Originally created 03/19/00

NASCAR noteboook

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- For five minutes, Wally Dallenbach was the fastest driver ever to take a lap around the 51-year-old Darlington Raceway.

But even before the euphoria subsided in his pits, he learned he didn't make the starting lineup for today's Mall.com 400 at the Darlington Raceway.

Dallenbach's Ford was clocked at 174.317 mph during second-round qualifying -- a track record that was supposed to put him 26th in the starting lineup. The top 25 spots were locked in by results of first-round qualifying on Friday.

Moments later, NASCAR said its computerized timing and scoring system had failed. Not only was Dallenbach's lap not a track record, but a new speed of 165.687 mph wasn't quick enough to make the 43-car field.

The sanctioning body has three different systems that monitor speeds, and apparently the main system malfunctioned during second-round qualifying. NASCAR then relied on the backup systems for what it felt was a more accurate speed.

Most teams stood on their first-round speeds. In fact, only Dallenbach, Ricky Craven and rookie Scott Pruett attempted second-round laps. None of them made the field.

For the third consecutive week and the fourth time in five races, Darrell Waltrip had to use a past champion's provisional exemption, and Kyle Petty had to use a provisional exemption based on last year's point standings to make the starting lineup.

Since both drivers have used four provisionals, neither are eligible for another exemption until the ninth race of the season -- the April 16 DieHard 500 at the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

That means both drivers will have to be one of the quickest 36 qualifiers at the next three races or they won't be granted an exemption into the starting lineup.

MARTIN WINS AGAIN: Mark Martin won for the third time this year and padded his NASCAR Busch Series record for 43 career victories at the Suncom 200, averaging 113.519 mph.

Martin has entered four races on the junior circuit this year, winning three and finishing second once. In the only race he didn't win, he had the lead when he had to slam on the brakes to avoid a crash. That allowed Jeff Burton to pass him and win under caution.

"I had to work really hard for this one," Martin said. "I've lost a lot of these races like this."

Burton tried to pass his teammate again on the final lap Saturday, but his Ford wiggled in the second turn, allowing Martin to pull away for the win. It also allowed Matt Kenseth to sneak into second place, followed by Burton in third, Jeff Green in fourth and Todd Bodine in fifth.

"I had to back off (on the last lap)," Burton said. "I'd rather finish dead last that wreck (Martin)."

Martin, Burton and Kenseth are all full-time drivers on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. All three moonlight at selected races on the junior circuit, and all three of those drivers have combined to win every Busch Series race this year.

NO COMMENT: Jeff Burton said he didn't have an opinion on NASCAR's rule change a week ago that allowed Chevrolet to increase the length of its front bumper by two inches. Then he spent five minutes expressing his opinion.

"We've never had control of how the show goes," he said. "We don't get a vote. We don't get to make the rules. They tell us what to do, where to be and how to be.

"If you let us run it, it'd be like CART. We'd have a bunch of car owners trying to make decisions that don't work. We've never had the power to make decisions. We don't now, we never have and I hope we never do because we'd screw it up.

"I don't think the Chevrolets can feel like they're disadvantaged. All I know is that they made a rule change and it seemed real obvious that it helped the Chevrolet. It's hard for the Ford guys to understand.

"With all that said, I really don't have an opinion. I'm not going to worry about it anymore."


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