IROC entrants set aside their egos Honesty is order of day among 12 in select field

Daytona notebook

February 13, 1997|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When the 12 men who will compete in the International Race of Champions drew their starting positions and car colors for tomorrow's race, they revealed more than a little about themselves and their careers.

"I haven't been in this race so long, I wasn't even sure they still ran IROC," said Winston Cup driver Darrell Waltrip, who was invited to compete in the series in celebration of his 25-year racing anniversary.

"One day, some day, you other guys will find out it's not an automatic invitation. It's a thrill to be back. I've been saying for a while now that it's because of my car that I'm not winning. I guess I'll get a chance now to find out if that's true. At any rate, I know I can have my best Daytona finish since I won this race here in 1989; that could be 12th and it would still be my best finish."

The IROC race is competed in equally prepared Pontiac Grand Ams. Today's noon race will be the first of four in the series that will conclude at Michigan International Speedway July 26.

Besides Waltrip's acknowledgment of the decline of his career, Trans Am-champion Tom Kendall revealed: "I made $250,000 last year. I can double my earnings by winning this four-race series."

CART PPG Series-champion Jimmy Vasser, who will start 11th, advised his fellow drivers: "If you're behind me, back off a little bit because I don't know what I'm doing."

And Alex Zanardi, the CART Rookie of the Year who has started on the front row in eight consecutive CART races, wound up on the pole here. He was the last to draw a starting spot, and the pole was the only spot left.

"I'll hold my line when you all go by me," said Zanardi, who will share the front row with Dale Earnhardt. "Don't be bad to me. I'll hold my line, I promise."

Highlight for Grissom

A year ago, Steve Grissom, the driver who will start on the outside of the front row in Sunday's 500, didn't have a job. Sunday, he'll be making the biggest start in a 72-race career.

"When you come to the track without a car to drive, like I did last year, you can look at, pick up and watch a lot of things from the time practice starts through qualifying and especially in the race. I spent a lot of time doing just that and, at the time, I had no earthly idea that the opportunity would come along with [car owner] Larry Hedrick and this team. But I learned a lot from watching."

Pole winners

Grand National driver Elliott Sadler drove his Chevrolet onto the pole for Saturday's Gargoyles 300 with a run of 190.508 mph. Goody's Dash driver Mike Swaim Jr. ran 163.755 to win the pole for the Discount Auto Parts 200.

No guarantees

Mike Skinner is the 26th different winner of the 500 pole in 39 runnings. The last driver to win from the pole was Bill Elliott in 1987. The odds of Jarrett successfully defending his 500 championship are slim. Only three drivers have done it: Richard Petty (1973-1974), Cale Yarborough (1983-1984) and Sterling Marlin (1994-1995).

Setting the 500 field

After positions 3 through 38 are set by the 125-mile qualifying races today, positions 39 through 42 will be assigned as provisional starting positions. They are available to any car owner in the top 40 of last season's point standings who has not made the field.

Who needs it?

Joe Gibbs, former Washington Redskins coach and now Winston Cup car owner, had this to say when asked if he considered an invitation from New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka to be his offensive coordinator: "What, and be bitten, spit on and cussed at?"

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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