HAMPTON, GA. — HAMPTON, Ga. -- Three men are in the running for the Winston Cup Championship tomorrow in the Hooters 500. And each one is looking for an edge.
For Davey Allison, the edge is faith. Allison has overcome foumajor wrecks and the death of his brother, Clifford, this season, to lead the title chase by 30 points going into this last race of the season.
For Alan Kulwicki, second in points, the edge comes from threcord books. Since 1988, Kulwicki has outperformed Allison by an average of 35 points here. If he can do that tomorrow, the championship could well be his.
And for Bill Elliott, who is 40 points out of the lead, the edgmight come from the idea that things can't get any more embarrassing than they were yesterday morning.
There was the well-financed Budweiser team with its first-clasrig, owned by Junior Johnson, the most successful car owner in Winston Cup racing over the last decade, struggling to get the car unloaded.
Basically, they couldn't get the car out of the truck.
"We couldn't get the rear hydraulic gate to lower," said Elliott'crew chief, Tim Brewer, after the problem was fixed and the rest of the teams had stopped laughing. "It's not a very good way to start the weekend, is it?"
The embarrassment comes on top of the fact that Elliott hagone from having a 154-point lead to being 40 points behind in the last five races.
Rick Mast in his Skoal Classic Oldsmobile won the pole fotomorrow's race with a speed of 180.183 mph, while the championship contenders struggled.
Elliott (178.977) will start 11th in the field, Kulwicki (178.743) 14tand Allison (178.400) 17th.
Three other drivers -- Mark Martin, Kyle Petty and Harry Gant -also still have mathematical chances at the Winston Cup title, but they are outside chances. Of those three, Martin qualified best, placing his Valvoline Ford in the fourth spot.
Richard Petty, who will be running his last Winston Cup stock car race tomorrow, qualified 36th (175.318). He can stand on his speed and risk being bumped or attempt to requalify today.
"I've never really believed in luck," said Kulwicki. "In the long runBill was fortunate -- more fortunate than I could have believed possible -- early in the season when he won four straight. And lately, he's been more unfortunate than I could have believed this late in the season. But it goes to show that, overall, things even out."
That seems true in Allison's case too. He had a strong run earlywinning five of his six races before the halfway point of the season.
Since then, Allison has spent most of his time overcoming hi11-flip accident in Long Pond, Pa., July 19. Since then, he has only one victory: two weeks ago at the Pyroil 500 in Phoenix. He still has only limited mobility in his right wrist and his grip strength in his right hand is only about 75 percent.
"There would be a lot of personal satisfaction in winning the titlthis season," said Allison. "But right now, I have to be careful not to think too much about the championship. If I did that, we could overlook something that could cost us.
"The most important thing Dad [Bobby Allison] has told me is noto get too wrapped up in it. If it's meant to happen, it will."
If Allison wins, he'll join Richard Petty as the onlsecond-generation drivers to have won Winston Cup Championships.
As for Kulwicki, he has been Mr. Consistency. Driving for his own team, he has pushed the Hooters Ford to two victories and 16 top 10 finishes.
"I haven't been in this situation before," said Kulwicki, who threyears ago turned down an offer to drive for Johnson so he could continue with his own team. "I don't really feel any pressure."
But after finishing fourth at Phoenix two weeks ago, Kulwickfound he needed something to inspire some positive thinking.
"I was looking through the record books and noticed that outperformed Davey, Bill and all of Junior's cars in this last race at Atlanta," he said. "Maybe it won't mean anything Sunday. But I've got a little bit of a record for running good."
1. Rick Mast, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 180.183, track qualifying record, previous record 179.499, Rusty Wallace, November 1988. Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 179.900. 3. Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Lumina, 179.664. 4. Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 179.622. 5. Ernie Irvan, Chevrolet Lumina, 179.481. 6. Terry Labonte, Chevrolet Lumina, 179.387. 7. Dick Trickle, Ford Thunderbird, 179.346. 8. Geoff Bodine, 179.270. 9. Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 179.258. 10. Derrike Cope, Chevrolet Lumina, 179.053.
11. Bill Elliott, Ford Thunderbird, 178.977. 12. Sterlin Marlin, Ford Thunderbird, 178.883. 13. Lake Speed, Chevrolet Lumina, 178.802. 14. Alan Kulwicki, Ford Thunderbird, 178.743. 15. Rusty Wallace, Pontiac Grand Prix, 178.586. 16. Ricky Rudd, Chevrolet Lumina, 178.423. 17. Davey Allison, Ford Thunder
bird, 178.400. 18. Jimmy Spencer, Chevrolet Lumina, 177.937. 19. Hut Stricklin, Ford Thunderbird, 177.786. 20. Kyle Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 177.735.
Failed to qualify
Ted Musgrave, Chevrolet Lumina, 177.677. Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Lumina, 177.665. Jimmy Hensley, Ford Thunderbird, 177.625. Darrell Waltrip, Chevrolet Lumina, 177.602. Michael Waltrip, Pontiac Grand Prix, 177.596. Rich Bickle, Ford Thunderbird, 177.343. Bobby Hamilton, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 177.154. Bob Schacht, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 176.823. Harry Gant, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 176.657. Wally Dallenbach Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 176.646.
Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet Lumina, 176.521. Bobby Hillin Jr., Ford Thunderbird, 176.339. Dale Jarrett, Chevrolet Lumina, 176.327. Chad Little, Ford Thunderbird, 175.751. Jimmy Means, Pontiac Grand Prix, 175.565. Richard Petty, Pontiac Grand Prix, 175.318. Mike Wallace, Ford Thunderbird, 174.781. Dave Marcis, Chevrolet Lumina, 174.458. Eddie Bierschwale, Oldsmobile Cutlass, 174.103. Jeff Fuller, Pontiac Grand Prix, 173.579. Jerry O'Neil, Chevrolet Lumina, 173.140. Stanley Smith, Chevrolet Lumina, 173.102. T. W. Taylor, Ford Thunderbird, 172.982. Clay Young, Ford Thunderbird, 170.889. Mark Stahl, Ford Thunderbird, 170.713. Dave Blaney, Pontiac Grand Prix, 170.389. Jimmy Horton, Chevrolet Lumina, 167.329. Mike Potter, Chevrolet Lumina, 163.500.
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
When: Tomorrow, 12:30 p.m.
Radio: WXCY (103.7 FM)
Pole sitter: Rick Mast, 180.183 mph.
Outlook: This is Winston Cup seven-time champion Richard Petty's last race and a down-to-the-wire shootout for the series championship among Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott. Allison holds a 30-point lead over Kulwicki, and Kulwicki holds a 10-point lead over Elliott. Mark Martin, Harry Gant and Kyle Petty also have an outside chance at the title.