The Callahan Report: Joe Nemecheck Wins Opening Busch Race In Daytona

14 February 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

DAYTONA BEACH, FL: The 1998 Busch Grand National season opened today at the Daytona International Speedway. Joe Nemecheck, a local favorite from Lakeland, Florida, dominated the 17th running of the NAPA Auto Parts 300. Nemecheck led 106 laps (out of 120). Nemecheck set a record for most laps led.

Joe Nemecheck
Joe Nemecheck Celebrates His Victory

The winner commented on the race. "We've come so close here at Daytona so many times, but it seems we've got bitten too many times or caught up in wrecks. I had to dodge a few of them today." He continued, "This is a brand new car and we call it Speedy Gonzalez'. We tested it twice and it is awful fast."

Joe Nemechek
Joe Nemechek
Nemecheck covered the distance in his Chevy Monte Carlo at an average speed of 137.213 mph. The race pace was slowed with six caution periods.

Jeff Purvis followed Nemecheck across the finish line. He was also driving a Chevy. Mark Martin, the winningest driver in Busch Grand National history finished third in a Ford. Buckshot Jones was fourth, followed by defending Busch series champion Randy LaJoie in fifth.

Tony Stewart was a frontrunner for most of the afternoon. He was never out of the top eight after the first ten laps. Stewart's fine run ended in the wall. The driver from Rushville, Indiana cut a tire on a late race restart, giving him a taste of the Daytona concrete.

Stewart said, "We just had a left-rear tire go down under the yellow evidently. Going down the backstretch I scrubbed the tries and the car slipped a little bit, but I just thought I had some stuff on them. On the restart the car didn't accelerated and Mark (Martin) got into the back of me. It wasn't anything on purpose."

Another Pontiac driver with a good run was fourth place finisher, Buckshot Jones. He said, "I had to start learning all over again. I got out of line early there in the race and got behind. We worked with Trickle (Dick) and hooked up with him to stay up there all day. I guess we were just in the right place at the right time at the end of the race." He continued, "It's hard to pass people when you don't have help behind you. We wanted to finish in the top five and we did."

The race opened with a nine car crash before the conclusion of the first lap. Two of those cars were unable to continue. No one was injured in the accident.

The most spectacular crash of the afternoon came when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rolled his number 3 ACDelco Chevy in the same location his father did in the 1997 Daytona 500. Dick Trickle was also involved in the mishap. Earnhardt was uninjured. He was several laps down at the time of the accident.

Earnhardt said, "It was pretty exciting going down the backstretch like that, but I didn't want to be in that predicament today. It's too bad for ACDelco and Chevrolet. Hopefully, we will get the car back together for Talladega. It's a good race car."

Defending Busch Grand National champion, Randy LaJoie, commented on his top-five finish, saying, "We didn't have a chance to win the race today, but you've got to look at the big picture. That's how you win championships."

Daytona Speedweeks 98 wraps up tomorrow with the 40th running of the Daytona 500. Complete wrap up coverage is available on The Auto Channel. The event will be televised live on CBS television.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article can be viewed in the Racing Image Galleries.

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