News 97-11-25

NASCARFans E-Mail List The "Hat Man" has done his last dance in victory lane. Bill Brodrick, long-time publicity and public relations specialist for the racing division of Unocal 76 and P.R. counsel for that division, has been...

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The "Hat Man" has done his last dance in victory lane. Bill Brodrick, long-time publicity and public relations specialist for the racing division of Unocal 76 and P.R. counsel for that division, has been terminated from the position. Unocal -- the official racing gasoline of NASCAR -- was acquired by TOSCO Corp. earlier this year.

Brodrick, 59, has held the same P.R. position for almost 29 years and is known by thousands of race fans as simply "The Hat Man" for his helping drivers from their cars in the winner's circle and orchestrating what has become known in motorsports' victory lane as the "hat dance," when the team poses for photos wearing the hats of various sponsors.

"In the business world, there are always changes when companies are bought and sold," Brodrick said. "I've had the best job in racing. Unocal treated me very well. I couldn't have worked for a better company. But things change and when they do you just have to make the best of it and go on.

"I have no plans on leaving the sport. Racing has been my livelihood for over 33 years. Right now, I'm trying to get hats for the sailors on the USS Enterprise for a visit there on Dec. 13. The hat man is just going to find a different peg to put his hat on."

Brodrick was a motorsports writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer and worked in radio and television before being hired by Unocal in 1968. (iRace) ===== Even before he won his second race of the season, Virginia native Jeff Burton already had created a buzz in the Winston Cup garage. When he did get No. 2, in July at New Hampshire, his stature was cemented.

Despite stumbling through the last few races, Burton was able to hold off Earhnardt for No. 4 in the points standings and finish by far the finest season of his four-year Winston Cup career.

Burton will tell you he's proud of the year but that it means little. He'll insist he needs to do it again, even improve it, before it's fair to label him a legitimate force on the circuit. But others will. They have no doubt Burton will continue as one of Winston Cup's handful of weekly contenders.

Take Jeff Gordon, who clinched the points title here last weekend. Asked at Phoenix to name a driver he believed would be a rival for years to come, Gordon immediately named Burton.

And Mark Martin, who finished third in the points race, has been raving about his Roush teammate all season. He even decided to move his home-base race operation to Burton's garage and often says Burton has the potential to dominate the circuit.

Burton appreciates the praise, however much credence he give it.

"It's flattering for people to think you're going to be one of their toughest competitors when they're racing for Winston Cup championships," Burton said. "But it's easier for them to say that than me. I mean, I always feel like those people have their stuff together, and I'm behind them.

"I know I've got a great race team, and I'll be more prepared for next year than I've ever been in my life, but I'm going to have to prove to myself I can keep it up."

Sharing knowledge daily with Martin's outfit certainly will help, but Burton doesn't duck the fact that there's a possibility of friction between the two teams, if only occasionally.

"Sure, there's going to be times when it'll be uncomfortable, but there's no perfect deal out there," he said."There's going to be times when Mark puts pressure on me that I wouldn't have if Mark wasn't there, and there's going to be things that I have to deal with that I only have to deal with because Mark's there. No question about it.

"But the positives far outweigh those negatives. Me and Mark are two of the weirdest people in the world, and there's going to be days when it wasn't the right thing to do. The majority of the days, it'll have been the right thing to do." (Skip Wood, Richmond Times Dispatch) ===== First and foremost, Randy Porter's goal is to make the No. 48 UniFirst Uniforms team into a top-flight NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division operation.

If that means he won't be driving the car, then so be it.

Porter, who has driven the No. 48 Ford for the past two seasons, said he doesn't mind getting out from behind the wheel in favor of Dale Shaw if that's what it takes for the team to make it to the top. He'll take on a role as team manager at Sammy Kershaw Motorsports in 1998, giving Shaw a chance to showcase his talents on the track. (Shawn Akers, NASCAR Online) ===== Mike Irwin ( NASCAR Fans _______________________________________

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Randy Po , Tim Richmond , Mark Martin