FEB 23-29, 2004
THE PAST NEWS! YESTERDAY and BEYOND..
OTHER PAST NEWS PAGES
- Kenseth Gift Shop to break ground: Matt Kenseth, the winner of the 2003 Cup Championship from the Cambridge [WI] area, has broken ground on a building for a gift shop in the nearby town of Christiana. The store, known as Matt Kenseth’s MK Race Wear, is expected to include Kenseth merchandise for sale amid memorabilia, including race cars from his 15-year career. “It’s a place for people to come and see how my career started with my dad (Roy Kenseth) and where its at today and as we go on,” he said at the groundbreaking Thursday. Kenseth will own the store, and his fan club, run by his sister and brother-in-law Kelley and Mike Maruszkewski, will operate it. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. We just decided to go get it done,” Kenseth said.(Post-Crescent/AP)(2-29-2004)
- Diversity - Driver and crewman are selected to join Score Motorsports: A Modified veteran from New Jersey and a NASCAR novice from Richmond will join a Virginia-based team this season as part of the inaugural "Drive for Diversity." With sponsorship secured through the new program that is designed to increase minority involvement in NASCAR, Bruce Driver will compete for Score Motorsports in the Late Model division at South Boston Speedway in 2004. After an evaluation at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway last month, Driver, 39, was selected by Score co-owners Hermie Sadler, a NASCAR driver from Emporia, and Bryant Stith, the former U.Va. basketball star. The "Drive for Diversity" will place at least four other minority drivers with Late Model teams at short tracks around the Southeast in the Dodge Weekly Racing Series. The initiative, which was commissioned by NASCAR and created by Access Communications, also will put another half-dozen minority crew members in the Craftsman Truck Series. Driver hasn't raced full time since 2000. His career stalled after struggling through the Modifed Series with an underfunded team and a crew of volunteers.
James Green also hopes to use his "Drive for Diversity" opportunity as a springboard in stock car racing. The lifelong resident of Richmond will work as a crew member on Sadler's Busch and Cup teams this season. The 30-year-old grew up around drag racing and had little experience on ovals until he was hooked on racing at Virginia short tracks about five years ago. Green moved with his fiancee yesterday from Chesterfield County to the racing hub of Charlotte, N.C., trying to improve his chances of latching on in NASCAR. His break with Score should help accelerate those plans. The program's other drivers and crew members are expected to be announced next month when the Nextel Cup circuit visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-29-2004)
- Not NASCAR but...Woman wins in Grand-Am: Milka Duno became the first woman to win a major North American sports car race when she co-drove a Pontiac-Crawford to victory Saturday in the Grand Am event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.(CBS Sportline/AP)(2-29-2004)
- Earnhardt Movie pushed back to Dec, Pepper to star? UPDATE: Barry Pepper is in the driver's seat for the upcoming ESPN original film "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story," which he will star in and co-executive produce. The network has confirmed that Pepper ("25th Hour") will portray the biopic's title character, who died in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500. Production will begin in the summer in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta. Originally scheduled to air in late summer, "Earnhardt" has been pushed back to December.(Hollywood Reports - need sub to view entire article)(2-25-2004)
UPDATE: Barry Pepper will star as the late NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt in "3," a made-for-TV movie set to air in December on ESPN. Pepper previously played Roger Maris in the HBO feature "61." His other films include "Saving Private Ryan," "Knockaround Guys" and "25th Hour." Pepper also will serve as the movie's co-executive producer. He said Earnhardt "captured my fascination and the hearts of millions of NASCAR fans across America."(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(2-28-2004)
- Olympics Scheme for Labonte: Terry Labonte is scheduled to run a special Olympic Paint scheme at Pocono on August 1st . See images of the scheme on my #5 Team Paint Schemes page or 2004 Paint Scheme Page.(2-28-2004)
- Chevrolet Donates $242,400 to Pair of Charities: The results are in and the 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS Jeff Gordon Signature Edition was a sell out. As a result of this marketplace success Chevrolet has donated a total of $242,400 to charity as a way to acknowledge of two key individuals who supported the vehicle program – 4-time NASCAR driving champion Jeff Gordon and team owner of Gordon’s #24 Dupont Chevrolet, Rick Hendrick. The Jeff Gordon Foundation and the Hendrick Marrow Program each received a check for $121,200. See full story on my Racing Charities Page.(2-28-2004)
- Hot Wheels for Burton at Darlington: Jeff Burton is scheduled to drive a Hot Wheels schemes on the #99 Ford at Darlington in March, see an image of the scheme on my #99 Team Paint Schemes page or 2004 Paint Scheme Page.(2-28-2004)
- IROC Tests at Texas: Race teams testing at Texas Motor Speedway are usually in search of additional speed. Parity and equality took precedence over speed Thursday as the Crown Royal International Race of Champions machines took to Texas Motor Speedway for the first time in preparation for the April 2 inaugural event. Crown Royal IROC test drivers Dave Marcis, Jim and Jay Sauter wheeled a trio of the series machines around “The Great American Speedway” seeking setups that will be used in the April 2 race. The identically prepared stock cars will be driven by 12 of the world’s leading drivers in the series’ Texas debut. “So far in the first day of testing, I’m happy with the cars,” said Marcis, a former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular and long-time IROC tester. “I have been to Texas before, I like this race track, always did quite well here. Jim and Jay Sauter are both here working on the cars, our goal today is to change shocks, change springs and keep working on the chassis to where we are comfortable.” Individual tickets to the Crown Royal IROC Series 100 will go on sale Monday, March 1 at the speedway ticket office, by calling (817) 215-8500, online at www.texasmotorspeedway.com and at Ticketmaster locations. A special advance purchase ticket price of $35 is being offered for the inaugural event. Also included in the evening’s racing will be a 100-mile race for the ROMCO Super Late Model Series. Season ticket holders will receive free tickets to the April 2 doubleheader. Season tickets for 2004 are still available and include frontstretch seating for six major races at Texas Motor Speedway including the April 4 Samsung/RadioShack 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event.(TMS PR), more info on IROC on my 2004 IROC page.(2-27-2004)
