Thursday, February 11, 2016

2/13/00: Petty Pole Award Arrangement Leaves Andretti Out Of 2000 Shootout

On February 13, 2000, John Andretti finished last in the Bud Shootout at Daytona when his #43 STP / Cheerios Pontiac was disallowed from competing in the 25-lap event.

Andretti was competing in his eighth season on the NASCAR Winston Cup tour and was coming off what was to be his second and final Cup victory at Martinsville the previous spring.  Andretti’s other victory took place at the Daytona track in 1997, when he drove for Cale Yarborough Motorsports in the #98 RCA Ford.

2000 was a significant year for the Petty Enterprises team.  STP, which had been the primary sponsor of the iconic #43 since 1972, was scaling back its funding to an associate sponsor by the end of the year.  General Mills and its Cheerios brand would assume a progressively greater presence on the #43 through the season, culminating with Cheerios on the hood when the series returned to Daytona in July.  While one tradition was ending, another endured, locking-up the last spot in the field before the race even started.  While Andretti won a pole at Phoenix the previous fall, a family agreement not to run the Bud Pole Award decals on the car left them ineligible to run the Shootout itself.  Due to the team essentially disallowing themselves, Andretti is classified last in the official standings, and is thus for purposes of this site credited with finishing there.

Starting in the rear of the now 15-car Shootout field was Dale Jarrett, fresh off his first Winston Cup championship for Robert Yates in the #88 Quality Care / Ford Credit Ford.  Jarrett didn’t win a pole during his title season, so he had to earn the 15th spot in the main event by winning the Bud Shootout Last Chance Qualifier run earlier that day.  Jarrett started 6th in the event, dodged a multi-car wreck when Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer tangled off Turn 4, and prevailed on the mandatory green-flag pit stop to win by more than four seconds over Jeff Burton.  It was to be the last of three runnings of the 25-lap qualifying race.  Nineteen drivers were to make the starting field, but eight withdrew prior to the start, including Derrike Cope, who decided to focus on second-round Daytona 500 qualifying in what was to be the final 500 start for Hall of Fame team owner Bud Moore.

When the green flag flew for the main event, Jarrett leap-frogged Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s #42 BellSouth Chevrolet by the end of the backstretch and began his march through the field.  Irwin was then passed for last by David Green the next time into Turn 1, Green running a one-off start for Kurt Roehrig in a #34 Chevrolet sponsored by Sunoco Lubricant and Kendall Motor Oil.  On Lap 4, Jarrett once again fell to the rear as the field remained two and three wide near the back of the pack behind then-race leader Jeff Gordon.  Jarrett passed Green to put the #34 last again on Lap 6 as the field remained within a one-second interval from front to rear.  With pit stops coming up, Green and Jarrett continued to trade last on Lap 8 with the leaders locked two-by-two.

All but two cars - Jarrett and the #18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac of Bobby Labonte - came down pit road on Lap 9.  That time by, Mark Martin was about to come into his stall, but seemed to misjudge the entry, leaving the right side tires outside the box.  In the process, he clipped his front tire changer Mike Garrett with the nose of his car, launching Garrett onto the hood.  Garrett injured his ankle in the incident, but was otherwise conscious when interviewed shortly after.  Without a completed pit stop, Martin pulled his car behind the wall, leaving him last among the starters in the race.

Moments after Martin’s incident, engine woes forced Mike Skinner to park his #31 Lowe’s Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, leaving thirteen cars to settle it on the track.  Ricky Rudd finished 13th when his first turn in Yates’ #28 Texaco / Havoline Ford ended with a  wreck out of the Top 5 following contact between Bobby Labonte and Sterling Marlin off the final corner.  Rounding out the Bottom Five was David Green, whose #34 lost the lead draft after the mandatory pit stops.

Andretti has made a total of 393 starts in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  His most recent start was the 2010 Daytona 500, where he drove Front Row Motorsports’ #34 Window World Cares Ford into the 33rd starting spot before a crash left him 38th.  He has eleven last-place finishes in Cup points races, tying him with several drivers including 1986 Daytona 500 champ Geoffrey Bodine for the 14th-most in series history.

*This was Andretti's second last-place finish in this event.  He previously finished three laps down in 1996 Busch Clash when driving the #37 K-Mart / Little Caesar's Ford owned by Michael Kranefuss.
*Andretti wasn’t the only Petty Enterprises driver to finish last in the Bud Shootout because of the pole award arrangement.  Bobby Hamilton did in 1998 followed by Jeff Green in 2004.

16) #43-John Andretti / 0 laps / disallowed
15) #6-Mark Martin / 10 laps / radiator
14) #31-Mike Skinner / 10 laps / engine
13) #28-Ricky Rudd / 24 laps / crash
12) #34-David Green / 25 laps / running

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