Ken Schrader's run was short but spectacular in Sunday's Daytona 500. Schrader, who won the pole position for NASCAR's biggest race for the third consecutive year _ tying a record _ had to start 41st in the 42-car field after crashing his primary car near the end of a qualifying race Thursday.
But his backup Chevrolet Lumina was like a rocket Sunday, slicing through the rear of the field in the early laps and moving to the bottom of the nine-car Daytona International Speedway leaderboard on lap 18 around the 2.5-mile oval.
The Concord, N.C., driver, who finished second behind Darrell Waltrip in the 1989 Daytona 500, was second, just behind leader Dale Earnhardt, on lap 25 _ only 62.5 miles into the 500-mile race.
A pair of pit stops during caution flags shuffled the field, but Schrader still was running a strong 15th when a puff of white smoke rose from the engine compartment of his car as he entered turn 2 on lap 58.
That signaled a blown engine and the end of his race. It also ended his shot at a bonus of $212,800 from the Unocal 76 Challenge.
The challenge money, which rolls over at $7,600 per race when unclaimed, goes to any driver who wins both the pole and the race at a single event. Nobody has won it since Rusty Wallace earned $15,200 at Rockingham, N.C., in the second race of the 1989 season.
The bonus will be $220,400 next Sunday at Richmond, Va.
Schrader, who earned $95,000 for a victory in the Busch Clash for 1989 pole winners on Feb. 11, said, "We'll be coming back. This place don't owe us nothing. That's why we won all that other stuff earlier in the week, so that if we didn't do good today, we still leave with some money."
Asked if he thought starting from the back caused the engine problem, Schrader said, "You don't use the engine any harder here running in the back than running in the front.
"The thing was running real good. The thing was handling real good. But it just didn't run all day.
"One thing Hendrick Motorsports don't have very often is engine failure. It just so happened we had a big one at a big race. This was our racing motor regardless of which car it would have been."
He added, "That pace was the same pace it's been all week. We weren't abusing anything. We didn't abuse our car any harder than if we would have been up in the front.
"We never led it, but I think we could have. We were just sitting there riding and something broke. I thought we had something today."