News 97-12-31

NASCARFans E-Mail Newsletter ===== Jayski's news gatherings, the last until 1/5/98: Team FCR or Fans Can Race is starting up! Membership support will be a major sponsor on the ...

NASCARFans E-Mail Newsletter

=====

Jayski's news gatherings, the last until 1/5/98:

Team FCR or Fans Can Race is starting up! Membership support will be a major sponsor on the #47 Standridge Race Car driven by Billy Standridge. It gives the race fan an opportunity to be part of a NASCAR Winston Cup team! Membership will give all fan members direct association with the Standridge Winston Cup Team. Team FCR will give each fan member the opportunity to win one of two prize giveaways per race attempted by Standridge Racing based on the limited schedule to be attempted in 1998. More details and a website will follow. More information and membership can be obtained by calling 1-888-FOURTY7(1-888-468-7897).

The #96 BGN team that had the owners split has become two teams: One with the #96 Ford with Stevie Reeves driving and the other an unknown # with John Andretti driving the Big A Auto Parts Pontiac in 7 BGN races. Whether the Andretti BGN team will put another driver in the car for more races is unknown. Andretti's first 1998 BGN race will be at Daytona. I hear Sierra may be a sponsor on the #96 BGN Ford.

Troy Reed, has been hired by Bill Elliott and Dan Marino to be team manager of the new #13 First Plus Ford to be driven by Jerry Nadeau. Troy has been around racing for all his life, probably mostly, because his dad, Nick, made sure of it. Nick has been spectating and officiating races for 50 years altogether. Troy, himself, has been a tech man with USAC for many years.

I hear QVC is going to broadcast a special from the Winston Cup Preview, 11am to 1pm on Saturday 1/10 with Rusty Wallace live from the show. I hear you can see some of what is happening in the background.

Ricky Craven will be driving in three BGN races in 1998. Texas and both Dover races.

Rick Hendrick gets sentenced on Wednesday(12-31) in Asheville, NC. I hear his brother John will take over operations of Hendrick Motorsports. If I recall correctly Rick agreed to a House Arrest deal. Best wishes and get well, Rick.

Rumor has it that the #90 Helig Meyers team shop was broken into over the past weekend. Fifty or so tires and five dash boards were stolen. There was no confirmation on this.

Thanks, Jayski. =====

ASA Driver Brad Loney is racing the first 5 BGN races in the #45 Hunters Specilties car. (ASAFan33)

===== Stafford Motor Speedway in Central Connecticut has announced that the CARQUEST 150 NASCAR Busch North Series Grand National Division event, originally scheduled for June 5, has been moved to Friday, June 19.

The date change came after New Thompson Speedways -- located in the northeast corner of the state, decided to give up the date. Thompson maintained its Sept. 13 date on the schedule, which was released today.

The entire Busch North schedule for 1998 can be found here:

http://www.nascar.com/buschnorth/schedule/

(NASCAR Online) ===== * New Blood * By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun (from http://www.mciracing.com)

Everyone should get a close-up look at this kid, Kenny Irwin, Jr.

Well, he's not a kid, really. He's 28 years old, but his boyish good looks belie his age, and his Paul Newman-blue eyes sparkle with youthful anticipation at what will be his first full season of Winston Cup racing.

Irwin's face is fresh as a kid's in a sport that turns 50 this year, and it's no wonder that his PR man is trying hard to prevent a new sunglasses deal from covering those eyes from the moment he steps out of his race car.

The eyes, as they say, have it.

Irwin signed with Robert Yates last August, just before the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he'll be running for rookie of the year in '98.

When I met him right after the announcement of his signing, I asked Irwin how much Winston Cup experience he had. At my question, his amazingly blue and expressive eyes got bigger, his face turned pink, and he grinned sheepishly.

"None," he replied. "I've never even sat in a Winston Cup car."

