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NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400 Preview

14 October 1998

Daytona Beach, Fl-October 14, 1998

  The Fourth of July will finally arrive for NASCAR fans this week-end with
the running of the 40th Annual Pepsi 400. The race was postponed back in
July when wildfires ravaged the surrounding area of  Volusia, Brevard and
Flagler counties. NASCAR officials, sensing a public relations debacle if
they held the race, wisely postponed until the next available date. 

  For the race teams the week-end will be a test of endurance. With back to
back restrictor plate superspeedway races (Talladega & Daytona) the teams
will only have two days to get ready for qualifying on Thursday evening. A
number of teams arrived from their respective raceshops this afternoon.
That's quite a turn around considering the logistics of traveling from
Talladega back to Charlotte and then south to Daytona. Some teams arrived to
Talladega with back-up cars for both races but not all of the teams can
afford that luxury

  The 40th Annual race will put the Daytona Beach track into the history
books. The obvious part is that the race will be run at night for the first
time. The second part is that the speedway has added more seating capacity
since the Daytona 500 earlier this year which means a record crowd will be
in place. It should be quite a scene.

  The championship battle between Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin is close to
being over. Gordon's team would have to fail miserably for Martin to have
any kind of chance. Not to say that it could not happen, but the odds of
Gordon finishing poorly in the next four races is remote. The jockeying
behind the fight for first is where things become interesting. Winston
awards bonus money for 1st through 20th place. The fight to get into the top
ten and the top twenty in points will be waged until the last lap at Atlanta
in November. The race under the lights in Daytona will be a precursor of
just how desperate some teams are to achieve that goal. A good example of
someone who has risen through the points this season is John Andretti
(currently in tenth) in the Richard Petty STP Pontiac. Andretti and Terry
Labonte have been switching ninth and tenth place over the last five races.
Labonte had a great run at Talladega and Andretti was mired somewhere in the
middle of the pack. The result: Labonte regained ninth place from Andretti.

   So the race date has finally arrived. The hotels are filled again, soon
the grandstands will be full and hopefully come Saturday night the fans will
be able to say "It was worth waiting for."

Schedule of Events

Thursday October 15

11:00 AM-Grandstands open to public
  2:30 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup Drawing for Bud Pole Qualifying
  3:00 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup practice begins
  6:00 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup practice ends
  8:00 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup Qualifying (pos 1-25), 2 laps

Friday October 16

11:00 AM-Grandstands open to public
  3:00 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup practice
  6:30 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup Qualifying (pos 26-36), 2 laps
  7:30 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup Final Practice (1.5 hours)

Saturday October 17

7:30 PM-NASCAR Winston Cup Drivers Introduction
8:00 PM-START, 40th Annual Pepsi 400

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel