LaJoie wins Gargoyles Sadler content

Victory worth $76,284

pole-sitting rookie 16th, but is pleased with effort

Daytona notebook

February 16, 1997|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Defending Busch Grand National champion Randy LaJoie could afford to be joyful yesterday afternoon after winning the Gargoyles 300 and a record payoff of $76,284. But the happiest driver on the track might have been Daytona rookie and pole-sitter Elliott Sadler.

Sadler got caught in a wreck on Lap 45 and ran the rest of the 120-lap race without a right-front quarter panel. On the final lap, he ran out of gas and had to coast to the finish line to finish 16th.

With the rest of the field on pit row on its way to the garage, Sadler's Chevrolet inched noiselessly along the front stretch. Fans lined up along the fence ringing the track, yelling their encouragement.

Sadler finally made it, as his crew ran across the grassy median strip between the pits and the front stretch to greet him. He climbed from his car to cheers and waved before walking back to the garage.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," he said. "We had one of the fastest cars out there all day and we had made it back up to 10th or so before we ran out of gas there at the end. But we didn't give up, and that's the effort we want at every race."

For LaJoie, it was a great way to start a new season.

"I wound up on my head here a few years ago," he said, recalling a 1984 crash. "It feels a lot better to win. Race-wise, this is the biggest win of my career. It's cool."

LaJoie is only the second regular competitor in the Grand National series to win this race in 16 years. The only other time it happened was 1995, when Chad Little won. On every other occasion, a Winston Cup driver stepping down to the Triple-A series to warm up for the next day's Daytona 500 has taken the win.

Yesterday, the Winston Cup drivers had little luck. Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin got caught up in accidents, finishing 45th and 35th, respectively. And those who remained -- Michael Waltrip, Joe Nemechek and Greg Sacks -- didn't have enough to get past LaJoie, who beat Todd Bodine to the finish line by 0.163 of a second.

"I had it wide-open and I couldn't catch him," Bodine said.

Brotherly love

Winston Cup driver Geoff Bodine spent yesterday in bed with the flu. So his brother Todd did the final shakedown of his car during "happy hour," the last practice before the Daytona 500.

"You never know how Geoff's going to feel," Todd said. "I'm practicing the car and if he can't go in the 500, I'll be able to $$ drive it Sunday -- that's what brotherly love is all about."

One might ask, since when? Remember the Bodine brothers at the first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, when Geoff and brother Brett bashed each other all over the track and left the premises steaming?

It was Todd who called them "big babies." And it was their mom, during a soon-to-be-held family reunion, who told them to shut up and shape up.

Teaming up

When Richard Childress joined the multi-car trend this season, that brought the number of owners with more than one car in Winston Cup racing to six.

Rick Hendrick (Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Ricky Cravens), Jack Roush (Martin, Ted Musgrave and Jeff Burton) and Felix Sabates (Robby Gordon, Wally Dallenbach and Nemechek) each have three teams.

Richard Petty (Kyle Petty and Bobby Hamilton), Robert Yates (Jarrett and Ernie Irvan) and Childress (Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner) each have two.

All 15 cars will be in today's Daytona 500, which means 35.7 percent of the cars in the field are owned by six men.

Childress said the success of such owners as Hendrick and Yates encouraged him to add another car.

And who can argue with success? Between them, Labonte and Gordon won 12 races last season and have won back-to-back Winston Cup championships. The Yates team of Jarrett and Irvan won six races a year ago, including Jarrett's victory over Earnhardt in the Daytona 500.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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