Irvan's bumper-car tactics steal show in Twin 125-milers Starting field now is set for Sunday's Daytona 500

February 16, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It was the last lap. Ernie Irvan and Kenny Schrader came out of the fourth turn dead-even. Then Schrader nosed ahead as the two barreled toward the finish line.

But with yards to go, Irvan pulled an old auto-racing trick. His Ford bumped Schrader's Chevrolet hard to regain the advantage and he burst across the finish line -- nine-hundredths of a second ahead of his rival.

Irvan, the man who almost died in a racing accident two years ago, is back, driving like he has never been away. Yesterday's win in the second of the Gatorade Twin 125 Mile Qualifying

Races that set the starting field for Sunday's Daytona 500 proved that.

"I was lucky that all my skills of racing never left me, and all my memories of racing never left me," said Irvan, who averaged 186.027 mph in his Texaco Havoline Ford. "All I had to do was get physically able to get back in the race car."

The performance in front of a Daytona International crowd of 120,000 stole the show from the first of the Twin 125-mile races, and that wasn't easy. In that one, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt averaged 143.039 mph to hold off two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin for his seventh consecutive victory in the Twin 125s.

Irvan's win was his first since suffering severe head injuries in a crash at Michigan International Speedway on Aug. 29, 1994.

XTC After that accident, doctors gave Irvan only a 10 percent chance of surviving, but last October, 14 months after the crash, he was back in his race car. Yesterday, he was back in Victory Lane for the first time since May 1994 and he left little doubt about how that felt.

"It feels great," he said. "It's every little process of what I think we need to do to let everybody know we're doing the right thing. Especially after some of the tragedies we've had to face, like Neil Bonnett [who died in an accident here two years ago]. Everybody said, 'Well, he never should've got back in the race car [after he had suffered a head injury similar to Irvan's].' But he was a great race car driver and he loved to race. . . You can say if he had never gotten back in a race car, he wouldn't have been killed that day. But he wouldn't have been happy.

"I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't have gotten back in the race car either."

The outcome of the two races has set the stage for Sunday's 500. Earnhardt and Irvan had already won their places on the front row during pole-day qualifying last Saturday and they will lead the field of 43 to the starting line.

Behind them will be Martin and Schrader and behind them will come Terry Labonte and John Andretti.

Irvan's teammate, Dale Jarrett, will start seventh and defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon will be eighth.

* The International Race of Champions runs today at 1:30, with World of Outlaws star Steve Kinser and road racing driver Tom Kendall leading the 12-car field.

First race

1. (1) Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $35,990, 143.039; 2. (3) Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $20,990; 3. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $15,990; 4. (2) Dale Jarrett, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $10,990; 5. (12) Wally Dallenbach Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 50, $8,490; 6. (8) Michael Waltrip, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $6,490; 7. (16) Ward Burton, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $4,490; 8. (17) Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,390; 9. (22) Mike Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,290; 10. (10) Jimmy Spencer, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,190;

11. (7) Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,090; 12. (15) Dave Marcis, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,990; 13. (4) Robert Pressley, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,940; 14. (9) Johnny Benson, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $3,890; 15. (14) Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $3,840; 16. (20) Lake Speed, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,790; 17. (13) Bobby Hamilton, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $3,740; 18. (24) Hut Stricklin, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,690; 19. (23) Darrell Waltrip, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,640; 20. (11) Geoff Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,590;

21. (19) Steve Seligman, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,540; 22. (18) Bobby Hillin Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,490; 23. (26) Delma Cowart, Ford Thunderbird, 48, $3,440; 24. (6) Kenny Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 45, crash, $3,390; 25. (21) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 43, crash, $3,340; 26. (25) Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 43, crash, $3,290.

Time of race: 52 minutes, 22 seconds. Margin of victory: .16-seconds (about 3 car-lengths).

Second race

1. (1) Ernie Irvan, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $36,122, 186.027; 2. (5) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $21,122; 3. (8) John Andretti, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $16,122; 4. (3) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $11,122; 5. (12) Ricky Rudd, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $8,622; 6. (11) Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $6,622; 7. (2) Jeremy Mayfield, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,622; 8. (7) Jeff Burton, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,522; 9. (20) Elton Sawyer, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,422; 10. (17) Ted Musgrave, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,322;

11. (16) Derrike Cope, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,222; 12. (10) Loy Allen Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,122; 13. (14) Steve Grissom, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $4,072; 14. (23) Dick Trickle, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $4,022; 15. (15) Chad Little, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $3,972; 16. (22) Chuck Bown, Ford Thunderbird, 50, $3,922; 17. (6) Jeff Purvis, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,872; 18. (4) Rick Mast, Pontiac Grand Prix, 50, $3,822; 19. (9) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,772; 20. (21) Ricky Craven, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,722;

21. (25) Tracy Leslie, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 50, $3,672; 22. (13) Rusty Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 49, $3,622; 23. (19) Jim Bown, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, 48, $3,572; 24. (18) Joe Ruttman, Ford Thunderbird, 23, engine failure, $3,522; 25. (24) Jim Sauter, Ford Thunderbird, 10, engine failure, $3,472.

Time of race: 40 minutes, 19 seconds. Margin of victory: 0.09-seconds (about one-half car-length).

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