Robinson beaming at end as she qualifies


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - When Mike Skinner slowed momentarily to change ignition boxes and inadvertently set off an eight-car accident just 11 laps into yesterday's second Twin 125-mile qualifying race for Sunday's Daytona 500, Shawna Robinson readied herself for disappointment.

Robinson needed a good finish, a top-15 finish in the race, to guarantee herself a starting position in Sunday's race. Now, her chances were slim.

But, before the sun set yesterday evening, Robinson learned she had made the field and will start 36th. Her BAM Racing Dodge, which had run 182.663 mph during qualifying last weekend, was the last car to make the field on qualifying time.

"I'm racing in the Daytona 500," she said smiling widely. "Is that cool or what!

"It's a big relief, but we've got to make the car better."

On the 25th anniversary of driver Janet Guthrie becoming the first and, until yesterday, only woman to qualify for the race, Robinson became the second.

Now, another of Guthrie's achievements is on the line. In her first race here in 1977, she finished 12th and was the highest-finishing rookie. In 1980, in her only other 500, she was 11th.

Robinson is one of just three rookies to make the race, joining pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson and 23rd-place qualifier Ryan Newman.

Age no problem

Dave Marcis, who turns 61 next month, has made the 500 for the 33rd time in his career; not only made it, but barreled his way into it. He finished seventh in his Twin-qualifying race and will start 14th.

Asked whether this might change his mind about retiring, Marcis grinned and said, "I didn't want to retire in the first place."

Tribute in N.C.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. will host a "Silent Candlelight Tribute" to seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt from 7 p.m. to midnight Sunday at the company headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.

Feb. 18 will mark the one-year-anniversary of Earnhardt's death at Daytona.

More than 350,000 visitors came to DEI to pay their respects over the past year. According to DEI's CEO and Earnhardt's widow, Teresa, the tribute is a way of offering the fans an opportunity to remember and honor the man who touched their lives.

She is also asking fans who cannot attend to light a candle in their homes.

Security beefed up

Purses are searched. Backpacks unpacked. Gate guards ask incoming motorists to "pop" their trunks. More than 400 FBI, Volusia County Sheriff's Office and Daytona police walk the grounds.

Security at Daytona International Speedway is up, as it has been at every big event since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

For fans, one of the changes is in the restriction on big coolers. Clear plastic bags are now the order of the day.

"We're trying to limit the potential of someone taking a dangerous or deadly weapon into the speedway," Daytona Beach police chief Ken Small told the Daytona Beach News Journal.

Bradshaw connects

Former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, seen more often now on television promoting a discount long-distance phone company than at sporting events, was here yesterday for two announcements.

He and his motor sports partner, Armando Fitz, have signed Kerry Earnhardt as their Busch Grand National driver for the season and have signed 10-10-220 as a major sponsor for four races and as an associate sponsor for the rest of the season.

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