News 97-09-08

NASCARFans E-Mail List Ricky Craven gets new number in 1998 The Hendrick Motorsports/Ricky Craven Budweiser team will have a slightly different look in 1998. Ricky Craven will pilot the ...

NASCARFans E-Mail List

Ricky Craven gets new number in 1998 The Hendrick Motorsports/Ricky Craven Budweiser team will have a slightly different look in 1998. Ricky Craven will pilot the #50 Budweiser Chevrolet in 1998, not the usual #25. The reason for the change? Budweiser will be celebrating NASCAR's 50th anniversary.(SpeedWorld/Jayski)

Clyde Booth who was serving as Team Manager for Mark Rypien Motorsports and the #97 John Deere Pontiac driven by Chad Little as been released(WC Scene/Jayski)

Family ties made things interesting Saturday night in the critical moments of Dale Jarrett's victory in the Exide 400.

As Jarrett closed in on Jeff Burton late in the race at Richmond International Raceway, Jeff's brother, Ward Burton, was right in front of Jeff.

Jeff was leading the race, as he had been most of the night, and Ward was trying to stay on the lead lap. Jarrett, meanwhile, was moving up to challenge for the lead.

Would Ward do anything to help his brother hold off Jarrett? Or would Ward race so hard trying to keep Jeff behind him that it would help Jarrett catch up?

``I'm not going to cause Jeff a problem, that's the last thing I want to do,'' Ward Burton said. ``(But) I wasn't going to stop and let him go. I'm not going to stop and let anybody pass me. The team needs to get somebody else to drive if I am going to do that.''

Jeff Burton eventually got around Ward, but on Lap 361 Jarrett got around Jeff Burton and took the lead for good. Jarrett picked up his fifth victory of the season while Jeff Burton, who led 234 laps, finished second for a second straight week.

Jarrett and the Burtons were trying to make it to the end of the 400-lap race on tires they had put on their cars with more than 100 laps to go. Other cars had fresher tires and were able to handle better.

``Ward was just running where he could run at that time,'' Jarrett said. ``His tires had gone away and Jeff was kind of hanging on, too. He couldn't get off the corners very good. If anything, Ward helped me because he didn't cut his brother any slack.''

There were other family matters involved in Saturday night's race.

Jarrett's crew chief is Todd Parrott, and Burton's is Buddy Parrott, Todd's father.

The Parrotts had a confrontation late in last week's race at Darlington after their cars had bumped trying to make it onto pit road. Everybody made up after the race.

The Parrotts battled again Saturday, but it was only in working on their cars for the long green-flag runs in a race that was only slowed for 16 laps by cautions.

``We knew we had a good car for longer runs, but we weren't really sure if that was going to be good enough,'' Jarrett said. ``We were a little tight to begin with. We made some adjustments in the first couple of stops and got the car actually to the loose side. On the last stop, we made an adjustment to go back and tighten it up.

``That was the whole key. That's the key to winning races, making adjustments at the right time and make the right adjustments.''

Burton's crew made adjustments, too.

``We just got real loose late,'' he said. ``We tightened it up a little bit, but last night (in Friday's Grand National race) we got real tight, so we were afraid to tighten it up too much. Maybe we learned too much.

``It's a tough call. When you're running well, it's tough to make a change. And one of the toughest parts is knowing when to change big and when to change little.''

Behind the duo racing for the victory, there were other winners on the night.

Jeff Gordon finished third and added 72 points to his lead in the Winston Cup standings. Mark Martin, who finished 25th, is 97 points back in second place.

Geoff Bodine continued a streak of solid performances by finishing fourth, and Rusty Wallace recovered from an early spin for fifth. Joe Nemechek's sixth was his best finish of the season, and Ward Burton tied his best with seventh.

Kenny Irwin Jr., in his Winston Cup debut, was an impressive eighth. Irwin, who will replace Ernie Irvan in the No. 28 Fords next season, led 10 laps but struggled getting in and out of the pits -- something he'll work on in his five-race internship this season.

Dale Earnhardt finished 15th, two laps down, but raced without incident after last week's blackout at Darlington.

``I feel good, no complaints,'' he said. ``I think I would feel even better if we'd had a better run.''

Jarrett was happy to see Earnhardt back.

``I think the best thing about tonight was seeing Dale Earnhardt in that 3 car,'' said Jarrett, who visited Earnhardt in a Florence, S.C., hospital after last Sunday's race at Darlington.

