News 97-09-10

NASCARFans E-Mail List RPM2Nite reports that Johnny Benson will leave the ...

NASCARFans E-Mail List

RPM2Nite reports that Johnny Benson will leave the #30 Pennzoil Pontiac after this season and drive a yet un-named (Cheerios?) team and sponsor in a Jack Roush owned team, Roush sources declined comment. #30 owner Chuck Rider says he expects his team to be strong in 1998 with a new driver (un-named), no mention of these rumored law-suits we have been hearing about (Jayski)

NEW RULES: Pontiac's finally get a rules break: Rear Spoilers go from 6 1/4" to 6 1/2" and Front Air Dam goes from 3 3/4" to 3 1/2" starting at New Hampshire(RPM2Nite/Jayski)

Per NASCAR Online chat with Brett Bodine talking about his sponsor: "As of right now, we have another two years left on our Close Call sponsorship contract. But, we're not sure if that contract is going to be honored. We're in the process of looking for other sponsorships right now." (Jayski)

Bill Elliott, Georgia's legendary NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver, took the first laps on Georgia's reconfigured, historic Atlanta Motor Speedway on Monday. Elliott was giving the track its first runs in preparation for the season-ending Nov. 16 NAPA 500. And, to paraphrase TV movie reviewers Siskel and Ebert, Elliott gave AMS's new 1.54-mile quad-oval a resounding two thumbs up. "I think it's great," a smiling Elliott said after a handful of shakedown laps in a primered Ford Thunderbird. "I'll have to admit that I was a little skeptical because of the changes, but there are absolutely no problems. "It will take a little getting used to because it's new, but it's excellent." Because he was testing Atlanta Motor Speedway's newly reconfigured and newly repaved racing surface rather than testing his race car, Elliott drove fewer than a dozen laps. Yet his best clocking of 29.84 seconds, which translates to 185.791 mph, was extremely impressive. Robby Gordon's track record, set in Busch Pole Qualifying for last March's PRIMESTAR 500 -- the last race on the old 1.522-mile oval, is 186.507 mph. Testing speeds usually are somewhat slower than qualifying speeds. "The speed that we run here on NAPA 500 pole day (Friday, Nov. 14) will depend on what type of tire Goodyear brings," Elliott said. "I don't see why we can't run wide open, though. I was almost wide open today after only a couple of laps. "The track is a lot wider now, particularly on the new backstretch. It used to be narrow (when it was the frontstretch) and if anything happened it'd get all clogged up over there. With some tuning and changing, we should be able to run wide open all the way around." Elliott, a six-time winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway, initiated the transformation of Atlanta Motor Speedway from a 1.522-mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval a few days after the PRIMESTAR 500 when he ceremonially destroyed the old backstretch wall and a considerable stretch of pavement with a bulldozer. He thanked Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns Atlanta Motor Speedway, and AMS President and General Manager Ed Clark for allowing him to take the ceremonial last lap around the old oval and for allowing him to make the maiden voyage on the new quad-oval. "It has been a privilege to be part of this whole deal," Elliott said. "I really do appreciate Bruton, Ed and everyone else at Atlanta Motor Speedway for allowing me to do something so special at my home track. "Bruton and Ed and this company have put a lot into this place. It would have been hard for me to believe this or say this when I was running the last laps here in March, but the changes are a definite improvement." Elliott's McDonald's Ford Thunderbird also has demonstrated signs of significant improvement lately. Elliott has captured 40 NASCAR Winston Cup victories, but none in the past three years. But in the three races in which Jeff Gordon duplicated Elliott's 1985 achievement of winning the Winston Million, "Awesome Bill From Dawsonville" was fourth in each. And, in his past two NASCAR Winston Cup starts, Elliott qualified on the front row for the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington S.C.) Raceway, then ended a two-year drought by earning the 49th Busch Pole position of his career last weekend in the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 at Richmond International Raceway. "This team has been good lately," Elliott said. "We've had a few ups and downs, but overall we've been very competitive. I'd really like to win a race before the year is over, and Atlanta would be a great place to do it. In fact, it would be the best place to do it. "Everything here is great: The new track, the new grandstands, the new garages, everything. It's magnificent. I think the fans are going to be very surprised, very excited and very pleased when they get back here in November for the NAPA 500 weekend." (NASCAR Online)

Jayski hears it is a done deal with Jerry Nadeau getting the WC ride in the second Bill Elliott team car for 1998, so he'll run for rookie of the year also.

Ward Burton is set to re-sign with car owner Bill Davis any day now (iRace/Jayski)

Pionite has extended for an additional race of sponsorship of the #91 Chevy and they will attempt Martinsville, no driver named yet for that race (Jayski)

Kenny Irwin and Rick Mast practiced at Martinsville on Monday, Irwin was in the #27 and the #28 was on the track at the same time not sure if it was Ernie Irvan or Joe Ruttman, who was shown with Yates and Irwin and was in his LCI drivers suit (Jayski)

Here's a report from one of our readers, Dave Miller:

A friend of mine was sitting in turn 2, at RIR. He was able to get Morgan Shepherd to autograph his cooler, who was also sitting in the turn 2 stands. Kind of a shame to see him out of a ride, but nice to see him mingling with the common people.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving called Tuesday for NASCAR racing legend Bobby Allison to back out of an appearance Thursday at a Middle River bar where he is to serve drinks to promote motor sports and a proposed $100 million speedway. Allison is to spend about an hour behind the bar at the Plaza Lounge, owned by Diane DeCarlo, a Democratic member of the Maryland legislature and a supporter of the proposed Essex International Speedway. ``We are concerned about the combination of racing and alcohol and how that is presented to the racing fans, a lot of them young people,'' said Donna Becker, an official with MADD's Towson chapter. (JOE NAWROZKI, of the Baltimore Sun, reported at Charlotte.Com) ========= If Mark Martin catches Jeff Gordon and wins the 1997 Winston Cup title, his performance in Saturday night's Exide 400 at Richmond International Raceway might go down as a turning point.

