Originally created 02/12/02

Petty fastest in second-round qualifying

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Petty led an abbreviated second round of Daytona 500 qualifying Monday, running a lap of 183.061 mph in his Dodge and winding up 27th fastest overall.

He didn't complete his run Saturday in the first round because of an engine failure.

"We didn't pick up much on the second lap," Petty said. "We picked up two-tenths (of a second) on the second lap, and we should have picked up four tenths, so that killed us."

Petty will start 26th in the first 125-mile qualifying race Thursday, behind drivers who posted a first-round speed. The opening time trials decided the top two positions and the qualifying races will filled the next 28 positions, with 14 coming from each event.

Petty's speed probably won't be good enough to fall back on if he has problems in his qualifier.

"That's borderline," he said. "We really don't know where anybody stacks up right now. How can you know?"

Mike Skinner was the only driver who completed his first-round run to make a second attempt, and it paid off slightly. His lap of 181.785 moved him up six spots to 41st overall.

Other drivers making second-round runs were Kirk Shelmerdine (178.246) and Norm Benning (168.429). Benning must reach a speed of 175 in practice the next two days in order to start last in the second 125.


LITTLE AL'S BACK: For the first time since 1998, Al Unser Jr. is back at Daytona preparing for the International Race of Champions.

Unser, a two-time IROC champ, is tied with the late Dale Earnhardt with 11 victories in the series.

"Dale was the one who helped me the most in IROC," said Unser, who's still without a full-time ride for 2002. "He was the one that I would look to and the one I followed.

"As long as I was behind him, he was the happiest guy in town. But whenever I was in front of him, things got real serious."

Unser has tried to pass along some of what he learned to first-time IROC drivers Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr.

"That's what I'm telling these boys now," Unser said. "As long as you stay behind me, everything will be fine."


BODINE STILL FAST: One driver has topped the speed chart through all three drafting practices for the Winston Cup cars - Geoffrey Bodine.

Bodine, driving a Ford for owner James Finch, ran a lap of 188.379 mph in Monday's morning session. He also was fastest in two practices before Sunday's Budweiser Shootout, where he finished 13th.

He was 29th fastest in qualifying, so he likely will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 field through Thursday's qualifying races.

"This shows we have a fast car, and that it drafts well," said Bodine, who hopes to drive this car in a limited schedule in 2002 after running only a part-time schedule last year. "Plus, it's a morale booster to get to the top of the list. It doesn't mean a whole lot, but it makes all the guys that work on the car feel good."

Bodine, the 1986 race winner, is hoping to make his 21st start on Sunday after missing last year's event.


GORDON WINS AWARD - AGAIN: Defending Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was presented with his fourth Driver of the Year Award, breaking a tie he shared with Mario Andretti and Darrell Waltrip.

A national panel of motorsports writers and broadcasters vote on the award.

Gordon will get a specially crafted 2002 Indian Chief motorcycle with a second-generation engine - the company's first new engine design in 50 years.

Indian donated two motorcycles in 1998 after Jeff won his third Driver of the Year Award. One was auctioned off for $25,000 that went to the Jeff Gordon Foundation and the other is at the Hendrick Motorsports Museum.

"I didn't ride the last one, maybe because I don't know how," Gordon said. "Actually, Rick Hendrick wouldn't let me ride it, but it has been on display at our museum.

"But I think I might have to at least take this one out around the parking lot."


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