- Team Ford Racing Member Suite Tix a hot item: Is the 2004 Team Ford Racing party season starting without you? Tickets to several events are moving quickly and while there are still tickets available for the Bristol suite, TFR is sold out of Texas race tickets. Race tickets are your entry pass to the heights of Bristol Motor Speedway, but there is more to this two-day March event. TFR members, and their guests, will watch two NASCAR events from inside a suite. This is an ideal race which to bring guests as many lines are eliminated or much shorter. Imagine no long wait in a line for a bland hot dog, not to mention those other necessary lines shortened, so you can see more of the race. If you’ve never been to a TFR event, catch a glimpse of TFR's first 2004 TFR event at Daytona International Speedway. During the mid-February event, members asked questions of Jeff Burton, driver of the #99 Roush Racing Ford Taurus, as well as MRN Radio’s Joe Moore and Ford Racing Technology Engineer Pat DiMarco. In addition to Bristol, tickets are still available for the pre-race party at Texas Motor Speedway, while a full compliment of race and pre-race tickets are available for Michigan International Speedway and Infineon Speedway. Most TFR pre-race events allow members a close look at the track, including a pit tour. TFR members often talk to crew members as they complete the final day's preparations for on-track battle. TFR’s pit tour guides include some of the most knowledgeable racing people at the track. NASCAR-beat sports writers and championship crew members have shared their insights with our members. You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in pit tours. Proper pit tour attire is required, including closed-toe shoes. Shorts, skirts and sleeveless shirts are not permitted. Rules are subject to change per track and per day. If you have special transportation needs, please tell our staff when purchasing the tickets. TFR members will receive a race scanner to use during each NEXTEL Cup race. Scanners take members into the pits, car and high above the track as the action between drivers and crew chiefs and spotters unfolds. Driver’s licenses or state I.D. cards are required to use scanners. Join the fun, call 1-877-TFR-CLUB to register for your favorite upcoming TFR event or for more info, see their site at www.fordracing.com.(2-27-2004)
- Sad News: Four-time NASCAR Winston West Series champion Roy Smith drowned when a commercial fishing trawler sank off northern Vancouver Island, rescue officials said. Smith, 59, of Malahat, was a crew member of the 80-foot Hope Bay, which foundered in heavy seas early Thursday about 60 miles north of Vancouver Island in Queen Charlotte Sound. Two other members died, and one was rescued, Dennis Kimoto of the Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria said. Smith competed in the Daytona 500 three times, and was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2002. His best finish at Daytona was 10th in 1982 [his Cup Career was 26 races, 4 top 10's from 1975-1989]. The other victims were Derek Myers, 48, of Victoria, and Dennis Webber, 44, of Errington. Michael Slusar of Nanaimo, a Canadian Fisheries Department observer, was in good condition Thursday after being rescued and taken to Port Hardy, along with the bodies of two crew members. The body of a third man was recovered several hours later, Kimoto said. It wasn't immediately clear when Smith's body was found. "I know people in the trawl fleet are very upset. They were well-known and well-qualified," Stuart Nelson of the Deep Sea Trawlers Association said.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(2-27-2004)
- Labonte's to visit the Coast Guard: Justin Labonte, driver of the 2004 Team Coast Guard Racing/Labonte Motorsports "Shield of Freedom" #44 NASCAR Busch Series car, is scheduled to visit Coast Guard units in Miami, FL, Feb. 25-27. He will be joined by his father, two-time Nextel Cup Series Champion Terry Labonte Friday, Feb. 27. The Miami office is one of 10 new recruiting offices the Coast Guard will open this year in a nationwide effort focusing on bolstering diversity recruitment. The Labontes will also get hands-on opportunities to experience the mission capabilities of the Coast Guard as they prepare to represent the Coast Guard during the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series season. The Coast Guard announced its partnership with Labonte Motorsports for a 15-race schedule in mid December. On Friday, the Labontes will experience the training regimen, including repelling and shooting, of the Coast Guard's law enforcement teams at the Miami Federal Correctional Institution before they head to the skies for demonstrations of the Coast Guard's airborne law enforcement and search and rescue missions.(PR)(2-27-2004)
- Update on James Ince MORE: Veteran crew chief James Ince, considered by many to have one of the brightest minds in motorsports, said Friday that he's ready to end a five-month, self-imposed exile from the sport. Ince left the #10 Nextel Cup team in October and retreated to his home in Missouri, where he refused to return phone calls and avoided contact with the NASCAR community. "I had some personal problems, some health issues and some family business to take care of," he said by telephone Friday. Although he said it was "extremely hard" to walk away from racing, it was something he had to do. "My passion and my life is NASCAR racing," he said. "But there were other things that had to come first." He said he's confident he'll soon hook up with a front-running team. "My timing's really bad because this time of the year people think they have the right combination for their race teams," he said(Atlanta Journal-Constitution), NOTE: Ince is not at Rockingham this weekend and NOT working for the #56 Busch team as reported on TV during Busch Qualifiying coverage.(2-21-2004)
MORE: James Ince's phone used to ring all of the time. Now, he's waiting for somebody to call. When Ince was the youngest crew chief in NASCAR's top series, there were people trying to lure him away from the #10 team. But last year, the circumstances of real life made racing take a backseat for the first time in his adult life. "I turned down offers from half the garage area when I was working," Ince says. "My timing was off." He left the team he'd help build and hold together through some hard times to deal with some hard times for himself and for his family. "I had some things I had to take care of," he says now. "Someday, I know I am going to look back on it and say it was the best thing I ever did." Ince's father took ill last year and the family business was in danger of going under. "People were going to lose their homes and things like that," Ince said. Ince had how own issues, too. Mainly, he was burned out, and that didn't at all surprise people who knew him best. To say that Ince is intense is to say that the ocean is wet. When he's working on his race car, that's exactly what it is - his race car. He built cars and raced them on all kinds of tracks all across the Midwest before coming to NASCAR. When somebody here gave him the reins to a team, they found out quickly that Ince didn't consider it a loan. If he was going to be held responsible for how well it did, he was going to be the one who decided how it should be built and tuned. That attitude doesn't sit particularly well with some, and Ince understands that. But he still believes that he's got something to offer to the right team, and still believes that sometime soon that team will ring his phone. Ince wasn't at North Carolina Speedway on Sunday for the Subway 400, a track where he got his first win as a crew chief in November 2002 with Johnny Benson at the wheel of the #10 Pontiac. He's just back in the Charlotte area from Missouri, where he's been handling his own and his family issues. And he says he's ready to go racing again. "For the first time in three years my fire is relit," said Ince, who's now 33. "I am just trying to find somebody who's ready to win races and win championships." After he left the #10 team during 2003, he had chances to go back to work. "But I had a million things on my plate I had to attend to," he said. "If it had been one thing I could have handled it, but I got hit with a bunch of things at once. Now, I've emptied my plate." The #10 team, for years, had an "us-against-the-world" mentality that held it together longer than otherwise would have been possible. That came unglued last year, though, and Ince accepts his share of the blame. MBV Motorsports team has gone in a new direction, with rookie Scott Riggs driving its Chevrolets. Benson is driving in the Busch Series and Ince is looking for a place to start again. "It got to a point where I just felt like I wasn't able to make anything good happen for the team," Ince says. "That's part of the sport, and finally I figured out it was OK for me to make a personal decision to do what was best for me and not go down with the ship." Ince watched the Daytona 500 on TV and said all it really did was make him mad. "I saw my life on television and I wasn't a part of it," he said. Now he wants back in the game. "My goal is to find a car owner who wants to win races who is willing to let me do what I do," he said. "People used to think I was too intense, but now I am going to be twice now as intense as I ever was."(ThatsRacin.com)(2-26-2004)