Martin finished 25th in the race, and lost 72 points to Gordon, who finished fourth. But it could have been a lot worse.

Martin was running in the top 10 on Lap 284 when a chunk of rubber flew up from the track and knocked the oil and power steering belts loose in his No. 6 Ford.

His crew got the oil belt fixed, but didn't have time to repair the power steering. Martin wrestled the car around for 115 more laps on the .75-mile track with no power steering.

``I have never driven that hard in my life,'' said Martin, one of racing's most well-conditioned athletes. ``I had to use my whole arm just to hold the steering wheel in place.

``After the race, I couldn't even lift my arms to sign an autograph.''

Martin has been lifting weights since he joined Roush Racing in 1988. He begins most of his days at 6 a.m. with a 60- to 90-minute workout in his gym at his Daytona Beach, Fla., home, and usually finds a gym near race tracks to work out before practice sessions. (David Poole, Charlotte.Com) ========== As stock-car teams trudge north past Boston this week for the second time this summer, the relentless grind of the Winston Cup series is telling on many NASCAR crews.

''It's not fun,'' Robin Pemberton said. ''You used to have a lot more fun. But if you talk to most of the guys in the garage, whether it's Ray Evernham or Todd Parrott or who, there are none of us really having any fun.

''We dread the schedule getting longer. We just have to do it. NASCAR constantly asks the drivers, 'Can you run 40 races?' Well, yes they can. But their schedule is a little more diverse than ours. And going to some of these places hasn't made it any easier on the home life for any of us.''

Pemberton's job as crew chief for Rusty Wallace and Roger Penske might seem like the best of worlds, fame, glory, and all the high-tech wizardry anyone could ever want to play with. But the pace is punishing. And then there's that little trans-Pacific flight to Suzuka to look forward to.

''I've got to believe we've got the worst professional sports schedule in the history of mankind,'' Pemberton said. ''I've been trying to get my knees operated on for six months now, and I can't even get that thing scheduled until sometime in December. It's going to be hard coming down the chimney on crutches.

''There's no time. You've got tests scheduled, and then you get free tests thrown in there (by NASCAR for the new Taurus and for a Talladega engine project). And then you've got Japan thrown in there. And next year you've got two Japan races thrown into the schedule.

''If the truth be known, a lot of people aren't very happy with the extended schedule. Particularly when you know that some of these places we have to go to for four or five days could be run in three days. If they have to add races, they've got to slim these weekends down. Because the transportation alone is getting to be a nightmare getting from coast to coast.

''What do I get out of it? My wife has a nice house, and my kids get to go to the best schools.

''Being competitive is fun; we like that. And I guess it's nice to be asked to do something like this for 11 months out of the year.

''But this time of the year people are real dragged out and real tired.

''It can be fun. It does have its moments on Sunday. But now you're spread so thin that I find myself on Sunday morning thinking about what we have to do during that week to get to the next race. I'm not alone. I just may be the only one foolish enough to talk about it.

''It's nice to be in demand. I look at this as maybe this is how baseball was in the '60s. The popularity is growing, and money is starting to trickle down. It's definitely better for the families . . . for all the single moms out there, I guess.''

Wallace agrees that the tour spends too much time on the road, with too many stops for too many days in the wrong locations. He said that the tour should be pruned of deadwood. ''I think we reached the limit a long time ago -- 30 races is a great number,'' Wallace said. ''The sport is hot, and we'll fill grandstands wherever we go. But the problem is the people putting the show on -- these teams -- it's just killing us. It is killing us.

''We love it, but the toll it takes back in the shop and on your home life is really bad. I wish they'd take some races off the schedule instead of just adding, adding and adding. And when you add seven tests, that makes it even worse. It's tough on the crews, it's tough on everyone. I'm doing all the sponsors' appearances; I'm in my plane 24 hours a day. All these drivers are doing the same thing.''

With Wallace on one side and Roger Penske on the other, and both impatient, Pemberton has been through the wringer the last several months trying to get Wallace's team running more smoothly.

''You look back on the year, and try to pinpoint something, and sure, we've had some engine failures, but not all of 'em have been the engine's fault,'' Pemberton said.

''Like, we ran off the course at Sears Point and over-revved the engine. And we were caught up in an accident at Atlanta in the top 10. In Texas we got caught up in something else.

''Just different things, not like there's only one thing all year. And when you get behind, the fab shop gets behind, and there's no one thing you can attack to solve the problem. If engines have been the biggest problem we've had this year for DNFs, it hasn't been the same engine problem all the time.

''Once you dig a hole, it's hard to dig out. Most of the Ford teams and Chevy teams are preparing speedway cars for next year. That shows you the lead time you need in this business because that's four months off. And if you get into a situation in April, May or June and you've got behind because you've crashed four or five cars, it's definitely hard to dig out.

''And we haven't had the easiest year going anyway, with all the development work we've been doing for Ford on the new Taurus. That maybe hasn't hurt us, but it sure hasn't helped up in trying to race full time, our doing full-time development work for every other Ford team out there on the Taurus. The motivation has really not been a problem. But you get back in here Monday morning and everyone is really tired. It doesn't matter if you win the race or if you finish dead last. They're all tired. Then, when you have problems, and you finish last or you're looking at a wreck, it takes a day or two longer to get guys motivated. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

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

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brett Bodine , Ward Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Rusty Wallace , Jerry Nadeau , Johnny Benson , Joe Ruttman , Rick Mast , Morgan Shepherd , Bobby Allison , Jack Roush , Roger Penske , Mark Martin