BUSCH: IRL: RaceBeat 2002-04-08

NASCAR Winston Cup: Matt Kenseth took the lead with a late-race, two-tire stop and drove to an easy victory in the rain-delayed Samsung/Radio Shack 500. It was the second victory of the season for the former NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the...

NASCAR Winston Cup: Matt Kenseth took the lead with a late-race, two-tire stop and drove to an easy victory in the rain-delayed Samsung/Radio Shack 500. It was the second victory of the season for the former NASCAR Winston Cup rookie of the year, who solidified his hold on second place - behind Sterling Marlin - in the season points. The leaders made their final pit stops on lap 308, in the last of seven caution periods in the 334-lap event at Texas Motor Speedway. Kenseth, who had been battling at the front with Tony Stewart, got a very fast pit stop and came back out ahead of Jeff Gordon, who also took only two tires. Stewart had taken two tires on his previous stop to get track position and was forced to take four this time.

He slid all the way to eighth and never got back into contention, finishing well off the pace in fifth. Kenseth, who has five top-10 finishes in seven starts this season, including a victory in Rockingham, N.C., was listed as starting 31st in the 43-car field, but actually had to pull to the back of the field for the green flag after blowing an engine in practice Friday. Under NASCAR's new one-engine rule, the teams mush use only one motor for the entire race weekend or start the race from the back. With the repaved 1 1/2-mile Texas oval putting a premium on passing, Kenseth's task looked impossible. The green flag waved for the final time with 22 laps remaining, and Kenseth's Ford Taurus pulled steadily away from Gordon, who had his hands full with Kenseth's Roush Racing teammate Mark Martin. Gordon's Chevy was able to hold off Martin's Ford for second, but Kenseth won by 0.888-seconds - about eight car-lengths. For Gordon, the four-time and defending series champion, it was his best finish since a victory in Kansas City last September. Ricky Rudd, who led in the early going, wound up fourth, followed by Stewart, rookie Jimmie Johnson and Marlin, who now leads Kenseth by 70 points. It appeared through the first half of the race that defending race winner Dale Jarrett, Rudd's teammate, had the best car in the field. He led a race-high 134 laps and was running second on lap 229 when he ran out of gas coming off turn two and had to coast to the pits. He then got trapped in his pit stall behind Gordon's car for about 10 seconds and wound up losing two laps. He finished 24th. Crowd favorite and former Texas winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the wall on lap 184 after a brush with the lapped car of Shawna Robinson, the only woman in the field. Ward Burton and Robby Gordon were also involved in single-car crashes. None of the drivers was injured.

NASCAR Busch Grand National Series: Jeff Purvis won the NASCAR Busch O'Reilly 300, leading only the last six laps under caution after he took just two tires on his final pit stop and was in front when rain ended the race. Purvis was running 10th when the caution flag came out on lap 108 after Kasey Kahne spun out of control at the entrance to pit row. Soon after the drivers had completed their pits stops, rain began to fall again with the caution flag still flying. The race, the start of which was delayed 3 1/2 hours by rain, was finally called with just 116 of 200 scheduled laps completed.

When the pits opened after Kahne's spinout, dark skies were again threatening Texas Motor Speedway. Purvis' crew chief, Terry Shirley, opted to take just two tires instead of four like the rest of the front-runners. Purvis got out the pits first for a race that never went back to green. It was the fourth career Busch victory for Purvis, whose best finish this year had been 18th at Rockingham, N.C., in the second race of the season. Jack Sprague, who had taken the lead from polesitter Jeff Green on lap 43 during another caution, finished second after leading 67 of the 116 laps completed. Joe Nemechek, who lost his full-time Winston Cup ride when Carter-Haas Motorsports suspended operations last month, finished third in the Busch car that he owns. Rookie Scott Riggs, in a Ford, and Green completed the top five.

Aside from Riggs, the top seven finishers drove Chevrolets, including defending race champion Kevin Harvick in sixth and Randy LaJoie in seventh. Sprague had another run-in with Jimmy Spencer, even though the two made no contact. On Saturday, Sprague was leading coming out of a caution on lap 66 when Spencer passed him before the green flag. Spencer was black-flagged and had to take a stop-and-go penalty. There were four cautions for 39 laps, including a NASCAR-imposed stop 40 laps into the race to let drivers check tires on the resurfaced 1 1/2-mile track. That slowed the average speed to 102.136 mph, after Green qualified at 193.493 mph. Because of the new track surface, there was a lot of single-file racing. Green led the first 42 laps before Sprague went in front until almost the end. Michael Waltrip got knocked out of the race when he car was knocked upside down after being clipped by Lyndon Amick's car that was spinning out of control in Turn 2 on lap 47. Waltrip went low on the track to avoid Amick, but got caught in a crowd of cars with nowhere to go.