- #43 hopes to be 'Lucky' at Vegas: Driver Jeff Green knows a few extra breaks here and there would sure come in handy when the NASCAR Nextel Cup series reaches the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week. “If there’s any place that a little extra luck could make the difference, it’s Las Vegas,” the Owensboro, Ky., native said. “There couldn’t be a better place for us to run the Lucky Charms Dodge and we’re hoping it’ll give us the edge we’re looking for on the track.” Green will drive the #43 Lucky Charms Dodge throughout the Las Vegas weekend for Petty Enterprises. Lucky Charms is among the popular cereal brands made by the 43 car’s primary sponsor General Mills. “Maybe this will give us a little extra advantage,” he laughed. “All I know is that winning at Las Vegas would, for sure, be ‘magically delicious.’” Prominently featuring Lucky the Leprechaun on the hood, sides and rear, the Sam Bass-designed Lucky Charms Dodge has a red background with Lucky Charms rainbow colors as accents. The design also showcases the cereal’s famed marshmallows and trademark rainbow. “Having some of the Lucky Charms luck rub off on us would be great, and having Lucky the Leprechaun on the car close to St. Patrick’s Day can’t hurt either,” Green laughed. “This #43 team has been moving forward this season,” Green said. “We’ve seen some pretty good moments at Daytona and Rockingham, and we think we’re going to be pretty good at Las Vegas.”(Williams Company PR), see images of the car on my #43 Team Paint Scheme Page or 2004 Cup Paint Scheme page.(2-26-2004)
- Bodine still looking:
Brett Bodine, who was networking the paddock for work during the first two Nextel Cup events of the season, is trying to keep his unsponsored team from going out of business. "I'm looking to do whatever I can do," Bodine said in the Feb. 19 issue of NASCAR Scene. "I've got to make a living." Bodine, who has driven in the Cup series since 1988 and operated his own team since 1996, has a diverse resume in racing and plenty of skills to offer someone. "I'm a race car driver/team owner/team manager/advisor; whatever I need to do," he said. "I'm in a position where I'm looking for a job." Bodine was interviewed for the weekly publication during the season-opening Daytona 500 weekend. He did not return a phone call seeking further comment Wednesday. "I don't have any solid prospects right now," Brett told NASCAR Scene. "I'm just trying to be seen." Bodine also was seen canvasing the paddock for work at Rockingham, N.C. last Friday. "We are all still working, trying to find something -- whether it's a sponsor with enough funding that would allow us to rebuild or whether it's a ride for Brett with another team," team spokeswoman Carolyn Carrier said in a fan forum message on the Web site www.brettbodine.com. Older brother Geoffrey said last month that one of the options Brett was pursuing was to manage a start-up team out of the Brett Bodine Racing shop in Mooresville, NC. Brett's team has been idle since he failed to qualify for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last August. He raced an abbreviated schedule before his primary sponsor, Hooters restaurants, pulled out last June. The team negotiated a two-year contract with a new sponsor in mid-August. When the sponsor didn't follow through, Brett had no choice but to lay off the rest of his employees. Bodine is not giving up hope of getting his team up and running again. In fact, he said the latest sponsorship deal is still on the table. "It hasn't closed itself, it just hasn't happened," he said. "It's a start-up company and they're not in a position yet to start funding. I'm running out of time." To help pay the bills, Brett has been selling off some of his cars. Andy Hillenburg, who purchased one of them, drove it to a 34th-place finish in the Subway 400 on Sunday. "The stuff that he's selling needed to be gotten rid of, as it is pretty much dated or needed lots of work," Carrier said in a forum message.(Elmira Star Gazette)(2-26-2004)
- Dale Jr. talks about the #3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted on "Larry King Live" on Monday that he'd like to drive the No. 3 car made famous by his late father some day. "I think driving that number is something that I'd love to do, I'd love to get behind the number three car and maybe be in the driver's seat, but it's something I'll do later in my career, if ever," Earnhardt told a caller on the national TV show. "It's just right now I have got to concentrate on the Budweiser number eight and winning championships."(Roanoke Times)(2-26-2004)
- Elliott tests at short track: On Monday, Bill Elliott, returned to Smoky Mountain Speedway in Blount County [GA], to try out his dirt-racing car. Elliott took a break from his #91 red Dodge to give his #9 white Coca-Cola Ford Mustang late-model dirt track race car several rounds at the Smoky Mountain Speedway. A member of Elliott's team called the speedway's owner, Denny Garner, and asked if Million Dollar Bill could take a few rounds on the track with dirt track racer Ray Cook, 32, who has become known as the ``The Tarheel Tiger.'' Garner was more than happy to open the track to Elliott and Cook, who spent several hours making rounds at the dirt track. Elliott has been working with Cook this season. Cook drives the #53 Everham Performance Parts car. Elliott was fairly modest about his reasons for visiting Maryville to use the track, claiming he was simply there to observe. ``I have no idea,'' he said with a smile when asked why he was in Maryville. ``I just got in the truck and came up here.'' After his car was revved up by crew members, Elliott climbed inside the #9 car sporting his red Coca-Cola racing suit and zoomed out to the track. He and Cook together made several rounds around the dirt raceway before coming in for a break. Those who apparently use the track regularly made several rounds to pack down some of the loose spots in the track. Both drivers and their crews spent several hours at the track Monday. When Elliott raced at the speedway in 1975, it was still an asphalt track. In the mid-1980s, the track was returned to a dirt track. Garner purchased the track a year ago after it sat empty for three years. The track completed one season last year. To prepare for Cook and Elliott's use, water was sprayed onto the dirt track overnight Sunday.(Daily Times)(2-26-2004)
