DOVER, DELAWARE — DOVER, Del. -- The 45,000 race fans who watched Todd Bodine win one of the least competitive Busch Grand National races in recent memory at Dover Downs International Speedway were rewarded for their steadfastness yesterday, once the GM Goodwrench/Delco Battery 200 was history.
Refusing to budge, the fans were present when Winston Cup Budweiser 500 pole-sitter Ernie Irvan hit the wall in Turn 4 during the Winston Cup practice session.
Irvan had set the track qualifying record for Winston Cup cars with a 151.541 run Friday in his Kodak Film Chevy. Yesterday, however, when he drove straight into the wall and heavily damaged the entire right side of his car, he jeopardized his chances for victory in today's 500.
"I was going into the third turn and slipped on some oil," Irvan said. "I sure wish they would have thrown the caution for oil on the track, but I guess no one saw it until it was too late."
The team was forced to switch to Irvan's backup car. According to NASCAR rules, Irvan will lead the field on the first warm-up lap from his No. 1 starting position and then drop to the last position in the 38-car field before the green flag waves to start the race.
"The backup is a brand-new car that we haven't raced anywhere yet," Irvan said, before taking the car out for a few practice laps late yesterday evening. "But it is just like the one we wrecked. We raced the one we wrecked at Charlotte last week [he finished fifth], so I think it can be a pretty good car. It's a challenge when you have to go to a backup car and start at the rear of the field. I like challenges -- but I don't know about that much of a challenge."
Yesterday, in the Busch race, Bodine avoided two early accidents, one of which eliminated pole-sitter Ward Burton, led 96 of the 200 laps and won by a comfortable 13.5 seconds over Chad Little.
Bodine was the seventh different Grand National driver to win in the series this season, as he and his Fiddle Faddle Chevrolet averaged 116.847 mph.
"My race car worked so well, it felt like we were racing only a hundred laps instead of 200," said Bodine, younger brother of Winston Cup drivers Geoff and Brett Bodine.
Three drivers in yesterday's race drove cars with Maryland connections.
Jimmy Spencer, driving the Shoemaker Racing Chevrolet out of Ocean City, Md., finished ninth; Bobby Dotter, in the DeWalt Industrial Tools/Olds was 12th; and Sammy Swindell, driving the Bull and Hannah MC Transportation Ford, wound up 20th. Both Dotter's and Swindell's sponsors are based in the Baltimore area.