News 97-09-09

NASCARFans E-Mail List Tell your racing friends about NASCARFans! BGN driver Kevin LaPage will attempt to make the NHIS race in the ...

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Tell your racing friends about NASCARFans!

BGN driver Kevin LaPage will attempt to make the NHIS race in the #91 Pionite Chevy(RPM2Nite/Jayski)

Morgan Shepherd has been released from the #77 Jasper Ford and Robert Pressely will be driving the #77 in New Hampshire this weekend and will be on a race to race deal.(RPM2Nite) Shepherd may end up in the #15 on a limited basis (Jayski)

Jayski hears it was reported in the Birmingham News this morning that the Winston 500 and Diehard 500 will change places next year and the the Winston 500 will become the last leg of the Winston Million.(Birmingham News)

Steve Park will attempt to make the NHIS in the #14 Burger King Chevy (Jayski)

Jayski hears that US Tobacco(UST) will double it budget with the Petree team and bring on board Copenhagen(Sister company to Skoal) as a sponsor of a second car with Robby Gordon as the driver.

It's the beginning of the fourth quarter, and Dale Jarrett needs touchdowns.

Jarrett, who won Saturday night's Exide 400 at Richmond International Raceway, came away from his fifth victory of the season 153 points down to leader Jeff Gordon.

With 24 of the 32 races completed, Jarrett is the equivalent of one race behind Gordon.

A driver who leads the most laps and wins a race gets 185 points, while a driver who finishes 43rd and leads no laps gets 34. That means the most ground a driver can make up in one week, assuming both make the race, is 151 points.

About the most a title contender can realistically hope for is what Gordon got out of Saturday's race. He finished third while Mark Martin was 25th, allowing Gordon to add 72 points to bring his margin over Martin to 97.

A month ago, after he won at Michigan, Martin chastised the press for not taking him seriously as a title contender. Jarrett declined the opportunity to do the same Saturday night, but he does believe he can still win his first championship.

``We're still in it,'' Jarrett said. ``But we have to win and Gordon has to have problems and Mark Martin has to have a problem sometime.

``We're looking to win every week. That's the only way we can be assured of gaining in points is to win races. If we can keep winning, the chances are there that those guys can have a problem. And we absolutely can't have any problems.'' (David Poole, writing for Charlotte.Com)

Joe Bessey was fined $2,000 by NASCAR for his actions during Friday night's Autolite 250 at Richmond. Bessey threw his helmet into the window of Dale Shaw's car after an incident that resulted in Bessey's car hitting the wall. . . . Jeremy Mayfield did not blow an engine at the end of Saturday night's Winston Cup race. His problems were the result of a tire going flat. Mayfield still managed to come home 10th. (David Poole, Charlotte.Com)

The frustration is clear, in both his face and his voice.

Ricky Craven, through his career, has been a bouncy, happy-go-lucky kid, eager for the next challenge, never daunted. But late in the most difficult season of his career, Craven has hit a wall, and he's pushing to get his confidence back.

So he goes home this weekend needing something to get his world on track again, hoping Loudon will provide the charm.

''I've spent some time looking back at last year and this year, saying 'What if . . .' And perhaps feeling sorry for myself,'' Craven said. ''But there's nothing healthy about that.

''It's just been one of these things . . . nobody on this team wants to run better than I do. And you can't stop racing in the middle of the year and catch your breath. And you can't start over. But Rick (Hendrick) says we have to convince ourselves that each week it's a new season. That's makes a lot of sense, particularly when you're coming off a race where you didn't do as well as you'd liked.

''But the last three or four races for us, Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Richmond, we've run very well at certain points in the race. We haven't finished the job, but we have run well. So anyone's who been watching the racing can see there's potential . . . though there is still something missing.''

At Richmond, a power steering leak cost him and he finished 18th.

''I am frustrated, but I'm frustrated because we've missed opportunities, opportunities we'll never get back,'' Craven said. ''We could have had some really good finishes in the last three or four weeks. But we've got to close the book on that, and concentrate on having good finishes in the next three or four weeks coming.

''I want to give 100 percent in these last eight races, and we all want to get in victory lane. But when they throw the checkered flag in Atlanta, I'll be ready for a two-week vacation, and I'll catch my breath and start over and say 'Okay, here's what I did well, and here's what I didn't do so well and I need to correct.'

''But you just can't do that between Bristol and Darlington, between Darlington and Richmond. There's just not enough time to fix some of the things you really feel are wrong with your team or yourself, whether that be physically or whatever.''

It's been 2 1/2 years since Craven made the jump up from Busch Grand National to Winston Cup. And he probably has some good words of wisdom for guys like Steve Park and Kenny Irwin, who are just now making the move up.

''You have to have skin like an alligator, and be able to accept criticism, even when things are going well,'' Craven says. ''And, in Winston Cup racing, the separation between good and bad, and good and great, is so thin. Just one break can determine what kind of weekend you're going to have.

''My rookie year was difficult, and I learned you have to be resilient. You have to be able to bounce back. Like Rick Hendrick says, 'When the race is over, close the book.' The next week is a new race, it can be a new season, it can be whatever you want. But forget about the last race.

''Your confidence, when the field at Richmond is separated by four-tenths of a second, your confidence better be peaking. Every week. And you have to work at that. When you've wrecked three or four cars, and you've bounced off the wall and been beat up, sometimes that hurts your confidence. But you have to find a way to get that back.

''For me, I have enough people around me who believe in me, so it's not that difficult to get excited about racing each week. But, I'll tell you what, there are some tough times. And those are what you're sometimes judged on.''

Craven looks at what Jeff Burton and Jack Roush have done this season, their first together. Burton joined the Winston Cup tour in 1994, a year before Craven, and had some tough times too, like Richmond '95, and the illegal rollcage incident.

''I commend Jeff's team, because they've studied what the driver requires,'' Craven said. ''It's not just a driver thing, it's a team thing, and understanding what the driver requires. The driver has to adjust to some things. But the team also has to give the driver what he needs for his driving style.

''If there are 16 race tracks on the Winston Cup schedule, then I think I've got half of those tracks figured out. And I have a history of qualifying well and running well at those tracks. The other half, I don't have figured out. And that is what is separating me from being mediocre, or 18th in points, and being up in the top 10. We just need to work harder.

''And I want to accept a large part of the responsibility. I can correct where we are in the standings, and I haven't given up hope. And I truly believe that in 1998, we will have a very good season. And it will be after I've rested and the team has rested. They've put in a lot of hours this year, rebuilding cars and adjusting things to Ricky Craven.

''We've gained 12 positions in the points since Texas. And we're confident we'll have a good season in 1998.

''I've got myself exactly where I want to be, with Rick Hendrick. This is the greatest opportunity anybody could ask for. But I think the case could be made that I may spread myself too thin. I've raced for 16 years, and when I go back and reflect on how I got here, I've succeeded at every form of racing, at every level that I competed at. This is definitely the most difficult and the most competitive, but I have no reason to believe that I can't succeed at this. We've run well at a lot of tracks, and that's the fuel that fires me.

''And I'm convinced that not running the Busch series in 1998, and eliminating some other distractions too, and set my mind to it and put every ounce of effort in it, I know I can compete against these guys. Jeff Gordon has the ultimate in confidence, and his team is very confident, and I hope to be at his level next year.'' (Mike Mulhern, for JournalNow)

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 Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Jeremy Mayfield , Steve Park , Robby Gordon , Ricky Craven , Morgan Shepherd , Jack Roush , Mark Martin