- Ford being sued: The families of three women killed last year in a fiery crash, including the wife of a former NASCAR crew chief, are suing Ford Motor Co., claiming the limousine they were riding in was defective. The crash in Greensboro on Sept. 10 killed Tara Howell Parker, 29, of Cornelius, whose husband [Shawn Parker - now the #1 Truck crew chief] was then NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett's crew chief. Also killed were her sisters, Mysti Howell-Poplin, 24, and Megan Howell, 16, both of Mocksville. All three were passengers in the limousine when it was hit from behind by a pickup truck. The suit filed Tuesday in Davie County alleges the limousine was defective because its fuel tank was located behind the rear axle, and was more likely to leak fuel when hit from behind. Autopsies showed the women died of burns and smoke inhalation from the fire, not from the impact of the crash, according to the suit. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, said attorney Bill Bystrynski, who is representing the families of Tara Parker's sisters. Police said the limousine had stopped in a travel lane on Interstate 40 due to highway construction when it was struck by a 1998 Ford F-150 pickup driven by Jeffrey Niles McFayden of Greensboro. The truck pushed the limousine into the car in front of it. McFayden, 35, was charged with driving while impaired and three counts of second-degree murder. The limousine driver and the driver and a passenger in the front car were not injured. Ford issued a statement on Tuesday, saying there are more than 20 million registered vehicles with fuel tanks located behind the rear axle, and that such designs are common among every major vehicle manufacturer. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Association specifically investigated this issue and found that tank location does not determine safety, but rather component and structural design," the statement said.(WSOCTV.com)(2-26-2004)
- Roush Racing/Gibbs Racing and Diversity: Roush Racing will place Morty Buckles, a black driver, in a Late Model car this season as part of the NASCAR team's diversity program. Roush Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing each are starting driver diversity programs this season at the Late Model level. NASCAR also is starting a driver diversity program. NASCAR's program is expected to put five minority drivers with Late Model teams that compete in the Dodge Weekly Series in the Southeast. NASCAR is expected to place six minority crew members on Craftsman Truck Series teams. Those announcements are expected to be made next month. Buckles, a resident of Stone Mountain, Ga., has competed in the Late Model series and served as an instructor for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. He's scheduled to compete this season at Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, Va., and Southampton Motor Speedway in Capron, Va., said Sam Belnavis, chief diversity officer for Roush Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing announced last month that Chris Bristol, who is black, and Aric Almirola, who is Hispanic, will drive for its Late Model teams this season in North Carolina.(Roanoke Times)(2-26-2004)
- Sad News: Edward Byerley "Buck" Wilkins, an architect and contractor who helped develop South Boston Speedway in 1957, died Tuesday in his South Boston home. He was 90. Mr. Wilkins and a business partner, David Blount, opened the speedway as a quarter-mile dirt track in August 1957. Mr. Wilkins and his family operated the track with Blount for about a quarter-century. In 1960, South Boston Speedway played host to its first NASCAR-sanctioned race, and two years later the partners expanded the track and paved the surface. After Blount's death in 1982, the Wilkins family sold the track the following year.(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-26-2004)
- #8 Pit Crew fastest at the Rock: The pit crew for Dale Earnhardt Jr. edged Sterling Marlin's crew to claim first place in the McDonald's Drive-Thru Pit Championship fueled by POWERade at Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race in Rockingham, N.C. The Rockingham victory paid $20,000 and lifted the No. 8 pit crew into the points lead. Being in first place is nothing new for Earnhardt's crew. The #8 team, part of DEI's multi-car operation, collected the $200,000 bonus for winning the inaugural McDonald's/POWERade pit crew season championship in 2003. The 2004 pit crew champion will also collect $200,000 at the season-ending Awards Banquet in New York. Earnhardt's Chevy was a hair quicker on Rockingham's pit road than Marlin's Dodge. The No. 8 Budweiser machine spent 301.939 seconds off the track compared to 302.233 seconds for Marlin's Coors Light Dodge. Third was Jamie McMurray's No. 42 Texaco Dodge with a time of 302.613. Dale Jr., who leads in the Nextel Cup driver standings, was quick to give credit to his team for his fifth-place finish in Rockingham. "We feel like a top-five here at Rockingham is almost like a win," said Earnhardt in post-race interviews. "We didn't have a great car, but we made changes during every stop and the car got better and better. If your crew can't make the right changes and get you in and out fast, you have no chance at Rockingham. We had great strategy all day and took advantage of the yellow flags. I told (car chief) Tony Jr. on the radio to ignore me if I started begging to come in and change tires. It's so hard here to hang onto the car when the tires go away, but the guys in the pits made the right calls. It paid off for us." Earnhardt's over-the-wall crew consists of: Bill Snyder (gasman), Kevin Pennell (jackman), Phil Drye (front tire changer), Danny Earnhardt (front tire carrier), Shannon Myers (rear tire changer), Troy Prince (rear tire carrier), Craig Lund (catch can). Tony Eury Sr. is the crew chief and the car chief is Tony Eury Jr. The pit crew coach at DEI is Walt Smith.(DMFCommications PR), see top 10 at the Rock and standings on my Pit Crew Page.(2-26-2003)
- Testing Set at Kentucky UPDATE 2: Kentucky Speedway's Web site says five Nextel Cup drivers and one from the Busch Series are scheduled to test at the 1.5-mile track this week. Kasey Kahne was scheduled to be there today to test Akins Motorsports' No. 38 Busch Series Dodge. Dale Jarrett is scheduled to test Robert Yates Racing's No. 88 Ford Tuesday and Wednesday. Also expected Wednesday are Rusty Wallace in Penske Racing South's No. 2 Dodge, Jeff Green in Petty Enterprises' No. 43 Dodge and Paul Menard in Andy Petree Racing's No. 33 Chevrolet. Green is expected to return on Thursday, when he is scheduled to be joined by Ricky Craven in PPI Motorsport's No. 32 Chevrolet. The track says fans may watch from the fan center in Turn 3.(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter)(2-23-2004)
UPDATE Kentucky Testing Postponed: #88-Dale Jarrett and #38-Elliott Sadler plan to explore aero, shock and engine packages during tomorrow’s scheduled test at Kentucky Speedway. The Robert Yates Racing duo postponed testing today due to cold, damp weather conditions. “We have an agenda of things we want to try. This is a good racetrack to test aero packages, chassis and shock packages,” Jarrett said. “There are a lot of things we can accomplish here. I don't know that we're going to be able to use (the information) at Vegas, but the opportunity is there to learn things that may work at Las Vegas or Atlanta. That's the good thing about coming here, it's a good opportunity to try new cars and new set-ups.” NEXTEL Cup Series teams also scheduled to test at Kentucky Speedway tomorrow include Penske South (#2-Rusty Wallace), Petty Enterprises (#43-Jeff Green) and Andy Petree Racing (Busch?-Paul Menard). PPI Motorsports (#32-Ricky Craven) and Petty Enterprises (#43-Jeff Green) are scheduled for Feb. 26. Fans can view testing from the Turn 3 Fan Center. Kentucky Speedway season and single-event tickets are on sale now. Season tickets can be reserved online at www. kentuckyspeedway.com or by phone at 859-578-2300. Single-event tickets are available online at www.kentuckyspeedway.com or www.tickets.com and by phone at 888-652-RACE. Tickets also are available through Tickets.com outlets including Meijer stores and the speedway ticket offices located at 2216 Dixie Hwy., Ste. 200, Ft. Mitchell, Ky., and in Sparta, Ky., in the Turn 3 Fan Center.(Kentucky Speedway PR)(2-25-2004)
