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NASCAR: Bliss Makes Winston Cup Debut in Martinsville NAPA Autocare 500

26 September 1998

Martinsville, VA---Martinsville Speedway, with its tight, push and shove racing, normally would not be a good place for a driver to make his NASCAR Winston Cup debut.

But in the case of Mike Bliss, maybe it is. The Milwaukie, OR driver is running in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which will compete in the NAPA 250 Saturday, and the circuit runs mostly at half-mile layouts like Martinsville.

Bliss will attempt to make his Winston Cup debut in the Caterpillar Chevrolet for Sunday's NAPA AutoCare 500. "They called me on Sunday, but I was on my way home from the last truck race," Bliss said. "I had a message from Sam Johns, the crew chief on the 96, asking if I wanted to run at Martinsville. Of course, I said 'yes.' Even though it's only a one-race deal, this is a great opportunity for me. Without anything secure for next year, I hope to have a great run and see what happens."

Car owner Buz McCall Jr. thinks he made a good choice. "We were looking for someone who had that little bit extra on the short tracks and who knew something about how to get around Martinsville," he said. "Most importantly, we were looking for someone who was hungry to do some big things. We feel we found all of that in Mike Bliss."

Bliss will do double duty Friday in qualifying, running time trials for the truck race at 1:40 p.m. and then again in Winston Cup at 3 p.m.

With only seven NASCAR Winston Cup races left this season, Jeff Gordon leads in nearly all categories. He holds a 194-point edge over Mark Martin in the battle for the 1998 championship. His record this season shows 26 starts, ten victories, 20 finishes in the top five and 21 finishes in the top ten. In the money department, Gordon has won almost five and a half million dollars and took the NAPA race in 1996 and the spring Goody's Headache Powder 500 in 1997.

While Friday's time trials will decide all 36 truck starters, only the top 25 in Winston Cup will nail down starting positions. Second round time trials are set for 11:45 a.m. Saturday morning with the truck race getting the green flag at 1. Sunday's NAPA AutoCare 500 will start at 12:30.

Rich Bickle is the defending champion for the Saturday's truck race while Jeff Burton is the defending champion for Sunday's Winston Cup event.

Reserved seats still are available and may be ordered by calling (540) 956-3151. The speedway will put 8,000 unreserved seats on sale at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

The United States Marine Corps Band from Albany, GA will entertain the fans in the pre-race show Sunday.