The Callahan Report: Gordon and Wallace Picked the Right Time for Mistakes

7 February 1999

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel
Jeff Gordon
DAYTONA BEACH, FL: It doesn't happen often. Two of NASCAR's biggest stars made major blunders as the 1999 season kicked off Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon made major mistakes at the Bud Shootout Sunday. However, the race is a non-points-paying event.

Rusty Wallace made his mistake before the 25 lap sprint race even began. Wallace missed the mandatory driver's meeting before the race. The mistake sent him from the pole to the rear of the field. Although Wallace advanced in the field, he was never a serious contender for the victory.

``This is probably something that will never happen to me again,'' Wallace said. ``I'm glad it happened in a non-points event.

``I've got to pay attention to starting times and stuff like that. It was my fault. I screwed up.''

Jeff Gordon, the three time and defending Winston Cup Champion, joined Wallace in the "big goof" corner. In the Bud Shootout there is a mandatory pit stop under the green flag. When Gordon came into the pits on lap 10, he skidded past his pit.

``I don't overshoot very often, so it's not something we're prepared for,'' Gordon said. ``I blew reverse, trying to get it backed up.''

The mistake could have been corrected if his crew would have pushed him back into his pit before they began to work on the car. Instead, the Rainbow Warrior crew serviced Gordon's car "out of the box". NASCAR penalized Gordon an entire lap for the infraction. Gordon, who started from the eighth position, was leading the race before he entered the pits.

With nothing left to prove, Gordon made one lap after being released by the NASCAR officials and then returned to the Garage area.

Mark Martin had little trouble holding off his challengers in the short race. Once in front, Martin guided his Valvoline Ford Taurus to his first ever Daytona Victory. Martin has openly expressed his dislike for restrictor plate racing but admitted he and his crew work hard on their restrictor plate program during the Winter months. The work has paid off making Mark Martin one of the favorites for victory in "The Great American Race" to be held next Sunday.

OPEN WHEEL MIDWESTERNERS DOMINATE: Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart have never raced side by side on the Winston Cup Circuit. The two have traded metal and rubber however. Gordon and Stewart thrilled fans in the Midwest when they battled in sprints and midgets. Both drivers earned their racing start in the Indianapolis area. Gordon and Stewart will start from the front row for the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Stewart surprised himself with his 194 mph run on Saturday. He told his car owner, Joe Gibbs, before the qualifying run "I think we're all right. But we're nothing spectacular.''

When Stewart returned to the pits after his run, he commented on his statement to Gibbs, saying, "I saw him when I got out of the car. He said, `I'm not believing anything you tell me anymore.'"

Stewart is savvy enough to realize that one fast lap at Daytona does not go far when it comes to racing. Stewart says, "This is not over yet."

Qualifying races will be held Thursday to decide starting positions three through thirty- six. The remaining spots in the 43 car field will be filled by provisional starters.

The Daytona 500 gets underway at 12:15 EST Sunday, February 14. Television coverage will be provided by CBS television.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article (plus many more) can be viewed in The Racing ImageGalleries and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.

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