DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A last-lap spill in the first of Thursday's two 125 qualifying races will leave Roush Racing a car short of qualifying all five of its teams for Sunday's Daytona 500.
Johnny Benson was among a pack of cars fighting for a spot in the top 15 and a place in the 500 when he was swept up by Ken Schrader's car between Turns 1 and 2. Benson, without the benefit of any owner points as a first-year team with Roush, was the most recognizable of the 13 drivers who failed to make the field.
It was a tough blow for Benson, the 1996 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, who completed more miles than anyone but Dale Jarrett on the circuit last season.
Among other noteworthy drivers missing the cut were: Kenny Wallace, who finished second to brother Rusty in Sunday's Bud Shootout; 1994 Daytona 500 pole-sitter Loy Allen; and Wally Dallenbach, whose SABCO teammate Sterling Marlin won the first race.
Roush driver Ted Musgrave was one of six drivers forced to use 1997 car-owner points to make the field as a provisional qualifier. That group included rookie Kenny Irwin, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd, Steve Grissom and Brett Bodine. Darrell Waltrip, involved in a six-car crash nine laps into the second 125 qualifying race, made the field as a past Winston Cup champion.
Sterling Marlin painted a funny picture after winning the first of the Gatorade Twin 125s.
Marlin is a native of Franklin, Tenn., who has a distinctive drawl that many non-Southerners find difficult to understand. His car owner, Felix Sabates, is a Cuban immigrant who also has a distinctive accent.
Combine that with both men who have a tendency to speak excitedly and you can understand why Marlin laughed when asked to recount the conversation between he and Sabates right after the race.
"We almost needed an interpreter in Victory Lane," Marlin said.
Winning one of the 125s doesn't necessarily bode well for Sunday's main event.
Only five drivers have won a 125 and gone on to win the Daytona 500. Fireball Roberts was the first in 1962. Cale Yarborough did it twice, in 1977 and 1984. The others were Bill Elliott (1985), Bobby Allison (1988) and Marlin (1995).
Three days before the season-opening Daytona 500, Geoff Bodine announced Thursday that he has landed Philips Consumer Communications to be the primary sponsor for his Fords.
Bodine, who purchased the team of the late Alan Kulwicki in May 1993, lost his primary sponsor after the 1997 season, when he failed to win any races and finished 22nd in the final driver standings. It was Bodine's worst showing in the points chase since 1982, his rookie year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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