Jimmy Spencer led second-day qualifying Saturday for the Food City 500 in a session highlighted by Joe Nemechek’s unique but unsuccessful bid to make the field.
Shortly after Spencer guided his Ford Taurus to a fast lap of 122.521 mph at Bristol Motor Speedway, earning the 26th starting spot for Sunday’s race, Nemechek drove onto the .533-mile oval for his two-lap qualifying run.
Less than midway through his first lap, Nemechek briefly lost control of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo, sending it into a small spin and costing him any chance of a good speed on the opening lap.
But since he had yet to cross the start-finish line to begin his second lap, Nemechek took full advantage of NASCAR rules. He stopped his car, shifted it into reverse and slowly backed three-fourths of the way around the track, almost to the start-finish line, so he could get a good run to build up as much speed as possible for his second lap. It nearly worked.
While the lengthy drive in reverse translated into a speed of 19 mph for his first lap, he posted a 121.006 on his second.
Alas, it wasn’t fast enough to make the starting field, and since Nemechek couldn’t use a provisional starting spot, he had to go home.
Also failing to make the race were Gary Bradberry, Jeff Green and Dave Marcis.
Steve Park, whose injuries in a practice crash at Atlanta earlier this month included a broken thigh bone, returned to a track for the first time Saturday.
Hobbling around on crutches, Park made his way slowly through the infield at Bristol on Saturday morning as he chatted with friends, competitors and well-wishers.
“It’s like going 110 mph and then going down to idle for me. That’s been the toughest part,” said Park, who is expected to be sidelined for several months.
Darrell Waltrip, substituting as the driver in Park’s Dale Earnhardt Inc.-owned car, was not fast enough to make the field and had to take a provisional starting spot.
He will begin today’s race from the last spot on the 43-car grid.