Sterling Marlin and Rusty Wallace Top Speed Charts During First Day of Practice

5 February 1999

Daytona Beach, FL-February 5, 1999

There's a country and western song that talked about "Lookin' for love in all the wrong places." To paraphrase that song the same could be said about the Winston Cup drivers who will be "Lookin' for speed in all of the places." The two drivers who seemingly have found the right spot for speed are former two-time Daytona 500 champion Sterling Marlin and 1989 Winston Cup Champion Rusty Wallace. Marlin led today's two sessions with a lap of 46.393 seconds for a speed of 193.995 mph, Sterling wheeled his Coors Light Chevrolet around this famous 2.5 mile oval with a time that surprised everyone but Sterling and his team. Marlin commented after the session that "the car was strong the moment we wheeled it off the transporter." Marlin, who is only one of three drivers who have won back-to-back Daytona 500's was understandably reluctant to predict about tomorrow's front row qualifying. However, he did offer "that our set-up looks real good and I'm real happy with the car. I think our practice time will be pretty close tomorrow. Things can change from one day to a next so we'll see what tomorrow brings."

Rusty Wallace led the first practice session turning in the second fastest time of the day over-all with a lap of 46.421sec for a speed of 193.878 mph. Wallace's time in the second session fell just a bit with a lap of 46.484 sec. Wallace was pleased with his effort's and felt that their might be a little more speed come qualifying time tomorrow.

Defending Winston Cup Champion Jeff Gordon was fifth fastest after the second session with a lap of 46.573 for a speed of 193.245mph. Gordon commented "we've had a great first day, everyone has really stepped it up. We tested real well and thought we could a little bit better. For the first time, I think ever, for the 500 we're pushing hard to get on that front row and maybe even get a pole. But I think there are some other guys who are going to try and do something about that." Asked to comment on the 57th draw for the qualifying for tomorrow's front row, Gordon said "I don't know, I thought it was good at first but I talked to Ray about it and he said 'I don't know it gets kind of windy late in the day.' So I don't know; we'll just have to see."

Rusty Wallace's teammate Jeremy Mayfield was another driver consistently in the top ten with a time of 46.776 sec (6th) in the morning and 46.480 sec (2nd) in the afternoon. Mayfield commented "that the car felt real strong. I am really looking forward to tomorrow."

One of the surprise names in the top ten during the second session was that of Kyle Petty in the Hot Wheels Pontiac. Petty turned in a time 46.917 sec.(12th) in the morning and then a time of 46.606 sec. (6th) in the afternoon. Petty had made some hints during testing that the engine program was coming along. Perhaps the team has found that right mixture of horsepower, shock settings and aerodynamics.

Another driver making a similar move up the speed charts was Petty's teammate John Andretti. Starting out slow in the morning session with a time of 47.227sec (26th), Andretti picked it up in the afternoon with a time of 46.868 sec (14th). Andretti, a former Pepsi 400 winner has shown moments in past races here that he can win the Daytona 500.

So tomorrow's qualifying session will get underway after the Bud Shoot-Out (around 12:45pm). First off the grid will be Ken Brouchard. Rusty Wallace will go off second. Last but certainly not least among the 58 driver's will be Texaco-Havoline driver Kenny Irwin. It will be an interesting time to watch as the driver's begin "Looking for speed in all of the places."

Dave Treffer -- The Auto Channel

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