Monday News 97-07-28

NASCAR Fans E-mail List Humpy Wheeler proposes peace between Smith and France Humpy Wheeler is proposing a ''peace'' venture between Bill France and Bruton Smith, offering the construction expertise of Smith's Speedway Motorsports operation to...

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Humpy Wheeler proposes peace between Smith and France

Humpy Wheeler is proposing a ''peace'' venture between Bill France and Bruton Smith, offering the construction expertise of Smith's Speedway Motorsports operation to help France build the proposed new superspeedway near Kansas City. ''If the ISC (International Speedway Corporation) called us and said, 'Gee, we're going to build that track in Kansas City,' we'd be delighted to build it for 'em,'' Wheeler said. ''That is something we would love to do, and I think it would dispel a lot of this tension between the two groups. ''I would love to see that, because I think that's what we do the best -- build. We have a department now within the company that can build a track literally anywhere in the world. We have the expertise to do that. We've got the people to do it. And we've made all the mistakes.'' France has been making headlines the past two weeks, buying Phoenix International Raceway, then buying a large share of the lease rights to run races at the new Homestead, Fla., track. But Smith and Wheeler have been relatively quiet. After a spring where they seemed to have a big announcement every three weeks, nothing much has been heard from this side of the race-gaming table lately. ''One thing people don't understand is we're NASCAR's biggest customer,'' Wheeler says, referring to the sanctioning fees paid NASCAR for all Smith's races. Wheeler and Smith, of course, would like to become even bigger, if they could just persuade France to approve a second Winston Cup date at Texas next year. ''We're still making a hard run at it,'' Wheeler said. ''Every chance we get we're pushing that. ''On one side, he says, 'We don't think we can get there in '98.' But the other side is 'We'll consider it and look at it.' I think it's still up in the air right now.'' Wheeler says that France's move to buy into Homestead is good, ''because I was worried about Homestead not making it because they've had problems obviously. And I have a great deal of respect for Ralph Sanchez (who built the track). They've had that tremendous expense of having to redesign the track ($8 million). ''So I think it makes good sense for ISC to go in there, politically. Ralph has some good political contacts.'' Is the media making too much of this horse race between Smith and France and Penske to buy race tracks? Now that France has surged ahead in the last few days, is it time for Smith to buy something, too? ''Whatever we do, we have to make sure whatever we buy will add to our earnings,'' Wheeler said. ''We don't want to buy anything that doesn't add to earnings. And Phoenix and Miami would not have added to earnings.'' But obviously France thinks he can earn something with those two tracks. ''He has something in mind,'' Wheeler said. ''For us, knowing the numbers at Phoenix, and knowing the way we do things, that $60 to $67 million just wouldn't work, not with just one (Winston Cup date). The only way we could figure it (a purchase of Phoenix) would work would be with two dates. ''So we negotiated with him (Buddy Jobe) up to a point. Then at that point we thought it was too much.'' France and NASCAR are planning to redesign the Winston West tour, which has fallen on hard times lately, and Phoenix would be a major player in that new series, Wheeler says. ''That's one of the reasons I was glad those guys got Phoenix because they need more things in Phoenix than what they've got right now,'' Wheeler said. Still, isn't France perhaps playing with a different deck, since he, as NASCAR president, can deal himself an extra ace or two, in the form of another Winston Cup date? Doesn't that give France an unfair advantage in track buying? ''I don't think he's going to do that,'' Wheeler said. ''I really don't. I think he's going to try to be as fair as possible about this date business.'' But Wheeler says Homestead will almost certainly be added to the Winston Cup schedule: ''I'm sure they're thinking about at least one Winston Cup date there. ''If they just have 45,000 seats, well, to stay in this business you've got to have 80,000 seats. Not next year, but in the next four or five years at the most. And you've got to sell those seats. ''Anyone who looks at the breakout of the money pie at any Winston Cup track will find that ticket revenue is running from 50 to 65 percent of the total income. That makes it totally different from baseball, basketball and football, which may have 20 percent from tickets, because of the television revenues. ''Since we as an industry are depending on ticket revenue, that is where the main growth is going to come from. We can't raise tickets prices significantly, I mean like by 15 percent, because you don't want to rip the fans off. So we have to keep adding seats. That's why I don't think anybody will be safe unless they have at least 80,000 seats . . . except for Watkins Glen and Sears Point, where you're looking instead at entrance fees.'' Wheeler says that ownership of North Carolina Motor Speedway is still up in the air. ''Look at the situation at Rockingham. Why is Penske spending all that money on Rockingham? NASCAR gave him a date for California, free and clear, added to the schedule. So if California gets a second date it would most likely be from the acquisition of something. ''A board meeting has been called for early August at Rockingham, and I presume that is to talk about the offers for the minority shareholders.'' So there is room for compromise? ''Sure,'' Wheeler said. In the next couple of weeks? ''It could happen. But there are some strong legal questions facing them.'' Chicago, Jim France reconfirmed this week, is a major target market for the ISC. But Wheeler says he and Smith have been looking at the Chicago area and have found it wanting. ''We've looked and looked and looked, and I can speak for everyone who's looking at Chicago, as an industry spokesman more than just for SMI,'' Wheeler said. ''And Chicago is probably the most difficult market in the country to look at, for two reasons: ''One, the very high cost of land nearly major arteries. And you can't build a track unless it's near a major artery. You can get land up there, but not with good roads. We're talking 80,000 seats and that's 27,000 cars you've got to get in and out of there. ''The other problem with Chicago is the building time, the building season is so short.''

