Jeff Gordon isn't confident his Chevrolet will be able to keep up with the dominant Pontiacs in today's Pennzoil 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Pontiacs took the top five positions and six of the first seven spots in the 43-car field, with Gordon the top Monte Carlo in 10th.
"They're pretty awesome," Gordon said of the Pontiac brigade. "We're working hard to do anything we can to get the Chevrolet as good as we can, but this is a track that demands a lot of downforce, and the flat tracks are pretty tough to get around.
"We feel like we're doing everything we can, and we can't keep up with them. I don't know what you call that."
Adding to the difficulty is the fact that this will be the first Winston Cup event run on the 1 1/2-mile Homestead oval.
"It's going to be interesting," said Gordon, who has won three of the last five inaugural races in NASCAR's top series. "Right now, it's really a one-groove racetrack. It's moving up gradually, but you definitely cannot run side by side going into the corners. That's going to make it tough to pass."
Ricky Craven was the only competitor able to drive his way into the lineup yesterday in the final round of qualifying for today's race.
Craven turned a lap of 152.096 in a Chevrolet to earn the 33rd starting position.
Friday qualifiers took the first 25 positions and all the rest of the top 36 were filled by drivers standing on Friday's laps. Added to the rear of the field as provisional qualifiers--based on team-owner points--were Kevin Lepage, rookie Elliott Sadler, Johnny Benson, Michael Waltrip, Ted Musgrave, Darrell Waltrip and Brett Bodine.
Rick Mast is the only driver who has been running at the finish of all 32 Winston Cup races so far this season.
Driving for former NASCAR star Cale Yarborough, Mast has persevered through a difficult season. He's 32nd in the points standings heading into today's race.
"It's very ironic that this would happen to us because of the situation this team has been in all year, with being under-funded, understaffed and under-resourced," Mast said. "A few times this year it was amazing that the guys were able to get the car prepared and physically show up at the racetrack because things got so bad."
Mast said a big part of the streak is simply luck.
"We've avoided all the big wrecks and all that stuff, and we haven't had any major failures, as far as blowing up and knocking me out of the race."
Besides luck, the No. 98 team has been characterized this season by hard work.
"We have a lot of overachievers on this team, and they know they're operating under the gun," Mast said. "That maybe makes them dig a little bit harder and pay more attention to that stuff."
Purvis Joins Gibbs
Jeff Purvis will join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2000 as driver of a second Busch Series entry. The No. 4 car will be sponsored by power toolmaker Porter-Cable Corp. Gibbs also will field a Busch car for Jason Leffler, as well as Winston Cup entries for Bobby Labonte and rookie sensation Tony Stewart.
Upcoming event: Pennzoil 400, Homestead, Fla., Today
1. Dale Jarrett: 4,927
2. Bobby Labonte: 4,696
3. Mark Martin: 4,613
4. Tony Stewart: 4,471
5. Jeff Gordon: 4,432
6. Jeff Burton: 4,403
7. Dale Earnhardt: 4,212
8. Rusty Wallace: 3,904
9. Ward Burton: 3,806
10. Mike Skinner: 3,703
1. Jeff Gordon: $5,151,421
2. Jeff Burton: $4,977,201
3. Dale Jarrett: $3,341,564
4. Bobby Labonte: $3,161,366
5. Dale Earnhardt: $2,591,964
6. Mark Martin: $2,591,246
7. Tony Stewart: $2,281,146
8. Terry Labonte: $2,205,796
9. Mike Skinner: $2,079,646
10. Rusty Wallace: $2,059,779
-- Through Dura-Lube 500,
Busch Grand National
Upcoming event: Season over
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 4,467
2. Matt Kenseth: 4,278
3. Jeff Green: 4,212
4. Todd Bodine: 3,957
5. Elton Sawyer: 3,767
6. Jeff Purvis: 3,570
7. Dave Blaney: 3,467
8. Jason Keller: 3,452
9. Mike McLaughlin: 3,375
10. Randy LaJoie: 3,303
-- Through Outback Steakhouse 200,