UPDATE 2: Due to freezing temperatures, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers Dale Jarrett, Elliott Sadler, Rusty Wallace and Ricky Craven did not test on Wednesday at Kentucky Speedway. Richard Petty Enterprises NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Jeff Green and NASCAR Busch Series driver Paul Menard will test as scheduled.(Kentucky Speedway PR)(2-26-2004)
- Carl Long to run the #02 at Vegas: SCORE Motorsports, a joint venture between NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler and retired NBA star Bryant Stith, announced today that veteran racer Carl Long will drive the team's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (NNCS) entry for next week's UAW-Daimler-Chrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Long will attempt to make his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start of the season behind the wheel of the unsponsored #02 Pontiac Grand Prix. "Carl and I talked last Friday at Rockingham, and it seemed like a win-win situation for both of us," stated Hermie Sadler, co-owner of SCORE Motorsports. "We are looking to have a presence in the NEXTEL Cup Series, and this opportunity allows us to do that while allowing me to focus my attention to the performance of our Busch Series team." (#02 Chevy) Sadler, the 1993 NASCAR Busch Series Rookie-of-the-Year also mentioned, "it also gives Carl the opportunity to race while he continues to pursue some other opportunities. We look forward to having him as a part of our team for the event." Sadler, who ran 10 NNCS races in 2003, expressed the team is also hoping to enter the event Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We're seriously considering the AMS (Atlanta Motor Speedway) NASCAR NEXTEL Cup event. We'll know more after Las Vegas, but it's our hope and intent to be competing in the Golden Corral 500 with Carl Long as the driver." Long, a former NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division and ARCA RE/MAX Series driver, made his 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut at North Carolina Speedway driving his own No. 46 Al Smith Dodge Intrepid. After starting the event 42nd and running comfortably in the top-35, he was taken out in a vicious accident on lap 265. Long was tagged by Joe Nemechek and tumbled down the backstretch several times, landing on his wheels at the entrance to turn three. He was uninjured in the crash, and credited with a 38th-place finish. Long hopes to make his tenth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series start next week and is ecstatic about the chance to join SCORE Motorsports for Vegas.
"I am very honored about having another shot to race in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, especially with SCORE Motorsports," he said. "I am very confident that I will be able to give 150% behind the wheel for the team, and I feel there should be no reason why a top-20 finish should be out of the question. This opportunity with Hermie Sadler and SCORE Motorsports came before our accident on Sunday," Long said emphatically. "I've been friends with Hermie for many years, and this was a deal that was beneficial to both of us. I'm hoping that out all the details can be worked out with Spears Motorsports, which will allow me to compete in the 500-mile event in Atlanta," Long continued. He is a member of the Spears Motorsports team that David Starr drives for in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "My duties for Spears Motorsports are my main concern, so we'll have to play it by ear." One obstacle the Virginia-based operation faces is finding the backing for two of the most exciting NNCS races of the season. "At this point we do not have a primary sponsor, but we are looking and asking any interested parties to please contact us," Sadler mentioned. Anyone interested in sponsorship opportunities at SCORE Motorsports can find contact info at their website at: www.sadlerfanclub.com.(2-25-2004)
- Earnhardt Movie pushed back to Dec, Pepper to star? Barry Pepper is in the driver's seat for the upcoming ESPN original film "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story," which he will star in and co-executive produce. The network has confirmed that Pepper ("25th Hour") will portray the biopic's title character, who died in a crash at the 2001 Daytona 500. Production will begin in the summer in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta. Originally scheduled to air in late summer, "Earnhardt" has been pushed back to December.(Hollywood Reports - need sub to view entire article), past news about the movie on my Movie Page.(2-25-2004)
- France moves back to Daytona: Location, location, location. Apparently, Brian France is taking his new job seriously. According to the Los Angeles Times, NASCAR's new chairman and CEO sold his Southern California home to move to Florida, near stock-car racing's headquarters. France reportedly received close to his asking price of $12.9 million for the house and six-acre property in a gated Brentwood community of Los Angeles. The 10,800-square foot house, built in 2001, features seven bedrooms, 81/2 bathrooms, an outside living room with a fireplace, and mountain and city views.(Philadelphia Inquirer)(2-25-2004)
- Testing at Nashville: Nashville Superspeedway will be "full throttle" this week with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing and NASCAR Busch Series testing with NEXTEL Cup Driver #12-Ryan Newman [Feb 26-27] and NASCAR Busch Series Drivers #1-Johnny Benson [Feb 25] and #2-Ron Hornaday, Jr.[Feb 26] All testing is closed to the general public.(Nashville Superspeedway PR)(2-25-2004)
- Richmond for the All-Star Challenge? NASCAR announced yesterday [see story below] the format of its all-star race likely won't be overhauled, but its location could change. In a news conference to promote the May 22 race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said the future of the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge will be considered on a year-to-year basis. "There are a lot of tracks and a lot of cities that want this race," Pyne said. A prime candidate would seem to be Richmond International Raceway because of NASCAR's new title sponsor, Nextel. When the all-star event was known as The Winston, Lowe's was a natural host because the Concord, N.C., track is located 60 miles from previous title sponsor R.J. Reynolds' headquarters in Winston-Salem. RIR is the closest Cup track to Nextel's headquarters in Reston, Va., about 100 miles north of Richmond. Michael Robichaud, Nextel's director of sports marketing, said the wireless communications company would be interested in considering other locations for the showcase race. RIR spokesman Keith Green said his track would be very interested in the event, which has been held at the 1.5-mile oval north of Charlotte for 18 of the past 19 years. "If the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge is moved and Richmond is considered, it would be an incredible event here," Green said. "Drivers have long considered Richmond to be the ideal racetrack, and we would love nothing more than to bring this event here. It would be an electric atmosphere with no-holds-barred, short-track racing on a Saturday night under the lights." Pyne praised Lowe's Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler yesterday for promoting the event, which drew a record crowd of more than 140,000 last year. But Pyne also said the continued support of the Charlotte, N.C., area would be a major factor in its future. "Other sports have facilities that were funded by taxpayers," Pyne said. "Our sport has never been treated the same way. What Humpy and NASCAR would like to see is our sport treated in an equivalent fashion when we place an all-star event in a community, the same way it would if Charlotte had an opportunity to host an NBA All-Star Game or an NCAA Final Four."(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-25-2004)
