News 97-09-16

NASCARFans E-Mail List Sorta slow news day today, so here's some stories: It's still two months until the NASCAR clock chimes midnight and the season ends in Atlanta, a deadline more than 2,800 miles away. But as hard as Jeff Gordon and Ray...

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Sorta slow news day today, so here's some stories:

It's still two months until the NASCAR clock chimes midnight and the season ends in Atlanta, a deadline more than 2,800 miles away. But as hard as Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham are working, time might be running out for Dale Jarrett in the race for the Winston Cup championship.

And Mark Martin didn't help his cause any in Sunday's CMT 300, which was yet another win for Gordon and crew chief Evernham.

Jarrett, 188 points back and fading, needs to pick up a quick 100 points or so over the next few weeks to have a chance.. But Dover, this weekend's stop, has been good hunting ground for Gordon lately. Car owner Robert Yates, who has recently focused a lot of attention on young Kenny Irwin, his newest driver, might be taking just a bit too much attention away from Jarrett's team.

''When you're not the best, you just get the most that you can and go to the next race,'' said Jarrett, who is third in points. ''Unfortunately, the main guy we're trying to catch won this race. So that pushes us back a little more.''

Track position cost Jarrett as it did just about everybody else . . . except Gordon, whose crew chief made the winning call in the pits -- no tires on the last stop with 70 miles to go. While most of those behind him were pounding each other into raw metal over those final minutes, Gordon was breezing to his 10th win of the year by holding Ernie Irvan at bay, despite a number of restart opportunities that Irvan was unable to exploit.

''It's a one-groove track at best,'' Jarrett said, ''and it gets a lot of rubber built up in the corners, and that makes it difficult. Then you get restarts when you've got a lot of laps on your tires, and that makes it pretty treacherous. If you're not one of the top two cars on a restart, you're not starting fifth or sixth, you're starting 10th or 12th, because the lapped cars are racing hard, too.''

Martin, 139 points back in second place, -- needs to catch fire again, too. ''We had a great car, and we had a third-place run going (with 100 miles to go). Then we just got run over three times in one lap,'' Martin said. ''We lost a lot of points, and I'm not happy, because we could have done better. We should have done better.''

This weekend, Martin will be at a track that used to be one of his favorites. ''I used to really, really love Dover,'' he said, ''until they concreted it. It's still a good race track, but it's not as much fun as it used to be.

''The car just feels different on concrete. It dances, it jiggles, it wiggles. Tell me that won't get your attention pretty quick, steaming around a one-mile speedway every 24 seconds while your race car is doing the macarena.

''Concrete is a lot different to drive on, because concrete doesn't lend itself to two racing grooves the way asphalt does. On concrete, you can really get hooked up, really get a great grip on the track surface. But if you break loose on concrete, you would have a better chance of catching the car and saving it on a frozen lake. Break loose on concrete, and it's almost like ice.''

Gordon has had the edge at Dover since it was reformed in concrete, but he got bitten in May, banging into Jarrett late in the race in a duel for the lead. That opened the door for a surprising finish -- Ricky Rudd beating Martin.

Evernham said he was worried about Ernie Irvan down the stretch on Sunday. ''I felt like the only way we could beat Ernie was if we got track position,'' Evernham said, ''and hope he got caught in traffic. That would get him tight behind another car (making it tough to get through the corners). We hoped we could snooker 'em somehow.''

So Evernham made the gas-only call on the last round of stops, a call that put Gordon in the lead for good.

''Our car was handling pretty good, and Jeff was pretty happy with that set of tires,'' Evernham said. ''I know my little buddy here has a ton of talent, and we could lean on that. With him in the car, we've got confidence that sometimes we can go a little further on tires than somebody else can. When he's out front, he can get the job done.

''It was a big gamble, but I figured the worst we were going to be was second or third anyway. We kind of gambled on the win, and ended up winning.''

Gordon didn't hesitate to play it a little rough when he felt he needed to, when he got bumped by Geoff Bodine early. ''I'm going for the championship, and I don't want those things to happen,'' Gordon said. ''But he drove into the back of me, and I was just lucky I didn't wreck. He did get into me first.'' (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow) ========== JIMMY SPENCER drew a little heat after Sunday's CMT 300 for some bumping, including one incident with Sterling Marlin. A number of drivers were complaining about rivals after a rash of yellows during the last half-hour of the race.

''I don't even know what happened in any of the accidents, really,'' Spencer said. ''The lapped cars were trying to race everybody, and you'd think you had position on somebody and then he wouldn't think you did, and you'd bump each other. It's worse than Martinsville, really.

''There's no question it's just a one-groove race track. So you're all trying to out-brake each other, and that makes it hard on the brakes. You'll drive in the corner pretty hard, and then a guy ahead will over-brake and you'll get underneath him, but then he'll come back with a run at you. It was tough. But it was good for the fans.'' (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow) ========== BOBBY ALLISON was mauled by a dog Friday during a trip to Baltimore and had to spend a day-and-a-half in the hospital getting stitched up (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow). ========== NASCAR'S Bill France is squeezing Bruton Smith pretty hard in their race to add tracks to their portfolios, and Smith is now worried that he may lose Atlanta's favored position as the last race of the season, that France may give that spot on the 1999 calendar to his own track in Homestead, according to sources close to Smith. (MM, JN) ========== BILL ELLIOTT did a photo shoot at Atlanta's new layout last week, and Bobby Labonte is scheduled to run Goodyear's test next week. The redesigned track should be faster, and engineers are looking at their Texas tires as the compound. (MM, JN) ========== Growing up an Earnhardt isn't easy, not for the father, not for the son.

''Sure, it was tough growing up and going through high school when he was so aggressive and kids were asking me why'd he want to spin everybody out, and this, that and the other,'' Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of his famous father and their early years. ''But I enjoyed watching him race, and I couldn't wait 'til the next one.

''A lot of people may look at the negative side of things, but I tend to look at the better side: We always had food on the table. But he did give up an awful lot to get where he is now, and that was time away from the family. I truly understand that now.

''But it was pretty rough there for a while. I might only see him maybe 15 minutes once a week, other than on TV. And I kind of felt cheated a little bit. But now I really understand how it is, now that I'm going through what he went through.''

This summer, Dale Jr. has taken his own show on the NASCAR road, and he put on quite a show at Bristol, upholding the family tradition in fine style with a typically Earnhardt display of derring-do . . . all the more surprising since it was his first run at the high-banked half-mile, in only the fifth Grand National race of his career.

His vigorous charge and challenges to tough-nosed Jimmy Spencer in last month's Food City 250 followed a solid performance at Michigan a week before, and those back-to-back runs mark this 22-year-old as comer, regardless of the last name.

Kyle Petty learned early how tough it is being Richard Petty's son. How tough is it being Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Is Junior worried about being compared too much to his father, especially at places like Bristol, where the elder Earnhardt has such a reputation?

''Well, we'll run across that all the time,'' the younger Earnhardt said. ''I think people will be surprised to see how similar we are, and then at how different we are, too. There are some things I do different, some things I like to approach in different ways.''

Dale Jr. got his start a few years back at age 17 when he sold his go-kart, built a street stock and started running at Concord. This summer, he has slipped into a few Busch races without much fanfare. But a workout in late August in Ed Whitaker's car -- Whitaker is the well-known Busch car owner who had so much success with Harry Gant -- could be the real launching pad.

''Yeah, it was eventful, for a lot of people,'' Dale Jr. said. ''But on the race track . . . well, I believe I'm going to end up getting in a lot of trouble with my aggression. That's something I need to control. Because I have a lot of aggression, and a lot of willpower, and a lot of want-to-be-the-best and be up front. And that's going to be a little hard to deal with early in my career. Kind of like we saw at Bristol.

''But it's hard not to go as hard as you can all the time. It's hard to pace yourself. It's hard to back out when you should, because you want that next spot.

''So people may see that I'm possibly even a little more aggressive than my father was in his early years.''

Now that's something for everyone to chew on, at least momentarily. Earnhardt Sr. spent more than his share of moments up in the NASCAR trailer getting chewed out for some hard-driving incidents during his early years.

''Well, I'm sure that's going to happen a few times, and we'll just have to see,'' Dale Jr. said. ''They handle all that a lot different these days.

''What's it like taking on Jimmy Spencer? Well, I enjoy getting out there and racing with them guys and letting them dish it out and taking what they give me. Because I call it a learning experience more than being intimidated. Going to Michigan, and Bristol both, racing against Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte and those guys I've looked up to for so long, guys who have raced against my father for years and years . . . just to finally be on the track with 'em is really a privilege, and it makes you feel good. It doesn't intimidate you as much as it makes you want to race the heck out of 'em.

''Jimmy is real wide open. Every lap I've seen, he's taken everything he can out of the car and uses it. He's really good at getting everything out of the car every single lap. He's never one to back out of a situation, and when he sees an advantage, he's never second guessing him on what his decision is. He's always head-forward.

''He has a real nice style of driving, and I'm really surprised he hasn't shown so much success in Cup.''

And then Dale Jr. wasn't very shy himself either. . . .

''Well, yeah, but I've been wanting to do this for a long time. Growing up around racing, it's always been real important to me, and I've always wanted to be a race car driver. And when you're coming up through the late model ranks -- well, now I may get in trouble for saying this -- but I think the late models have tougher competition. Well, not tougher competition, but it's just harder to win, because it's so competitive.

''When you're running against guys who have raced 10 or 15 years at the same track, it's hard to beat those guys. You're not going to win every week, and it's going to make a heckuva driver out of you.

''And you question your ability sometimes, and question your decisions on the car. So to finally get into Busch and to have success right off the bat and be running good in practice everywhere we go, it just really makes me feel good. I've been waiting for this for a long time.

''Bristol was only my fifth race ever, but to be running as good as we are, I don't want to leave anything on the table. I want to take everything I can get out of it.''

So he's not worried about being too impatient, pushing too hard, maybe getting in over his head?

''Well, I was impatient a few times at Bristol. I'm honest enough to admit that. But I've been in some Busch races where I've been wanting to run up in the lead pack, always wanting to run up in the front, wanting to show people I'm capable of doing that. So I rushed right up there to get the lead. And I felt I was comfortable and pacing myself.'' (MM, JN) ========== NASCAR Winston Cup Series regular Johnny Benson will drive the No. 18 DANA Dodge fielded by Roehrig Motorsports in the Hanes 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Martinsville Speedway Sept. 27. (NASCAR Online) ========== Robert Pressley made his first start behind the wheel of the Jasper Engines/Federal-Mogul Ford at New Hampshire International Speedway in the CMT 300. Pressley started the race from the 42nd position and was running laps consistent with the leaders when the rear end broke loose in Turn 3 and slapped the wall ending his day after completing 185 laps. (NASCAR Online)

==========

Race fans have voted Dale Jarrett, Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker into the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame. The three will be inducted into the Walk of Fame Saturday, Oct. 11 at Davey Allison Park in downtown Talladega.

The Jarretts are the first father/son duo to have the honor bestowed upon them.

Created in 1994, the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame has inducted an active and two inactive drivers in each year since 1995. Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, Red Farmer and Davey Allison were inducted into the Walk of Fame in 1994 by the decree of the board of directors.

Dale Jarrett joins active drivers Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan in the Walk of Fame. Earnhardt was inducted in 1995, while Irvan was voted in last year. To be eligible in the active driver category, drivers must enter the current season with a minimum of three NASCAR Winston Cup victories.

Dale Jarrett, the driver of Robert Yates' No. 88 Ford Quality Care Ford Thunderbird, has 13 career victories. The second-generation driver earned his first Winston Cup victory in 1991, and had his first multi-win season in 1996 when he grabbed four checkered flags. He also finished third in the Winston Cup standings a year ago.

"Anytime you're voted in by the fans makes it that much more special," said the younger Jarrett, "I am excited about this honor and looking forward to the induction ceremony."

Ned Jarrett and Baker join the likes of Benny Parsons, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and the late Alan Kulwicki as inactive inductees. Parsons and Petty were inducted in 1995, while Yarborough and Kulwicki went into the Walk of Fame in 1996. To be eligible in the inactive category, drivers must have served the sport in an additional capacity such as team owners, crew chiefs, broadcasters, etc., also are eligible.

Ned Jarrett, a 1991 International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductee, earned a name for himself on the race track long before he moved to the broadcast booth. A 50-race winner and two-time champion on the Winston Cup circuit, the elder Jarrett's career spanned from 1959 through 1965.

Today, he remains involved in the sport through his involvement with CBS and ESPN, as well as the Inside Winston Cup Racing television show.

Baker won 19 races during his NASCAR Winston Cup career, including the 1980 Daytona 500. Baker was known for his superspeedway ability, both qualifying and racing. He won 40 pole positions in his career, with 29 of those coming on the superspeedways. Seventeen of his victories came on superspeedways.

Today, Baker is in the booth during CBS and TNN broadcasts of NASCAR Winston Cup races.

Fan voting for the Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame began on July 5 and concluded Sept. 5, with fans placing their votes through a toll-free number provided by LCI International. The ballots were placed with Pepsi displays in Texaco stores throughout the southeast.

The induction ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at Davey Allison Memorial Park. Located on block off the square in downtown Talladega, Davey Allison Memorial Park is a beautifully landscaped park that runs between Court and Spring streets on block south of Battle St.

The induction ceremony is free to the public.

Thanks to Trevor Adair for letting me know about this. Sorry it took so long, Trevor.

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

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Kyle Petty , Jimmy Spencer , Sterling Marlin , Robert Pressley , Johnny Benson , Ned Jarrett , Richard Petty , Ray Evernham , Benny Parsons , Bobby Allison , Donnie Allison , Robert Yates , Buddy Baker , Harry Gant , Cale Yarborough , Red Farmer , Mark Martin , Alan Kulwicki , Davey Allison