By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 16, 2002
DAYTONA BEACH -- Winston Cup journeyman Robert Pressley had an unfair advantage when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series opener came down to a two-lap shootout.
Pressley won his series debut Friday in the Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona International Speedway, working the draft to move from third to first on a late restart.
"My first win at Daytona, our first win in the truck series -- it's unbelievable," said Pressley, the only driver to win his truck debut other than Mike Skinner, winner of the inaugural truck race in 1995. "I never thought we could win our first race out."
The 100-lap race was red-flagged after a multitruck wreck on the backstretch, setting up a two-lap, green-flag shootout. Third for the restart, Pressley struck a deal with fourth-place driver Ted Musgrave, also a former Winston Cup regular.
Coming off Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile superspeedway, Pressley dived low and used a push from Musgrave's No. 1 Dodge to overtake leader Rick Carelli.
Musgrave finished second; Carelli fell to fifth.
"We knew what we wanted to do and most of the competition had no idea what was getting ready to happen," said Pressley, referring to the number of young drivers hoping to use the series as a steppingstone. "Ted and I have 100 years of experience compared to somebody in kindergarten. It was nothing they did wrong; experience just overtook them."
Pressley, 42, spent nine years trying to make it with four teams in Winston Cup. Discouraged by the inconsistency of his 204-race career, he accepted an offer from Winston Cup regular Bobby Hamilton to race trucks.
"A lot of people didn't understand," Pressley said. "Any time you don't win races you doubt yourself. I wanted to be competitive week in and week out."
Pressley, who led 50 laps, drove the same truck Joe Ruttman won with in the 2001 opener.
Fearing trucks might reach close to 198 mph, NASCAR instructed teams to remove a left-side air-induction hose to reduce horsepower. One of the most entertaining races of speedweeks featured 26 lead changes among 12 drivers.
STILL TWEAKING: NASCAR made another adjustment to aerodynamic rules at Daytona, trimming a quarter-inch off the rear spoilers of Fords and Dodges in Winston Cup.
Ford spoilers are three-quarters of an inch shorter than in January testing, one-half inch lower than when speedsweeks practice began a week ago. This is the first change for Dodge.
Spoiler heights for all makes: Pontiac 61/2 inches, Chevrolet and Dodge 61/4; Ford 53/4.
General Motors teams, which occupy 14 of the top 20 starting spots, were not happy.
"At some point, you have to question whether these changes are designed to even the mechanical packages or to compensate for the strength of our teams," GM racing manager Doug Duchart said.
NASCAR also trimmed a quarter-inch off the rear spoilers of Fords in the Busch Grand National series, which races today in the opening EAS/GNC Live Well 300.
YATES GETS SCARE: Robert Yates, 58, owner of Winston Cup cars driven by Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd, had cardiac tests at Halifax Medical Center after waking at 5 a.m. with chest pains. The results were negative, but Yates was being held for observation.
Yates drove himself to the hospital, about a mile from DIS, and was awake and alert Friday afternoon, team spokesman Steve Post said.
PRACTICE MAKES EXTRA WORK: Four Winston Cup teams were scrambling to repair their qualified cars for Sunday's Daytona 500 after an accident during Friday's practice. Kyle Petty's No. 45 Dodge got the worst of it. Terry Labonte, Dave Marcis and Brett Bodine also had damage.
"One of the cars was running in the middle of the track when we came off Turn 2," Petty said. "Everybody checked up and it just compounded."
EARNHARDT VIGIL: Dale Earnhardt Inc. will hold a silent candlelight memorial to the seven-time Winston Cup champion Monday from 7 p.m.-midnight at company headquarters in Mooresville, N.C. Monday is the one-year anniversary of Earnhardt's death in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.
PIT STOPS: Front-row starter Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Chevrolet was fastest in Winston Cup practice, 189.243 mph. Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip, winners of their respective 125-mile qualifying races Thursday, did not practice. ... Two BGN drivers, rookie Scott Riggs and veteran Chad Chaffin, will go to backup cars today after a practice crash.