- NASCAR examining field-fillers: NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter said yesterday the practice of "field fillers" will be discouraged more heavily in the future. Because only 37 full-time teams are slated to run the 2004 Nextel Cup schedule, several ragtag operations attempted to qualify for the 43 spots in Sunday's Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway. Joe Ruttman made one lap and earned $54,196 for last place. He was black-flagged for not having a pit crew. "The Joe Ruttman thing was sort of a sham," Hunter told The Associated Press. "We always try to do the right thing, and since we had let it go that far, we let him start the race. However, that will not happen again."(Richmond Times Dispatch and see an AP story at MSNBC)(2-25-2004)
- Robbie Reiser Crew Chief of the Year  by Racer: Matt Kenseth’s run to NASCAR’s final Winston Cup title owed much to Roush crew chief Robbie Reiser, who oversaw the team that prepared the #17 DeWalt Ford Kenseth drove to 11 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes in 2003. It culminated a long-term relationship between the two that dates back to 1997, and the performance obviously impressed the readers of RACER Magazine, who named him Crew Chief of the Year in their online balloting by a decisive margin.(Speed Channel)(2-24-2004)
- More on the Field Fillers: #80-Andy Hillenburg, who failed to qualify Junie Donlavey's #90-car at Daytona (although he made a little money in the 125), made the field in Stan Hover's long-shot car here and did best among the irregulars, finishing 34th. You might also consider #14-Larry Foyt (32nd, running without sponsorship) and #50-Derrike Cope (30th), although Cope was semi-regular last year and may be again this year [Jayski Note: Cope and the #50 plan to run a full season]. Hillenburg's take for the afternoon's work was $55,425, not a bad payday for 376 laps of staying out of the way. Less notable were the ultimate back-mark cars of #09-Joe Ruttman and #72-Kirk Shelmerdine. Ruttman, "driving" for James Finch, was flagged before the green because he did not have a pit crew [should be a rule, no pit crew, no start, no points, no money]. Shelmerdine, lapped eight minutes after the start-engine command, made 19 laps before he was parked for being below minimum speed. Both, however, made minimum purse, which here is a little over $50,000. There was some talk that a driver had to make a certain number of laps in order to collect purse money, but that never has been the case and likely was not Sunday.(Speed Channel)(2-24-2004)
- F1 Team Boss Disses NASCAR, UPDATE now plans to attend a race: McLaren boss Ron Dennis is no fan of NASCAR, with its lines of growling stock cars rumbling bumper-to-bumper around ovals for hours on end. "You know one single thing that really, really upsets me?," he said last month when the talk turned to Formula One's commercial future. "It's every time that I read about NASCAR. It's just amazing. I mean they are just full up. Every race is full up, they've got more income, more television revenue and it's boring as hell. McLaren chief Ron Dennis doesn't understand why NASCAR is so popular in America. "That machine is working and yet we've got a much better show," he added.(see full ESPN column) better show? a driver wins the pole, he wins the race [9 of 16 won from the pole, worse starting spot to win was 11th], unless he has a mechanical problem or brain fade.(2-20-2004)
UPDATE: Why has McLaren principal Ron Dennis scheduled a trip to a NASCAR race? The English F1 boss reckons the US-based stock-car oval series is 'boring as hell' but they've got more spectators at the races and more cash flowing-in. He told Reuters: "[NASCAR] is working and yet we've got a much better show. If something is as successful as that then you'd be a fool if you didn't go and try to understand what the ingredients are." Most F1 pundits are dismissive of the stock-car technology but Dennis and managing director Martin Whitmarsh intend to keep a keen-eye on the circus.(F1-Live site), doesn't say what race Dennis will attend or when.(2-24-2004)
- Tuesday News Conference to Detail the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge UPDATE: Officials of NASCAR, Nextel and Lowe's Motor Speedway will unveil the format and other details concerning the 20th running of the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge during a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 24, in The Speedway Club at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge, the most exciting all-star event in professional sports, will be contested under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday night, May 22.(LMS PR)(2-21-2004)
UPDATE: Since its inception in 1985, NASCAR’s version of an “all-star game” has evolved from a novelty to a showcase, a spring ritual of speed and daring resulting in yearly additions to the book of NASCAR lore. This year, the event (formerly known as The Winston) has a new name for its 20th running: The “NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.” On May 22, it returns to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. for the 18th consecutive year, once again featuring an exclusive field of 2003-04 race winners and past champions of the event, which will be televised live on FX (7:00pm/et). The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge events will have a total purse of $4,095,000, an increase of $225,000 from the previous year. The winner will receive $1 million.
A total of 18 drivers already have qualified, and the talent-laden group is led by defending champion #48-Jimmie Johnson.
Also involved, for the first time: Nextel Communications: "The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge is a marquee event for Nextel," said Michael Robichaud, senior director of sports and entertainment marketing for Nextel, the title sponsor of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. "It has been one of the most exciting events on the schedule since its inception because drivers aren’t competing for points – they race for pride and a check for $1 million. That format has created some of the sport’s greatest moments, which has made it a favorite for both drivers and fans. Our focus is to create an atmosphere that makes fans feel more connected to this all-star event than ever before."
The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge has been held at Lowe’s Motor Speedway every year since its inception – except for 1986, when it was held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “No other all-star event in professional sports has produced the drama and excitement this event has for nearly two decades,” Lowe’s Motor Speedway President H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler said. “Serving as the home venue for this event, we have worked hard to build equity and making the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge a real fan favorite. We have some things up our sleeve to make the 20th edition bigger and better than ever.”
“Through the years, this has become one of the obvious highlights of our season,” NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne said. “It is invariably exciting, and provides a perfect lead-in to one of our key NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points events, the Coca-Cola 600, which is held in Concord the following week (May 30).”
The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge format’s specifics follow. The NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge will have a minimum of 20 cars and drivers who meet one (or in some cases more) of the following criteria:
- Drivers and car owners who have won races in either 2003 or 2004.
- Active drivers who have won the championship of NASCAR’s premier series.
