But theirs was one of dozens of hard-luck stories, as the field was set for the history-making race that will take the green flag today at 1:15 p.m. EDT.

Pole-sitter Rick Mast and six-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt will lead the 43-car field to the starting line.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A. J. Foyt, the last car to qualify, will start 40th. But he will not be alone at the back of the field.

Lake Speed and Harry Gant will start 41st and 42nd, thanks to provisional Winston Cup starting spots, and Mike Case will start last, thanks to a provisional spot allotted to the Winston West series point leader.

"I was nervous," said Foyt. "I just didn't want to get bumped out of this thing. I told everyone it would be tough to make this race -- especially if you don't run with them regular. You might slide

in every now and then, but you're not going to take their living away.

"The guys that came here without any chance, well, it wouldn't be enough for me to just be here and say I tried."

But there was no other choice for 42 of the 85 teams. And most of them took not making it in stride.

Maryland driver Jerry Hill and his sponsors, Tony and Frank Bell, who own Bell Motor Co. near Annapolis, said they had enjoyed just being part of this experience and would learn from it.

They were more upset with the state of Maryland for not helping their effort than they were at being relegated to the sidelines.

"Maryland is nothing but anti-business," said Tony Bell. "Virginia promotes its theme, 'Virginia is for Lovers.' They've got a car here. Us? We advertise our state for free. We've got 'Maryland with Pride' on our rear bumper, but Maryland misses the boat."

But the Bells and their team didn't.

"We can always say we were here on pit road for qualifying for the first Brickyard 400," said Tony Bell. "We're going to learn from it, and eventually, we're going to make this lineup."

All 85 entries came to this storied speedway with hope.

"Sometimes, when you're watching the races on television, the ESPN guy says, 'Here's a surprise. So and so made the race,' " said Crews. "I keep imagining it might be us. But not this time."

Yesterday, some big guns like Foyt and Darrell Waltrip and Kyle Petty and Ken Schrader sweated right along with the little guys.

Richard Petty's STP team with Wally Dallenbach blew an engine in first-day qualifying and had to wait until yesterday to make the field.

"It was a real long night," said Dallenbach, who had the second best speed of the day at 169.962, to wrap up the outside spot on the 11th row beside Terry Labonte, who hit 170.046.

"I'm sure guys are telling you it's great just to be here, but if you can't make the race, can't make THIS race, I don't think it's a good experience," said Dallenbach. "If you can't race come race day, it's a bad experience -- at least it would be for me."

And yet, Delma Cowart and his volunteer crew could see a silver lining.

"Sure, it's gratifying when you make the race and go home with some money in your pocket," said Cowart, 53, who sells swimming pools in Savannah, Ga., and spent about $15,000 on the car and equipment, plus $25,000 for that one lonely engine. "When you're good, you can't beat it.

"Sometimes the feeling is bad. Real bad, like today. But if you can't come here and just enjoy being here, being part of something like this, then you're not a real racer and have no business being here at all."

His crew members paid for their own NASCAR licenses ($275 each), their own uniforms ($100 each) and lost time from their regular jobs to be here.

Some drove all night to make it here for yesterday's second day of qualifying.

Others have been at the track since Wednesday, having driven here in the team's tow truck, which lost its brakes somewhere around Atlanta. The brakes were being fixed yesterday.

Since arriving, they've been living in two campers and a tent in the back yard of a friend of a friend. The friends allowed the team to take showers in their house.

Yesterday afternoon, they were making plans to watch the race and stockpiling refreshments. And when last seen, Barrow, the body and paint man, and Crews, the head go-fer, had perked up enough to go in search of Brickyard T-shirts and hats.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.