By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 6, 2002
DAYTONA BEACH -- It was another race, another Earnhardt and another big wreck at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night but fortunately no major injuries as NASCAR's Busch Grand National Series made its summer and night debut at Daytona.
Joe Nemechek, resilient at the front of the lead pack through two late cautions, held on in a two-lap shootout to win the Stacker2/GNC Live Well 250 from the pole in his Pontiac.
"Our car was so dominating when it was leading," said Nemechek, who led 78 of 100 laps and earned $83,825. "It was unbelievable. We changed a lot on this car this morning, but it drove perfect all night long."
Nemechek, a former Lakeland resident who also won at Daytona in February 1998, beat the Ford of Greg Biffle by 0.19 seconds. Biffle moved into first place in points, passing Jack Sprague. The win is the first this season for Nemechek and 12th of his career.
Two late wrecks brought the total to seven caution flags, matching the highest total in 21 previous Busch races at Daytona. The last, a 16-car pileup on the backstretch, red-flagged the race for 17 minutes to set up a two-lap shootout.
The race, the first at Daytona in the summer for the series, had gone relatively smoothly most of the way with good weather after two days of steady rains. After five minor cautions, the crowd estimated at 90,000 got its first scare on the 85th lap as Kerry Earnhardt's No.12 Chevrolet pitched violently to the right entering the front straightaway, sending Randy LaJoie's No.7 Chevy into the wall and catching three other cars in the ensuing wreck.
LaJoie started third and led twice in the first half for a combined eight laps. He had won in three of his previous five appearances.
Earnhardt, who was released from the infield care center, is the eldest son of late NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, who was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, not far from where his son lost control of his car Friday.
The biggest wreck came six laps later, after five cars separated themselves from the field. A closely packed second group wrecked off Turn2 on the backstretch. Sprague's No.24 Chevy caught on the back of Todd Bodine's No.92 Chevy then went into the wall, sparking a chain reaction that sent nearly half the field smoking off the track. Kasey Kahne's No.98 car was briefly airborne after riding up and over the left side of Sprague, who blamed the wreck on Bodine.
"I haven't said a word all year, I've taken it on the chin, but he's the biggest idiot I've ever raced against," Sprague told radio broadcasters shortly after the accident.
That wreck ended the night for six cars, including Christian Elder, who was treated for a mild concussion and released, and C.W. Smith, alert and conscious and being evaluated in the infield care center.
PAUL REVERE 250: James Weaver and Chris Dyson drove the Dyson Racing Team to a victory in the Grand American event late Thursday at DIS.
Weaver and Dyson covered the 70-lap, 250-mile distance in a time of 2:16:41.765 in their Riley&Scott Ford.
Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard were second in a Doran Lista Racing Judd-engined Dallara 4.324 seconds back.
MOLSON INDY TORONTO: Cristiano da Matta crashed during provisional qualifying for Sunday's race but not until after he had posted the fastest lap of the one-hour session. His fast lap on the 1.755-mile street course was 58.487 seconds, or 108.024 mph.
O'REILLY AUTO PARTS 250: Jason Leffler earned the pole for today's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. His lap of 165.812 mph was a track record on the 1.5 mile tri-oval. He was followed by teammate and points leader Ted Musgrave.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX: The Arrows team missed practice when its engine supplier stopped them in a dispute over a several-million dollar debt. If the team misses today's qualifying it risks being booted out of Formula One. Arrows owes Cosworth a reported $4.7-million. Rubens Barrichello was quicker than Ferrari teammate Michael Schumacher in practice.
-- Times wires contributed to this report.