NASCAR-WCUP: 1998 Inaugural Nighttime Running of the Pepsi 400
24 June 1998DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- What do Sam McQuagg, Greg Sacks, Jimmy Spencer and John Andretti have in common? They all won their first career NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway during the Pepsi 400.
However, the record book shows after their initial victory, the foursome of McQuagg, Spencer, Sacks and Andretti have combined to win only one additional NASCAR Winston Cup event. Spencer won the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in 1995. Andretti plans to not only win again but also defend his Pepsi 400 title in 1998.
If Andretti can defend his title, it will be unlike any other, as the inaugural nighttime running of the Pepsi 400 on July 4, 1998 is one of the most anticipated NASCAR Winston Cup events in recent memory.
The addition of lights to the 40-year-old facility combined with the excitement of racing at Daytona punctuated by Florida's largest fireworks show should produce an electric atmosphere. When the best of NASCAR Winston Cup Series make their annual pilgrimage to Daytona next July, Andretti will be one of many striving to leave his legacy on the history-making event.
"Racing under the lights is going to be fun at Daytona," said Andretti, whose 1997 Pepsi 400 victory was his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series win. "I love racing at night, I grew up racing sprint cars and midgets at night and we didn't have Musco Lighting at those tracks, you couldn't see anything.
"It's going to be exciting for the fans. The cars look better at night, and as close as the pack is going to be together here, it's only going to add to the excitement. Nobody has ever seen a restrictor-plate race at night before, I think I'm just as excited as the fans to see how it's all going to come off."
The project, which is being directed by Musco Lighting, Inc., the leaders in sports- and large-area lighting, involves more than 1,835 fixtures on 191 poles ranging from 70 to 110 feet in height. The project requires 150 miles of wire, 800 tons of concrete and 2,600 square feet of mirrors.
To give an adequate measurement of the project, lighting the Speedway is equivalent to lighting a residential street from Daytona Beach, Fla. to Musco's headquarters in Muscatine, Iowa.
As defending champion, Andretti took a hands-on approach recently during an off-season visit to the "World Center of Racing" as he assisted in erecting the historical first light pole at Daytona. Andretti helped Musco project manager Mark Flesner assemble some of the first fixtures on the initial pole, and then guided the massive 110 foot pole onto its permanent concrete base along side the Speedway's Superstretch.
"If it's possible, I think it's going to be an even more exciting race in 1998 because of the lights," continued Andretti. "Anything that does happen on the racetrack under the lights seems to be more dramatic. Night racing just has a mystique about it."
Andretti hopes to continue his winning ways in 1998 including a return trip to Daytona's Victory Lane after capturing his second consecutive Pepsi 400.
"The race will have an even greater mystique if I win it," continued Andretti. "Because then I would have won the last day race and the first night race."
The green flag will fall on Andretti and the rest of the Pepsi 400 competitors at 8 p.m. July 4. Although grandstand seating is sold out for the 1998 Pepsi 400, other options available to fans wishing to experience "Daytona at the Speed of Light" include unreserved grandstand tickets good for admission to all of Thursday's and Friday's on-track action. Infield tickets for the entire weekend of racing will be available at the gate starting on Thursday, July 2. Call the Speedway Ticket Office at (904) 253-7223, or for more information visit http://www.daytonausa.com.