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Robinson picks up where Guthrie left

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2002

DAYTONA BEACH -- Someday, Shawna Robinson hopes not to be known as a woman driver.

DAYTONA BEACH -- Someday, Shawna Robinson hopes not to be known as a woman driver.

Just a driver.

Robinson will start 36th in today's Daytona 500, joining Janet Guthrie as the only women to run in NASCAR's most prestigious event. She was the last of six drivers to make the field based on qualifying speed after positions 3-30 were determined in Thursday's Twin 125s.

"It comes down to the fact that we ran a good enough time as a brand new race team -- no manufacturer's support, no sponsor, no multiteam notes -- and made the Daytona 500," Robinson said.

"I'm thrilled. It couldn't be any better than this."

In June, Robinson, 37, became the first woman to start a Winston Cup race since 1989 when she made the field at Michigan. When she finished, she was the first woman to do so since Guthrie in 1980.

Guthrie raced in the Daytona 500 in 1977 and '80, finishing 12th and 11th, respectively.

"When I started racing in 1983, my goals were stock car racing, so I highly respected her," said Robinson, 37, who drives the No. 49 Dodge for owners Tom and Beth Morgenthau. "She did an amazing thing, especially in the time frame she did it. Hers are good footprints to follow."

Robinson, a rookie of the year candidate, thought her chances of making the 500 were over when she was caught up in a multicar crash during Thursday's second 125-mile race. Her car sustained heavy front-end damage when it hit Jimmy Spencer's No. 41 Dodge.

Robinson wanted to clarify that Spencer, who in his anger referred to the driver who turned him around as someone who didn't know what he was doing, wasn't talking about her. "I was not the car that tagged Jimmy Spencer until after he spun sideways in front of me, Bobby Gerhart was," Robinson said. "Just to get that straight. We all know how Spencer gets a little hot under the collar after he gets out of a racecar."

ALL IN THE FAMILY: For the third time, three Bodine brothers will be in the Daytona 500. The trio last started the 1995 race, when Geoffrey was 20th, Brett 25th and Todd 37th.

"This is really a feat, because it's so darn hard," said Geoffrey, 52, who made the field based on his qualifying speed in the No. 09 Ford. "Now we have to perform."

THOSE WHO WAIT: Dale Earnhardt won the 1998 Daytona 500 in his 20th try. Several veterans yet to win this race will try today: Ricky Rudd (24 starts), Terry Labonte (23), Kyle Petty (20), Rusty Wallace (19), Mark Martin and Ken Schrader (17).

$IGN OF THE TIMES: Today's winner is guaranteed at least $1.3-million of a NASCAR-record $12-million purse. Lee Petty collected $19,050 for winning the inaugural 500 in 1959. PIT STOPS: Saturday's final Winston Cup practice was rained out. ... Two-time 500 winner Jeff Gordon has finished 21st or worse in four of the past five races at Daytona.

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