National Hot Rod Association: Larry Dixon continued to set a dominating pace in NHRA Top Fuel competition by scoring his third victory of the young season at the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals. Gary Densham and Ron Krisher also were winners at the $1.9 million race, the fourth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Dixon was consistently quick in his special edition Elvis Presley-tribute Miller Lite dragster throughout the day and outran Cory McClenathan in the final round to claim his 19th career victory, and first-ever at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dixon covered the quarter-mile in 4.639 seconds at 319.29 mph to cross the finish line in front of McClenathan, who posted a 4.728 at 313.88 in his first final round appearance since the 2000 season. Dixon knocked off Scott Weis, David Grubnic and Tony Schumacher to advance to his fourth final of the season.

With the win, he increased his series points lead to 147 over defending champion Kenny Bernstein. Densham earned his third career Funny Car victory, taking a photo-finish win over Tommy Johnson Jr. Densham, who defeated Frank Pedregon, John Lawson and Del Worsham in early rounds, powered his Auto Club/Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a final-round 5.409 at 205.13 to edge Johnson's Skoal Chevy Camaro, which clocked a 5.447 at 272.61. Densham's $40,000 victory gave some solace to team owner John Force, who was denied once again in his bid to earn his 100th career Funny Car victory. Force, who leads the series standings by 20, was upset in the second round by Worsham, who anchors the second spot in the season standings. Krisher took his first victory of the season and fourth of his career, beating Darrell Alderman in a classic Chevy vs. Dodge match-up. Krisher covered the distance in 7.016 at 197.83 in his Eagle One Cavalier, while Alderman trailed in his Team Mopar Neon R/T at 7.026 at 197.54. Krisher defeated JR Carr, Jeg Coughlin and Jim Yates to advance to the final. Hometown favorite George Marnell posted a semifinal finish to maintain the points lead, 15 in front of Yates. Krisher moved to fifth overall in the standings, 45 points behind the leader. The Next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the O'Reilly Spring Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, April 11-14.

Indy Racing League: Walker Racing cut ties with Sarah Fisher, the third woman to race in the Indianapolis 500 and one of the rising stars in the Indy Racing League. ``Sarah wishes to drive in the Indy Racing League and, currently, we have not raised the full season sponsorship for the IRL,'' team owner Derrick Walker said Monday. ``Sarah had requested to be allowed to pursue other opportunities, and we have agreed to release her from her obligations to the team to allow her to do that.'' At 19, Fisher became the youngest person to compete in the IRL when she raced in the 1999 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway for Team Pelfrey. She joined Walker Racing the next season and earned almost $1.04 million in her next 21 IRL starts.

``During the time I was there, Walker Racing almost became a second family for me,'' Fisher said. ``But we haven't been racing in the IRL this season and that is what I need to do.'' Fisher, who began racing sprint cars while she was in high school in Ashville, Ohio, was 31st in her Indy 500 starts in 2000 and '01. ``I learned an enormous amount during my time at Walker Racing and I will always be grateful to Derrick for that,'' Fisher said.

Fisher's best finish - and the best by a woman in Indy-car history - was second in the 2001 season-opening race in Homestead, Fla. Fans voted her the IRL's most popular driver last season. Walker Racing, based in Indianapolis, was the first team to compete simultaneously in the IRL and the rival CART FedEx Series. The team currently competes in CART with driver Tora Takagi. However, two cars that might have gone to Fisher have been entered in the May 26 Indy 500 with no drivers listed. The only other women in the Indianapolis 500 were Janet Guthrie (1977-79) and Lyn St. James (1992-97 and 2000).

NASCAR: Travis Carter has no intention of leaving stock car racing. ``I've been in this sport for more than 30 years and racing is what I do,'' the longtime NASCAR crew chief and car owner said Friday. ``I still have a lot of work to do here and my main focus is to pursue sponsors and fight to survive.'' Haas-Carter Motorsports suspended racing operations for NASCAR's top circuit. because of the bankruptcy filing by primary sponsor Kmart before the Daytona 500.

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Drivers Ward Burton , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Scott Weis , Del Worsham , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Ron Krisher , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Shawna Robinson , Jeff Green , Sterling Marlin , Sarah Fisher , Tora Takagi , Jimmie Johnson , Lyndon Amick , Jack Sprague , Jeff Purvis , Gary Densham , Scott Riggs , Lyn St. James , Cory McClenathan , Janet Guthrie , George Marnell , Mark Martin , Tommy Johnson Jr.