- Active NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers who have won the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
- The winner of the NEXTEL Open, a two-segment (20 laps/10 laps) preliminary event for teams who have competed, but not won, during 2003 or 2004.
As for the racing itself, the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge will consist of three segments totaling 90 laps/135 miles around the 1.5-mile Lowe’s Motor Speedway track. An initial 40-lap segment advances the top-20 finishers to the second segment. From that 30-lap sprint, the top 14 advance to the final segment, which is 20 laps. There also is the “x” factor to consider: A vote by fans will determine a random inversion (anywhere from three to 10 cars) of the starting order for the 20-lap finale.
Two races into the 2004 season, the following drivers have qualified:
- Race winners: Michael Waltrip (No. 15 NAPA Chevrolet), Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Ford), Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet), Ricky Craven (No. 32 Tide Chevrolet), Kurt Busch (No. 97 Sharpie IRWIN Ford), Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Joe Nemechek (No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet), Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), Robby Gordon (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet), Greg Biffle (No. 16 National Guard Ford), Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Terry Labonte (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet) and Bill Elliott (No. 91 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge).
- Past series champion: Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge).
- Past event champion: Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford).
- Car owners: Joe/Rick Hendrick (No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet) and Ray Evernham (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge).
What: NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge
Where: Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Concord, NC
When: Saturday, May 22, 7:30pm/et
Who: Race winners in 2003 and ’04; past series champions; past champions of the event; NEXTEL Open winner.
TV: FX, 7:00pm/et.
Radio: MRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $4,095,000.
Race length: 90 laps/135 miles.
Track layout: 1.5-mile tri-oval.
2003 winner: Jimmie Johnson.
Qualified drivers (as of Feb. 22): Race winners—Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Joe Nemechek, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott; Past event champion: Mark Martin. Past series champion: Rusty Wallace. Qualified owners: Joe/Rick Hendrick (No. 25 entry), Ray Evernham (No. 9 entry).(NASCAR PR)(2-24-2004)
- Levi's Signs Jimmie Johnson: Levi Strauss says it has signed a sponsorship deal to make its Signature line the exclusive apparel sponsor for Nextel Cup driver Jimmie Johnson. The deal includes both retail and at-track programs. The brand says it has also agreed to a category-exclusive deal with NASCAR that will include usage of the NASCAR trademarks and opportunities to partner on special marketing programs. Financial terms were not announced.(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter)(2-23-2004)
- Ward and CertainTeed Expand Program: CertainTeed Corp. says it is expanding its marketing program with Nextel Cup driver Ward Burton. The manufacturer says the driver of Haas CNC Racing's #0 NetZero Chevy will represent its entire line of building materials and appear on behalf of the company at 12 races at CertainTeed-sponsored hospitality venues.(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter)(2-23-2004)
- Champ Car Series drops doctors....maybe NASCAR can hire them? The new owners of the Champ Car series are not renewing the contracts of two doctors credited with making the series' trauma team one of the world's best. The Open Wheel Racing Series on Sunday said Dr. Steve Olvey and Dr. Terry Trammel will not be retained. Olvey, a professor and director of the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, said his contract with the open-wheel racing series has not been extended. Trammell, an orthopedic surgeon based in Indianapolis, said he will remain with the series for the final year of his current contract as a consultant. Champ Car spokesman Eric Mauk confirmed that Olvey was being replaced as the series medical director but said the organization would have no further comment.(ThatsRacin.com/AP)(2-23-2004)
- Qualifying Changes? Heat Races? Talladega Race Set-up qualifying? While most drivers and crews aren't showing much enthusiasm for eliminating traditional two-lap qualifying sessions in favor of 50-lap heat races to determine race lineups, Hill finds the idea intriguing. Certainly the current method of qualifying for Sunday Cup races makes for a terribly boring television show. Qualifying has been used over the years as a ticket-selling marketing promotion. However, over the last 15 years that aspect of qualifying has vanished and it has become a generally useless routine. "Nobody even pays attention to the sheets anymore," Gil Martin, the general manager for the Kevin Harvick-Richard Childress team, said. NASCAR officials are considering one novel response to the qualifying question - for the April 25 Talladega 500 Cup teams could be required to qualify on a race setup. How? That Friday teams, after practice and qualifying, will have their cars impounded and covered up until the start of Sunday's race. No Happy Hour Saturday.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-23-2004)
- Gordon off to the road: After racing in Rockingham this weekend, #31-Robby Gordon is heading to San Felipe, Calif., to compete in the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250, which is the second competition of the 2004 SCORE International Off-Road racing series. Gordon competed earlier this year in the Laughlin Desert Challenge, which was the first 2004 SCORE International Off-Road race in Laughlin, Nev.(RCR PR)(2-23-2004)
- Drivers Warned about 'colorful' language: NASCAR President Mike Helton issued a warning to Busch Series drivers Saturday to watch their language and actions, especially in regards to TV broadcasts and interviews. Helton addressed the group in Saturday morning's drivers meeting and plans to do the same in Sunday's Cup drivers meeting at North Carolina Speedway. "All of you understand how NASCAR typically treats actions that are played out on TV, particularly when it comes to profanity or actions that we think are detrimental," Helton said. "What I wanted to do today is to make sure you understand that while we may have been a little forgiving over the past few weeks ... that we're going to tighten back up on profanity in the sport." TV networks have come under scrutiny recently over events and language considered in bad taste or in violation of FCC regulations. Helton cited the Super Bowl halftime incident in which singer Janet Jackson exposed her breast as an example. In addition, NBA star Shaquille O'Neal recently was suspended for one game without pay (roughly $295,000) for a profanity-laced interview on TV following a game. "The networks and the government are getting ready to get into this deal and it's going to make things complicated. So, I wanted to be very precise and want you to understand that this is your warning," Helton said. "If somebody puts a microphone in front of you, the first thing that ought to go through your head is that you're talking to your grandmother or your 4-year-old daughter. You have to watch what you say because it's beyond what we want to do in the sport, to make it a family oriented sport." TV talent, particularly those who work pit road and conduct post-race interviews at races, have been advised to help prevent incidences of foul language as well, sources said. TV reporters caught in such situations are likely to cut an interview short, sources said.(ThatsRacin.com)
