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NAPA Auto Parts 300 Happy Hour Turns Ugly

13 February 1999

Daytona Beach, FL- Just when you thought that enough cars had been wrecked from the previous two races (Goody's Dash and IROC) along come the Busch Series drivers and add to the carnage of damaged vehicles. "Happy Hour" is the moniker given to the last practice before a race. Yesterday that session was anything but happy.

By the time the vehicles were rolled or otherwise picked up and returned to the paddock nine drivers were required to switch to back-up cars. The back area of the Busch garage had the appearance of a very expensive junkyard. The only thing missing was the pitbull to bite you in the leg.

Assesing blame for the damage was easy. Ironically it was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who had help to trigger an accident in the earlier IROC race. Now in happy hour, the lessons learned from his earlier fracas did not appear to sink in. From Earnhardt's viewpoint "We [Earnhardt and the car]went off into the corner and Michael Waltrip was pulling out of the pits or was riding real slow. I thought I could go between him and the guy in the 29 car. It's just a mistake on my part." From the other driver's viewpoint the feelings toward Earnhardt, Jr. were not so kind. The person coming out of the practice session with the most damage to his car was Todd Bodine. Left without a back-up car, Todd's brother, Geoffrey Bodine, arranged for Todd to use Dennis Shoemaker's #64 car. The car was brought down from Charlotte arriving at early this morning.

Matt Kenseth in the #17 Dewalt Chevrolet car also took the blame for part of the damaged vehicles. "It was my fault. I was running on the outside and he (Fedewa) was in the middle. I rolled out of it (the throttle), but it was too late and I just caught his right rear with my left front."

So for tomorrow's Busch Race the starting field will look like a re-arranged jigsaw puzzle. No question that the stronger car's will move to the front. The question will be which of the teams have their back-up cars ready. Moving to the front is tough enough in the primary car. Add in "restrictor plate" racing and you have the possibility for a lot of car's bouncing against each other. We will find out tomorrow.

David Treffer -- The Auto Channel