``As much as this sport has grown, and as much as anybody wants to take credit -- and he would never take credit for it -- he's a big reason why this sport is where it is. We need him around.'' (David Poole, writing for Charlotte.Com)

Here's the top 10 in points, courtesy of GVA:

 1. Jeff Gordon      3,602
 2. Mark Martin      3,505
 3. Dale Jarrett     3,449
 4. Jeff Burton      3,334
 5. Terry Labonte    3,292
 6. Dale Earnhardt   3,056
 7. Bobby Labonte    2,972
 8. Bill Elliott     2,839
 9. Ted Musgrave     2,816
10. Ricky Rudd       2,768

He shocked everyone at Talladega in a battle with Mark Martin in a May Busch race, coming up just a nose short a week after his first tour win at Nashville. He recovered from disappointment at Pocono with a good performance in his Winston Cup debut at Watkins Glen. He followed that with a solid victory, the biggest of his career, in Michigan's Busch race three weeks ago.

But it was at Bristol and Darlington, two of the toughest tracks in the NASCAR, that Steve Park really wowed 'em, showing in Busch battles with Jimmy Spencer and Jeff Burton that he is ready for prime time.

So now, exactly one year after Dale Earnhardt and Ty Norris announced that Park would be their driver, this rugged, fast-talking Yankee Modified racer is backing up all their high hopes.

''Back then nobody even knew who Steve Park was,'' Park said with a smile, sitting on the back of Earnhardt's hauler, ''except for Dale Earnhardt.''

Park will be on the Cup side of the fence this week at Loudon, N.H., where he's hoping the home track will work to his advantage in the second Cup run of his career. After five Cup races this season, he'll be matched next year against Robert Yates' rookie, Kenny Irwin, in what is shaping up as a titanic battle for rookie of the year. (JournalNow)

DAVID GREEN pulled an ironman run Saturday night, going the distance only two weeks after breaking his shoulder blade in a crash at Bristol. His brother Mark was standing by for relief but wasn't needed.

''A little sore, that's all,'' Green said after his 392 laps. ''But I made it.

''We tried a couple of things to the car that worked well in practice, but I was skeptical about trying them in the race. And that backfired on us. I was so loose after 10 laps, I was just about sideways. I spent more time turning right than turning left. We got the car OK toward the end of the race, but by that time I was about pooped.'' (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

GEOFF BODINE, three weeks into his team's shakeup, had his best shot yet at his first win of the year, finishing fourth. But he was nearly exhausted after the race, as were several other drivers.

''I'm a little weak right now but I'll be OK,'' Bodine said as he was helped back to his truck. ''The car gave up on me at the end. I caught Jeff, but that's about the time all the guys were coming out of the pits with new tires.'' (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

TIM BREWER, working as both crew chief and team manager for Bodine, followed Todd Parrott's cues late in the race: ''Todd played it right to the window (on gas) where he knew he could make it the rest of the way (stopping with 120 laps to go), and we had to follow what he did. He knows how to play the game. But so do we. And we're going to sneak up on 'em and get us one one of these days . . . when they're least expecting it.'' (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

BUDWEISER OFFICIALS continue to insist that there will be no changes in their NASCAR team sponsorships next year, that Ricky Craven will again be the Bud-sponsored driver on the Winston Cup tour in a Rick Hendrick Chevy. However, reports continue to circulate in the garage that changes may be coming, the latest that Bobby Labonte may get a Bud sponsorship next season. Craven has scheduled a press conference today at which he may address the issue. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

ROBBY GORDON'S proposed CART Indy-car deal for next season has fallen through, according to sources close to the situation, and Gordon this weekend is back in negotiations with Andy Petree to drive as Kenny Schrader's teammate in a two-car team in 1998 (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

Barbasol shaving products will return in 1998 as the primary sponsor of the No. 38 Akins/Sutton Ford and driver Elton Sawyer in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division. (NASCAR Online)

Excerpt from a Dale Earnhardt interview by Bill Weber, from NASCAR Online:

Weber: How are you feeling?

Earnhardt: I feel great. I feel even better after going through all the tests I went through. It tells you how healthy you really are. You wonder if there's something really there or not after you've been through so much in your racing career. They gave me a 100 percent check out and we're good and I'm ready to go racing. It's a (darn) thing to go through what we did last week and really not have a solid answer this is what happened. They said it's unlikely to happen again or you're at no greater risk than anyone else racing out there who had a head injury in the past or a concussion. We feel good and we're ready to race.

Weber: Dale, address the moment during the week when you thought maybe you might not be able to return to racing.

Earnhardt: That crosses your mind. You think, 'I'm going to do the MRI tomorrow, what are they going to find.' You may not be able to go on from here as a driver. But the important thing was in my time it's myself and my family. If I can't drive, being a part of it as a car owner for Dale Jr., Steve Park and the guys (that's fine). And all the friends I have in racing, you have a lot more going in life besides racing.

Weber: Do you plan to return to a normal Dale Earnhardt type of schedule?

Earnhardt: No, I plan to return to a normal winning schedule. The normal schedule has not been too good, we're going to change it here.

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

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Steve Park , Jimmy Spencer , Elton Sawyer , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Chad Little , Andy Petree , Robert Yates , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports