NEWS 97-11-12

NASCARFans E-Mail List The following news is from David Poole of the Charlotte Observer: ===== Terry Labonte, who ends his reign as Winston Cup champion with Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, knew early on this season was going to be...

NASCARFans E-Mail List

The following news is from David Poole of the Charlotte Observer: ===== Terry Labonte, who ends his reign as Winston Cup champion with Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, knew early on this season was going to be tough.

``You could feel we weren't as good when we started this season,'' Labonte said. ``We were missing a little something from '96. I don't think you let up, but other people catch up to you. It's pretty competitive out there.''

Labonte goes to Atlanta sixth in the standings, 19 points behind fifth-place Dale Earnhardt. Labonte got his only victory of the season last month at Talladega.

``You don't really expect to have a season like we have had this year after winning the championship in 1996,'' Labonte said. ``But, it doesn't really surprise you, either. Things happened with our team.''

One important thing happened when Andy Graves, a key member of the team in 1996, left to become crew chief for Ricky Craven, another Hendrick Motorsports driver. Graves will return as Labonte's crew chief in 1998.

``It's like a team that wins the Super Bowl,'' Labonte said. ``The defensive coordinator will go somewhere and the offensive coordinator will go somewhere else. Everybody is trying to get the people and the players. It's hard to repeat.'' ===== HERE'S TO THE WINNERS: Mike Swaim Jr. of High Point will be in a celebratory mood Nov. 29 when he comes to the University Hilton in Charlotte to be crowned champion of the NASCAR Dash Series.

Swaim finished 10th in the season-ending race at Homestead, Fla., to finish with a 138-point margin over Brian Sockwell. Sockwell, from Brown Summit, was second to Danny Bagwell of Cordova, Ala., in the season finale.

Hal Goodson of Darlington, S.C., won the NASCAR All Pro series championship by two points over Jeff Fultz of Milford, Ohio. Goodson finished 17th in the season-ending race Saturday at Homestead, one spot behind Fultz. Hank Parker Jr. of Denver, N.C., won the race, in which 20-year-old Sean Studer of Concord started from the pole but faded to 32nd. ===== Kenny Irwin took a big early lead in the race for rookie of the year on the NASCAR Truck Series. Despite some tough sledding in the second half of the season, he held on and wrapped up that honor after Sunday's season-ending race at Las Vegas. Irwin, who will drive the No. 28 Winston Cup Fords for Robert Yates Racing next season, will collect the trophy and a $7,500 prize at the truck series banquet Dec. 13 in San Francisco. Rick Crawford was second in the rookie race. ===== SIX FOR THE HALL: Next April's induction ceremonies at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega, Ala., figures to be an emotional affair, as the late Davey Allison leads a class of six new members. Allison, a native of Hueytown, Ala., and the son of racing legend Bobby Allison, won 19 Winston Cup races in a career cut short when he died from injuries suffered in a 1993 helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway, where the hall of fame is located.

Joining Allison in the group to be inducted April 23 are Roger Penske, a driver, car owner and track owner who remains one of the key figures in motorsports; Al Unser Sr., the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner; Rudolph Caracciola, a Grand Prix driver with more than 225 wins in a 30-year career; Edwin ``Banjo'' Matthews, a driver and long-time NASCAR car builder; and Tazio Nuvolari, who dominated European racing for a decade beginning in the late 1920s. ===== A RECORD IS A RECORD: Automobile Racing Club of America driver Perry Tripp sends a monthly newsletter to his fans, and the October edition includes news about his record-setting performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Tripp's record? When he hit the wall in Turn 1 during an ARCA race at the track, he left a black mark on the backstretch wall that measured 2,527 feet, according to CMS president H.A. ``Humpy'' Wheeler. That broke, according to Wheeler, Buddy Baker's old record for longest mark on the CMS wall. ===== PIT STOPS: The 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Updates Year-End Book, a complete statistical compilation of the season, will be available to fans at the end of the season. The book, just like the one reporters use at the track each week, costs $24.95. Send that amount to Updates, P.O. Box 1124, Dumfries, Va., 22026. You also can order it by credit card over the Internet at mailto:WCRUpdates@earthlink.net. ===== Bill Elliott and Lake Speed will be guests on CNN's ``Talk Back Live'' Thursday at 3:30 p.m., talking NASCAR with an audience at the CNN Center in Atlanta and taking calls from viewers. Speed, whose car will be sponsored by The Cartoon Network next season, also will unveil his 1998 car on the show. ===== TNN has renewed its rights to broadcast the Pocono 500 from Pocono International Raceway through the year 2003. Next year's race is scheduled for June 21. ===== Thanks, David, for your fine reporting! ===== Every race car driver looks forward to the day when he will compete in the biggest race of his career. For Buckshot Jones, that day has arrived.

Jones will make his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in his hometown of Atlanta next Sunday in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"This is going to be a special day for all of us," Jones said. "Our goal was to compete in one Winston Cup race in 1997, but we wanted to wait for the right time and place. To come home to Atlanta, with all of our friends and family supporting us, seemed the best time and place to make this career move."

Aquafresh will sponsor Jones' Pontiac for the Atlanta debut and will remain on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series car during the 1998 season for eight races in which the team plans to compete.

"I think we are ready to get our feet wet in the Winston Cup Series," Jones said. "We plan to run a full Busch season next year and be a contender for the championship, but I think we have the confidence to start moving ahead. I'm giving up my rookie status by running eight Winston Cup races, but if that means I can learn that much more by running a few extra races, I feel I need to do it.

"Our team has grown over the last year and we have learned so much about these tracks. We don't want to move too quickly, but I have always been the type of driver that looks ahead at what else we can be learning." (NASCAR Online) ===== On Sunday, all eyes will be focused on Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett and Mark Martin in the battle for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship.

Well, at least most eyes. While the top three in the point standings will battle for NASCAR's most coveted prize in the NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there'll be another heated race to be settled that day

Five drivers -- Ted Musgrave, Ken Schrader, Jeremy Mayfield, Johnny Benson and Ernie Irvan -- will race for the 10th and final spot in the standings, a spot that will allow them to walk up on stage at the postseason NASCAR Winston Cup Series banquet in New York.

Musgrave, driver of the No. 16 Primestar Ford, holds down the 10th position heading into Atlanta, but very precariously. Musgrave leads 11th-place Ken Schrader, whose solid second half of the season has put him in a position to crack the top 10, by only 13 points.

"Finishing in the top 10 would mean a lot to our team," said Schrader, who will conclude his first season as driver of Andy Petree's No. 33 Skoal Bandit Chevrolet. 'It would show the progress this team has made this season, and it would get us up on stage in New York."

Jeremy Mayfield and Johnny Benson also have a realistic shot to move into the final spot. The two are tied with 3,441 points, 45 behind Musgrave.

"I want to get up on that stage in New York because that's the place where the best teams go," said Mayfield, driver of the No. 37 Kmart/RC Cola Ford. "We feel like we're one of the best teams out here. We've got a great group of people and we've worked hard to get where we are. I guess I ought to be a little more quiet since I don't have the experience all these other guys have, but I think we have a good shot at saluting Kmart with a toast with RC Cola on that stage in New York City." (NASCAR Online) ===== Mike Irwin (mailto:mike@nascarfans.com) NASCAR Fans _______________________________________

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Ken Schrader , Hank Parker Jr. , Buckshot Jones , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Rick Crawford , Al Unser Sr. , Andy Petree , Jeff Fultz , Robert Yates , Brian Sockwell , Roger Penske , Buddy Baker , Mark Martin , Tazio Nuvolari , Davey Allison