No luck for Yarbourgh in appeal

A three-member panel of the National Stock Car Racing Commission has denied the appeal and upheld the recent penalty levied by NASCAR officials against NASCAR Winston Cup crew chief Tony Furr. The appeal was heard Thursday in Charlotte. Furr, crew chiew of the No. 98 Yarborough Motorsports Ford Thunderbird was fined $50,000 following the Pepsi 400 for violation of Section 20, Rule 5.9, Article C of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rule Book: "Carburetor must remain in stock location." Officials found in pre-race inspection the carburetor mounting studs on the No. 98 Thunderbird had been designed to move. Officials took the studs before the race, which were replaced with ones that meet NASCAR specs. The commission members who heard the appear were Bob Smith, International Speedway Corporation, former USAC official Bill Taylor and former NASCAR official Dick Beaty.

Elliott hits fast lap at Brickyard

Last year, Greg Sacks surprised everyone by posting the fastest testing speed for the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been a non-factor all season and, not coincidentally, failed to back up his hot lap in the race. This year's fastest tester might give a different account Saturday, when the fourth-annual stock car race is held at the Speedway. Bill Elliott, who ran a lap of 179.219 mph, has been on the verge of winning all season and will drive a Ford Thunderbird, the fastest car on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit the past five months. On top of that, Elliott loves Indianapolis. In the previous Brickyard events he has finished third, fourth and 10th in succession. Few have even come close to matching that. "If I can keep going in a good direction, we'll be in pretty good shape," he said. Elliott was 2.800 mph faster than Jeff Gordon's one-lap event qualifying record during his test. Perhaps more importantly, he was 0.442 better than second-place Robby Gordon and substantially quicker than most of the 50 drivers who tested. The two-month testing period ended this week. Official practice begins Wednesday with pole qualifying on Thursday. However, Elliott quickly pointed out that testing times can be misleading. Teams came to Indianapolis at different times, some as early as June 16 after the race at Michigan and some as late as this past week. Each faced varying track conditions and temperatures and no one had to pass technical inspection. That means no one really knows which cars tested with legal equipment. A couple of drivers, Ward Burton, Michael Waltrip, Brett Bodine and rookie Jerry Nadeau among them, did not test. Ted Musgrave did, but he appeared to be Roush Racing's fuel-load tester. He ran 261 laps.

Hurricanes Sponsor Burton in Brickyard 400

The Carolina Hurricanes have become an associate sponsor of Jeff Burton and will display their logo on Burton's Ford Thunderbird at this weekend's Brickyard 400, a team spokesman said. ``NASCAR offers a tremendous opportunity for us to reach out to new fans in this market,'' said Rick Francis, vice president of marketing and sales for the relocated National Hockey League franchise. Ths sponsorship deal, announced Monday, also includes the UAW-GM Quality 500 to be held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 5. The team's primary logo and name will be displayed on the deck lid and the left taillight of the black No. 99 car along with the team's ticket office number. The team's name and the NHL's crest will appear along the car's C-posts. The Hurricanes said they plan to feature Burton in their television, radio and print advertising spots. The Hurricanes became the second NHL team this season to enter a sponsorship deal with a NASCAR team. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim teamed with Burton's brother, Ward, before the NAPA California 500 on June 22.

Here is a BIG rumor I have heard from a very good source of mine in reference to the Wheaties sponsorship: Wheaties will be the sponsor of the....#28 RYR Ford in 1998!?(Jayski)

New drivers for the #1 Richard Jackson owned R&L Carrier sponsored Pontiac: Mike Wallace at Indy and Lance Hooper at Watkins Glen. No news on further plans(Jayski)

I hear the Matt Kenseth to Roush rumor is not true and that the Roush Busch program is switching to Pontiac? Does this make any sense to anyone else? Why stay Ford in WC and Pontiac in BGN?? R&D?(Jayski)

I hear Andy Petree is having no luck with sponsors for his second team(Jayski)

I hear the dominoes will fall as follows: Marlin will be in the 40 car. Jimmy Spencer in the 4 car. Hamilton stays the 43 car (Jayski)

I hear that because the team missed the race at Pocono Steve Park and the #14 Burger King Chevy will show up at Indy(Jayski)

I hear Todd Bodine sponsorship with Tabasco is in the $6 million range? Is the market that big for hot sauce? Love those wings! (Jayski)

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brett Bodine , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Steve Park , Jimmy Spencer , Robby Gordon , Jerry Nadeau , Mike Wallace , Ted Musgrave , Lance Hooper , Andy Petree , Greg Sacks