News #2 97-09-26

========== Well, the final tally on the "Steel Chariots" poll is: 12 votes - liked it or thought it was beneficial to getting public exposure to the sport of NASCAR racing (yes, Brian, it is a sport!) 60 votes - it stunk So that's a 5 to 1...

========== Well, the final tally on the "Steel Chariots" poll is:

12 votes - liked it or thought it was beneficial to getting public exposure to the sport of NASCAR racing (yes, Brian, it is a sport!)

60 votes - it stunk

So that's a 5 to 1 margin against "Steel Chariots". It changed a bit from 7 to 1 late this morning and afternoon, with a bunch of people deciding to respond who liked the thing.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to respond. ========== Again, if you need to contact me, either use e-mail address "Mike@NASCARFans.Com", or page me via iChat, user name "mikeirwin". Don't use "NASCARFans@RocketMail.Com", 'cause I don't check it or use it other than when we're running an e-mail poll.

RocketMail is a pretty good free web-based e-mail package, btw. (personal opinion, and not endorsed by NASCARFans in any way <grin>)

I would ask that you limit the iChat pages to essential contact please, like letting me know Geoff Bodine's new sponsor is the "Acme Bumper Car Company", or something like that. Only kidding, Geoff fans, only kidding!!!!!!! ========== National Geographic Explorer and host Boyd Matson, who went behind the scenes with driver Jeff Burton at the Exide Select Batteries 400 Sept. 6, will broadcast their look at the sport Oct. 5 on the cable SuperStation WTBS. The program promises vantage points not regularly seen at Richmond International Raceway, including a look from the pace car and between full-speed stock cars, plus closeups of pit action. (Speedworld) ========== Robby Gordon is still undecided about his 1998 plans. This weekend he is at the California Speedway for the CART race, and will drive for Hogan Racing, an option for 1998. "Felix and the entire team have been behind me 100 percent while I explore my options," Gordon said. "The CART series is one of them ... and Winston Cup is still another. Right now, I haven't made a decision on which way I'm leaning," said Gordon. (Speedworld) ========== This is a time/speed conversion chart for Charlotte Motor Speedway, from Charlotte.Com.

Time Speed --------------------- 29.00 186.207 29.05 185.886 29.10 185.567 29.15 185.249 29.20 184.932 29.25 184.615 29.30 184.300 29.35 183.986 29.40 183.673 29.45 183.361 29.50 183.050 29.55 182.741 29.60 182.432 29.65 182.124 29.70 181.818 29.75 181.512 29.80 181.208 29.85 180.904 29.90 180.602 29.95 180.300 30.00 180.000 30.05 179.700 30.10 179.402 30.15 179.104 30.20 178.810 30.25 178.512 30.30 178.218 30.35 177.924 30.40 177.632 30.45 177.340 30.50 171.050 30.55 171.157 30.60 176.471 30.65 176.183 30.70 175.896 30.75 175.610 30.80 175.325 30.85 175.041 30.90 174.757 30.95 174.475 31.00 174.193 31.05 173.913 31.10 173.633 31.15 173.355 31.20 173.077 31.25 172.800 31.30 172.524 31.35 172.249 31.40 171.975 31.45 171.701 31.50 171.429 31.55 171.157 31.60 170.866 31.65 170.616 31.70 170.347 31.75 170.079 31.80 169.811 31.85 169.545 31.90 169,279 31.95 169.014 32.00 168.750 32.05 168.487 32.10 168.242 32.15 167.963 32.20 167.702 32.25 167.422 32.30 167.183 32.35 166.924 32.40 166.667 32.45 166.410 32.50 166.154 32.55 165.899 ========== You might guess it's a slow afternoon in NASCAR news, eh? ========== Here's a good story about Andy Petree, from Mike Mulhern of JournalNow:

Martinsville......

This is where Andy Petree ran his last major-league race, three years ago. And it was obviously good therapy, both for the veteran crew chief and his driver then, Dale Earnhardt, who came into the Goody's 500 that fall well on his way to his seventh Winston Cup championship.

Petree did his driving in that Saturday's Grand National race -- ''Finished 16th in Earnhardt's own car, and he'd told me I wouldn't even make the field,'' Petree recalled with a laugh.

Not to be upstaged, Earnhardt came back the next day with one of his best races of the season, a fender-banging battle with Rusty Wallace that Wallace narrowly won. But it was Earnhardt's year, and he came down the stretch hard, beating Mark Martin for the title by 444 points.

The NASCAR garage is filled with frustrated men who insist they can do this, who insist they can drive these cars -- Jimmy Elledge, on Earnhardt's team, who wants his shot, and Bill Wilburn, who has been rampaging around the country in his Sprint car during his hours off from Rusty Wallace's team. On nearly every team there is at least one guy who knows that if he could just get a tryout, just one good look behind the wheel from one of these car owners . . .

But Petree, after spending a good part of his stock-car career chasing this dream, says he now understands something about this deal that he didn't understand when he was younger.

And that helps him relate to Kenny Schrader, who comes into this afternoon's pole-qualifying sessions for the Hanes 500 hoping for a weekend that wipes out some of his own frustrations. Schrader had Petree's Chevy on the pole at Loudon, a similarly flat track, two weeks ago, only to get trapped in the pits early with an untimely caution that knocked him out of contention.

