Originally created 07/06/97

One-lap restart irks Pepsi drivers

DAYTONA BEACH -- The mad dash resulted in plenty of mad people.

The multi-car crash that followed the decision of race officials to restart the Pepsi 400 with one lap remaining instead of ending the race under a caution flag irritated drivers and crew chiefs.

"It's a shame that they make that kind of call," said Cope, whose Skittles Pontiac Grand Prix was one of nine cars involved in the accident on the final turn. "I don't understand their thinking. It bothers me.

"We're racers and we're going to go out there and dig for the hole. You don't like it to end under the yellow, but dadgum, it was a great race all day long and a great new winner. The guy that made that call ought to be whipped."

The restart didn't result in a lead change - John Andretti, who had led since lap 101, held off Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte to record his first Winston Cup victory - but it did injure two drivers.

Ward Burton, one who smashed into Dick Trickle and Mark Martin after the two bumped and skidded, sustained a concussion and was admitted to Halifax Medical Center in Daytona to undergo further tests. Martin was taken to the infield medical center after complaining of feeling woozy.

Those were the only injuries resulting from the wreck that ruined a solid day for Trickle, who had moved up to fourth place with less than 10 laps remaining.

"The crew did a great job and there we were, going for a great finish and some idiots take it away from us," said Trickle, who ended 25th. "We were setting up for a hell of a finish and then I don't know what happens. You've got people that drive like idiots.

"It just goes to show you how our luck has been. The 3 car (Dale Earnhardt) is one car ahead of us and he finishes (fourth) and I have to go back to the shop and build a new superspeedway car. Thank you guys."

A five-car accident on lap 157 forced the restart, and Dale Jarrett and Earnhardt were wary of possible trouble.

"It's just what you're asking for when you're doing something like that: dropping the white and green (flags) at the same time," said Jarrett, who finished fifth. "We were just trying to go for the lead. All of a sudden everybody loses their minds. It's too bad because you saw almost 400 miles of great racing, but it seems pretty silly to have all that happen with one lap to go."

Said Earnhardt: "I hate to say I told them so, but I knew there was going to be a big wreck on that last lap," Earnhardt said. "That wasn't a shootout. That was a slug-fest, a wreck-fest. They know better than to do that."

Robbie Loomis, the crew chief for Bobby Hamilton's Pontiac Grand Prix, supported the last-lap dash.

"I wanted to go green," he said. "I know a lot of other guys didn't think so, but I wanted to go green because we came to race. We were sitting in 16th and we wanted to be 10th (Hamilton finished 20th).

"Anything can happen on that last lap. Today it didn't work out good for us but some day it might."

On the restart, Earnhardt and defending champion Sterling Marlin made a push at Andretti. Trickle and Martin, fighting to remain in the top five, bumped and skidded. Burton slammed into the pair, which started a chain-reaction of skids while drivers swerved to avoid the trio.

"It's just unfortunate it tore up the cars back there," Jarrett said. "I know everybody's trying to make up a spot but it's tough. You're going to run out of racing room somewhere in there."

CAUTIONS SCARCE: There were only four cautions for only 16 laps Saturday, including the nine-car accident on the final lap, which is a departure from the usual high numbers of cautions at superspeedways. Skinner caused the first caution (laps 34-37) when he was involved in a wreck with Chad Little and Spencer on the backstretch. Ken Schrader hit the wall in turn 4 on lap 108 to cause a five-lap caution and Jeff Gordon spun out and bumped into Derrike Cope on lap 126 for a four-lap caution.

The last race at Talladega Superspeedway, the Winston 500, was run without cautions.

A member of Johnny Benson's pit crew sustained a lacerated ankle when he was struck by another car as Benson left the pits. Gary Lesler, 33, was treated at the infield medical center, where X-rays revealed no fractures. His injury was not serious.


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