Originally created 02/15/02

Robinson qualifies for first Daytona 500



DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Shawna Robinson wouldn't believe she had made her first Daytona 500 until she heard it from a fairly reliable source - three-time winner Dale Jarrett.

Robinson, who crashed out of her 125-mile qualifying race Thursday, advanced to Sunday's race with a solid speed from last weekend's time trials. Her lap of 182.663 mph was good enough for the 36th, the final position in the 43-car field based on speed.

She's the first woman in the 500 since Janet Guthrie in 1980. Guthrie also raced in 1977.

"This race team earned this," Robinson said. "We had a plan. My job was to come here and be focused on what it is I'm here to do, which is to drive the race car. I didn't want to get distracted by what other people think, or other people feel."

There were some antsy moments after the race, when Robinson didn't know if she had made the field. A few people stopped by her team's transporter to tell her she was in, but she refused to believe it.

"I don't want to think I've made it, and then find out I haven't," Robinson said while waiting.

Finally, Jarrett walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, telling her congratulations.

"Am I in?" she asked.

"That's what they tell me," Jarrett said.

Robinson shrieked with excitement and jumped into Jarrett's arms for a hug. Her race team began cheering, and while she was giving interviews, a couple of crewmen dumped a cooler-full of cold water on her.

It will be her second Winston Cup start. She finished 34th last year at Michigan International Speedway.

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SMILING DAVE: As it turns out, Dave Marcis needn't have been worried about making his 33rd Daytona 500.

NASCAR's last independent owner-driver finished seventh in the second qualifying race, earning the 14th spot in Sunday's race. His qualifying speed also would have been good enough to get him in the field.

"It's fantastic, I couldn't have asked for any more," said Marcis, who failed to make the race the last two years. The 60-year-old driver plans to retire following Sunday's race - his 882nd career start.

Marcis narrowly missed a seven-car wreck early in Thursday's race, then made a crucial move in the final laps, jumping from 16th to 10th in a matter of two laps. He gained three more spots by the finish.

"The guys talk about what they were going to do before the race starts: stay in line," he said. "They don't do it. That's all out the window once the green flag flies. I stayed in line and you see where I went."

His 33rd start breaks the Daytona record Marcis shared with Richard Petty, who retired in 1992.

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SKINNER IN, SPENCER OUT: Mike Skinner described his emotions of Speedweeks as a roller coaster, but then quickly changed his mind.

"It hasn't been a roller coaster, because we've been on the bottom all week," he said. "We've really, really had a tough time."

It got a lot better when Skinner finished 10th in the second 125-mile qualifying race, assuring himself of a starting spot in the Daytona 500 in his first race for Morgan-McClure Racing. His day appeared to be ruined when his ignition failed on lap 10, and Buckshot Jones ran into the back of him and sent him into a spin, starting an eight-car wreck.

But while Jones, Dave Blaney, Shawna Robinson and Bobby Gerhart couldn't continue, Skinner's car wasn't badly damaged. After a pit stop for new tires, he returned to the race and headed toward the front.

"The car was probably a little stronger than it showed, but we were trying to be really, really careful," Skinner said.

Jimmy Spencer, who was involved in the Skinner accident, wasn't as fortunate. He made it back on the track after that incident, but a blown tire 19 laps later sent him into the wall. His qualifying speed wasn't good enough to get him in the field, and he wasn't eligible for a provisional, so Spencer will have to wait for the Feb. 24 race at Rockingham to make his first start for Chip Ganassi Racing.

"I knew coming in we could go home for the 500, but it's one of them deals," Spencer said. "I'll probably hit the golf ball Sunday. I won't watch the race."

The results were particularly disappointing for Hut Stricklin. He was the fastest car not to make the field, and he was right behind Ricky Craven, who got the final provisional based on car owner points from 2001.

Craven's team was 76 points ahead of Stricklin's in last year's standings.

"We had a good race car and something happened there at the midpoint of the race," Stricklin said. "It felt like all of a sudden someone stood our spoiler up about 20 (more) degrees. It just quit running."

Others not making the race were Rick Mast, Greg Biffle, Jones, Hermie Sadler, Gerhart, Norm Benning, Carl Long and Kirk Shelmerdine.