AND In the Subway 400 prerace drivers meeting, drivers were warned by President Mike Helton to maintain a suitable level of decorum during live television interviews in the wake of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl halftime show. "That incident has caused the FCC and federal government to react, and that reaction has led to greater scrutiny of the entertainment industry and sports in particular," Helton said. "We have a policy about profanity, and that is under more of a microscope today than it ever has been. . . . When you're being interviewed, understand you're talking to an audience of 8 to 80. We've all worked very hard to get the following we got, and we don't want to mess that up."(Richmond Times Dispatch)(2-23-2004)
- More on Field Fillers: NASCAR’s John Darby declared here that there was no contractual provision requiring Nextel Cup fields to sport a full 43-car allottment at each event, but the governing body is obviously mounting a major effort to get enough cars to each track to fulfill such a requirement. They’re not providing any incentive to hang around, though. In fact, at Rockingham, they were discouraging it. Early in Sunday’s race, Joe Ruttman’s #09-Dodge was black-flagged for “not having a crew.” You’d think NASCAR’s crack operatives might have known about that in advance. And the race wasn’t 25 laps old when #72-Kirk Shelmerdine’s Ford was black-flagged for not maintaining a competitive speed. Not just anyone can run a Cup race, however. Morgan Shepherd is 62, and he failed to make the field. He was here, though his car was not allowed to make a qualifying run because it had not managed to get out on the track for a practice lap. #80-Andy Hillenburg’s first pit stop took 36.5 seconds.(Shelby Star)(2-23-2004)
- OSHA to check out tracks: Federal OSHA inspectors are expected to make the rounds at several NASCAR tracks, in the wake of the investigation of the death of a track safety worker at Daytona during SpeedWeeks. One item of concern to OSHA - the spotters' stands high above the track. OSHA's decision to step into the Daytona case is worrisome in some NASCAR quarters; sports are generally considered immune to such examination.(Winston Salem Journal)(2-23-2004)
- Ganassi Says He Was Robbed: They were lined up behind the NASCAR hauler before Sunday's Subway 400 had even concluded at North Carolina Speedway. Ganassi Racing owners Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates staked out a position at the entrance, and were soon joined by Donnie Wingo, crew chief for driver Jamie McMurray, and team manager Andy Graves. They were there to protest the win of #17-Matt Kenseth, claiming Kenseth and second-place finisher #9-Kasey Kahne were not on the lead lap and McMurray, who was third, should have been the winner. Ganassi and Sabates contended when Kenseth and Kahne pitted under green on Lap 350 and a caution then came out, they should have been scored a lap down. Rather, NASCAR corrected the scoring and put them back on the lead lap. When the other lead-lap cars then pitted, Kenseth and Kahne moved into the first and second positions for the final restart. McMurray, who was the race leader when the caution came out, restarted third.
"We just got robbed in front of a 100,000 people," Ganassi said. "Even if you say they froze the field, we had (Kenseth) and (Kahne) split and should have been no better than second. They come in the pits and then it goes yellow, and then we go in the pits as the race leader and come out third. How does that work?"
While the Ganassi group waited for NASCAR officials to return from race control, driver Mark Martin joined them. He, along with car owner Jack Roush, were summoned to the hauler because NASCAR felt Martin, a lapped car, was blocking the race leaders on the final restart of the race. Strangely enough, one of the drivers Martin was racing in the incident was McMurray. So, when Martin arrived, he and Sabates got into a brief profanity-laced exchange before they all went up in the hauler.
Roush, meanwhile, was still celebrating Kenseth's win in Victory Lane, and didn't join the group until much later. After nearly 40 minutes, Ganassi and Sabates came out declaring NASCAR was not going to change its decision, but emphasizing their belief McMurray was the winner. "There was no explanation. There was no reviewing (of tape). Nothing," Sabates said. "Sometimes you win, sometimes you get the shaft and sometimes you get the elevator. We got the shaft this time."
And what of NASCAR's explanation? "Now that we dont race back to the yellow, when the yellow comes out, all the positions are frozen. It was our determination in timing and scoring (Kenseth) and (Kahne) were still on the lead lap when the caution came out. We gave them what they lost when the pace car went by them and gave them that lap back." The reasoning didn't sit well with the Ganassi group, who left frustrated and angry. And Martin didn't appear particularly satisfied with his visit either when he finally emerged from the hauler. "I'm disappointed because the people in the sport know I have a lot of integrity," he said. "I watched it on the tape and I didn't see anything. I was racing and wasn't in anybody's way."(ThatsRacin.com)(2-23-2004)
- StockCarFans.com - Rumblings - Rockingham: Since Matt Kenseth is one of the "Gillette Young Guns" we'll say he won
by a whisker! That close shave had to help, cause Kenseth won today's Subway 400 at North Carolina Speedway by the whopping margin of .010 seconds over Kasey Kahne. With less than 10 laps to go it was up for grabs amongst the top-3, as Jamie McMurray had his chances as well. This was career win #8 for Kenseth (tying him with Kurt Busch and Kyle Petty for 52nd on the all-time win list), and #67 for Roush Racing. His second win at Rockingham (he won this race in February of '02) was worth $222,303 for Kenseth from the over $4.7M in posted awards.
It was all about where you were when the cautions fell today, and it's apparent that NASCAR's "no racing back to the caution" rule is still a work in progress. We saw two changes to Rusty Wallace's pit crew for this race, and it certainly wouldn't be a big surprise to see some more moves from that corner before we get to Vegas.
Kasey Kahne (2nd) had his career-best finish today. He was 41st at Daytona last week in his debut.
Jamie McMurray (3rd) had his best finish since he was 3rd at Bristol last August.
Sterling Marlin (4th) had his best finish since he was 4th at Darlington in September of 2002!
Rusty Wallace (7th) had his best finish since he was 6th at Loudon last September.
Ward Burton (9th) had his best finish since he was 6th at Watkins Glen last August.
Johnny Sauter (14th) had his best finish since he was 23rd at Loudon last July.
Scott Riggs (31st) had his career-best finish today. He was 34th last week at Daytona in his debut.
Andy Hillenburg (34th) had his best finish since he was 24th at Daytona in October of 1998 (only 4 races).
Carl Long (38th) had his best finish since he was 29th at Lowes Motor Speedway in October of 2001 (only 5 races).
STREAKIN....Jeff Gordon has 10 Top-10's in the last 11 races. Matt Kenseth has 4 Top-10's in the last 5 races.
This Week's Elevator....UP: Operator of the Week is a tie between Matt Kenseth (+22) and Johnny Sauter (+22). DOWN: The Big Dropper was Dale Jarrett (-31), followed by Jeff Green (-20).
The big move forward in the standings this week goes to Jamie McMurray (36th to 11th), while Dave Blaney who didn't compete this weekend fell from 15th to 37th. Of the competitors, Jimmie Johnson fell the most spots (5th to 25th)....unchartered territory for him.(StockCarFans.Com Nextel Cup Newsletter)(2-23-2004)