Gatorade Twin 125 Recaps
Daytona Beach, Fl
Gatorade Twin 125 #1 Reacp
Dale Earnhardt simply owns Daytona. For a seven straight year he has won one of the Twin 125 mile races used to set the field for the Daytona 500. Earnhardt comfortably drove the GM Goodwrench Services Monte Carlo to his 27th overall Daytona victory ahead of two-time Daytona 500 Sterling Marlin (1994 & 1995), Terry Labonte and 1993 Daytona 500 champion Dale Jarrett.
Earnhardt won the pole position for the Sundays' Daytona 500 as a result of his top qualifying speed last Saturday. The Daytona 500 pole was the first for Earnhardt's in 18th attempts.
That honor also put him on the pole for the first 125 race with Dale Jarrett on the outside pole. Sterling Marlin aggresively moved to the front and assumed the lead by the time they came to the stripe for the first time. A train of 12-15 cars formed and all patiently stayed in line for fear of loosing the draft.
After a caution for rain, Earnhardt made is move to the front on lap 30 with assistance from Dale Jarrett as Marlin drifted high in turn one. At that point Earnhardt never looked back as Jarrett, Marlin and Terry Labonte jockeyed for position.
There was a second brief caution for rain and a third caution was brought out when Brett Bodine clipped Bobby Hillin exiting turn two causing a wreck that also collected brother Geoff Bodine, Kenny Wallace, and Bobby Labonte.
Labonte's Interstate Batteries Monte Carlo flipped once as a result of the contact coming to rest on the apron just off of the backstretch. All involved walked away from their cars and headed off to the infield care center for the manadatory check-up.
A number of drivers that were back in the pack benefited from the accident to make it into the top 15 positions that transfer to the Daytona 500. Notably Kyle Petty.
Following Earnhardt, the balance of the top-5 were: Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, Dale Jarrett and Wally Dallenbach who was sporting the new paint of Hayes Modems.
A number of cars that were behind the top-4 showed very well. The Pontiacs of Ward Burton and Johnny Benson looked very stable. Benson started ninth and finished a respectable 14th earning the Rookie of the Year candidate a spot in the 500.
Burton moved the MBNA Grand Prix from 16th starting position to a solid 7th place finish.
Dave Marcis with his new Prodigy sponsorship finished 12th ensuring him that his streak of consectutive Daytona 500 will reamin intact. Marcis will extend his record as the driver with the most consecutive Daytona 500 starts to 29th consecutive Daytona 500s.
Gatorade Twin 125 #2 Reacp
The second Twin 125 was a whole lot different than the first, but at least there was some excitement on the last lap. Ernie Irvan earned the outside pole position for the Daytona 500 last Saturday during Busch Pole qaulifying. That put in him in the pole position for the second Gatorade Twin 125 with fellow Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield on the outside of row 1.
Irvan did as expected an headed the field into trun one and never looked back. A small mistake by Mayfield and an engine that was running hot caused him to fall back a few spots, but he managed to stay with the lead draft for the full 50 laps, again proving that his winter efforts were legitimate.
The Hendrick Chevrolets of Kenny Schrader and Jeff Gordon were the only two cars to show as if they had anything for Irvan, but neither were able to mount a charge that would give them enough momentum to pass the Texaco-Havoline Thunderbird.
With the modifications made to the engines over the winter - these cars are slightly underpowered - making a clean pass very difficult without any assistance of the draft.
The Robert Yates team's crew chief Larry McReynolds knew that Irvan was a "sitting duck", fully expecting the Schrader-Gordon due to mount a charge which they did on the 50th and final lap. Schrader made his move to the outside of Irvan entering turn one. Gordon didn't follow Schrader immediately and that probably cost his teammate a chance at a clean pass.
By the time Gordon got behind Schrader, John Andretti had pulled the Kmart/Little Caesars Thnderbird alongside Gordon forcing Gordon to become defensive to hold Andretti off.
Fending for himself, Schrader continued to battle Irvan as the two rounded turns 3 & 4 two abreast. Schrader pulled ahead of Irvan on the outside by inches as they headed into the tri-oval. They made slight contact as they headed to a photo finish with Irvan winning his first Gatorade Twin 125 race by inches.
Crew chief Larry McReynolds proclaimed that "1996 has officially begun -- with Ernie Irvan."