In retrospect, Petree's brief three-year tour of duty with Earnhardt and the Richard Childress team was astonishing. He was a late addition to the team after Kirk Shelmerdine surprised everyone by quitting; he came in and reorganized everything, with an iron fist that sent more than one crewman looking elsewhere.

And he missed by 34 points -- about the difference between one 10th-place finish instead of a 20th somewhere along the line -- becoming the only NASCAR crew chief to win three consecutive championships.

There is no ambiguity in Petree, no vagueness about his sense of purpose. He has set ambitious goals, some might say too ambitious, and he doesn't tolerate foolishness. He drives hard, and he is not patient. He is determined to succeed, and he doesn't lack for confidence.

And if this up-from-the-bootstraps man from Hickory makes it, well, his story line could follow that of Childress, a man who was once something of his mentor.

Being a crew chief and a car owner at the Winston Cup level isn't easy, which makes Petree's quick success with Childress and Earnhardt so surprising.

''There aren't that many really good crew chiefs out here,'' Petree said. ''Not championship caliber. Maybe six or seven. It's just like drivers. There are only six or seven drivers who can win a championship.

''But I'll tell you something else because I've been analyzing my career. I've been real lucky to be with the right drivers at the right time. That's got a lot to do with how you're perceived as a crew chief.

''I came along with Harry Gant right at the point where he had something to prove, and we had a new deal, and the timing was just right. Harry was out there winning races, and I was getting a lot of the credit, but it was basically a timing issue.

''The same thing with Earnhardt. He'd just had an off-season when I went there, and he had a lot to prove, and he was just in the prime of his career, and things at Childress' were looking up when I got there. So the timing was just really good.''

WHEN PETREE arrived at Childress' team, the nature of stock-car racing was changing dramatically, though few saw it clearly at the time. The days of small, closely knit crews were quickly coming to an end, and the size of teams was suddenly expanding radically, with all the attendant headaches of management and loss of camaraderie.

''It was changing, for sure, and it's kept changing,'' Petree said. ''It was difficult at first, I'll tell you, those first months at Childress' because that was just so much different than anything I'd ever been involved with. It was just bigger.

''Too big? No, I don't think a business can get too big if you keep a handle on it. If you have good people in the right places, I don't think it can get too big. Jack Roush has had some good success with his operation getting bigger because he's got some people in the right places. And I think Childress can get his deal straightened out, too.

''You're talking with someone who's having the same problems -- we're about a tenth or 15-hundreths off (a lap). We're pretty good, but we're a little off. We're lacking a little something.

''This is just the top level. Like, how many guys do you have competing for the Cy Young? And how many great pitchers are there out there? It's the same thing. What do those other guys lack? Why can't they get that ERA down just another half a run? It's just tough, difficult at the top.''

With the success he was having with Earnhardt and Childress, why in the world did Petree leave, to become a struggling independent car owner doing battle against the sport's richest men?

''Because I felt the timing was right -- again -- for my career,'' he said. ''I just felt it was the right time. Sure, I could have stayed at Childress and maybe we'd have had some more success, and it would have been great. But then maybe my opportunity here would have vanished.

''And the way it looks now, it looks like it's getting ever more difficult to become a car owner with every passing year. With Roush buying up everything, there are only going to be so many of 'em. If that trend continues, there'll only be six to 10 car owners in the whole deal.''

To escape the pressures of this season, his first as an owner-crew chief, Petree grabbed his helmet and got behind the wheel of a Late Model Stock borrowed from Dexter Canipe, the Winston Racing Series champ, for a night at Hickory during that rare off-weekend in late July. It turned into another hard-knock lesson on the pitfalls of racing.

''I was leading Dexter in the heat race, and the guys on the crew kept telling me, 'Let him by, let him by.' But I wanted to enjoy the moment for a while, and then I finally let him by. In the feature I was running fourth when the guy running fifth spun me out.

''He hit me coming off the turn, and then as I corrected, he hit me again and turned right into the wall. I saw it coming and knew it was going to hurt. And it did.''

It also hurt in the pocketbook, $6,000 worth. An expensive night at the races.

But Petree is already looking ahead for another 'golf' game.

''I drive about once every year or so. I love doing it . . . as long as you're not wrecking like that. I did notice this last time, after hitting the wall, that it wasn't quite as much fun as the other races I've run. My headache was a dead give-away. The force and velocity . . . ''

Petree got his first taste of driving in 1986 at Hickory, Asheville and Greenville, and he still fancies himself a solid driver: ''I am pretty good . . . not good enough to be one of these guys.

''I think I've won about five races at Greenville and five races at Hickory . . . out of the 60 or 100 races I ran between '86 and '89. We ran a Busch car in '88, at Richmond the first time on that new track, ran Martinsville twice that year, and Rockingham. ''I had ambitions about running Winston Cup eventually . . . until I ran those four races and realized it was not going to be a cakewalk like I thought it would be. I started to realize just how difficult this is.'' ========== Have a good weekend!

Mike Irwin (mike@nascarfans.com) NASCAR Fans _______________________________________ NASCAR Fans Website http://www.nascarfans.com

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Rusty Wallace , Robby Gordon , Kirk Shelmerdine , Andy Petree , Jack Roush , Harry Gant , Mark Martin