Most recently, he's been sitting in trucks, driving for Liberty Racing, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck team owned by Brad Daugherty, the former Cleveland Cavalier All-Star basketball player. But last summer, when Irwin heard a rumor that Yates might not be re-signing Ernie Irvan, Irwin got on them phone and bombarded Yates with requests to just give him a chance.

You should see just how Yates must have reacted as he recalls the weeks leading up to his decision: He simply beams.

"If Kenny hammers back bumpers with the same relentlessness he hammered on my phone, the guy in front of him will probably move over," Yates says. "You know, I just finally decided I wanted the opportunity to work with someone new, and I had the obligation to bring in a new talent.

"The old guys are great, but this sport needs the excitement generated by new, young blood."

Yates, acknowledging that experience is important, put Irwin through an intense training program over the last half of the 1997 season. He took him testing, and he entered him in five races. I guess we could call it Yate's version of a National Football League or Major League Baseball training camp.

"Winston Cup experience is important," Robert says, "but Kenny has been on wheels his entire life. He's won in everything he's ever tackled. He has a lot of confidence. I think it's just a matter of someone giving him an opportunity to get him to the top of the highest mountain."

And if you're going mountain climbing, Robert is a good man to go with. He built engines (the best way to claw your way to the top in Winston Cup racing) for the fabled Junior Johnson in the days when Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough were climbing to championships.

And when young Davey Allison said to him, 'Come on Robert, you can be a car owner,' Yates accepted the challenge, helping Allison become a consistent winner who may have been headed for the championship in 1993, the year he died in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.

Yates also lifted Ernie Irvan to within 27 points of the championship lead in 1994, just before Irvan would survive a horrific crash at Michigan International Speedway.

Yates then went on to build a base camp around Irvan during his recovery, and had a race-winning ride awaiting Ernie when he returned. At the same time, Robert brought Dale Jarrett aboard as "a temporary replacement" and helped turn him into one the best drivers out there.

So it's no wonder that Kenny Irwin kept hounding Robert, even when the reply to his first phone call was, "Kenny Who?"

Irwin thought he was ready. He'd paid a lot of dues to get to this stage in his career. He'd spent years driving United States Auto Club sprints and midgets . He'd won the 1996 midget title and had an offer for an Indy Car ride, but he took Daugherty's offer to race a truck in NASCAR because he believed it would bring him closer to the Winston Cup series.

He then won his first truck race and was ninth in points when Yates signed him up.

"A lot of people are trying to find the next Jeff Gordon," Irwin says. "I'm hoping I can get the same kind of chemistry with my team that he has with his."

Bold, yes, but Irwin didn't get this ride with Yates by being shy, and he told me his first three experiences in Winston Cup cars were eye-openers.

The first time he got in the car was for a testing session at Richmond International Raceway, a nice little 3/4-mile oval, and he thought driving one of those big, burly stock cars "was easy". He proved it, too, by getting in the car and sitting on the front row.

The next time he got in the car, at Rockingham, N.C. -- a slightly bigger track at a mile -- he again clocked top five lap speeds during practice. But when qualifying came, Irwin wasn't even good enough to make the show.

"It was like nothing I'd ever done," he says. "For me, qualifying is a very new experience. But to go from sitting on the front row to going home -- I don't know if 'devastated' is the word.

"But 'terrible' sure describes it."

Even though his crew kept saying, "Ah, Kenny, it's all right," it wasn't. There were about 20 fellows who had prepared that car for him, and Irwin felt he'd let them down.

"It's like nothing I've been put in front of before," he says, "and I learned a great lesson that day. With the trucks, you get two qualifying laps and it's usually not a problem. But one lap (in a Winston Cup car), if you don't get it done you don't get it done at all."

Irwin came into those Winston Cup races with an open mind but, as Indianapolis native, he figured he'd seen so much while racing open-wheel cars 60 to 70 races a season that there wasn't much he hadn't endured or felt through the seat of his pants.

But there was something, indeed. Something he calls "Winston Cup drivers etiquette."

"Racing these guys is different," Irwin says. "When you're racing guys like Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace, there is a respect you have to earn. Racing itself is no different, but you learn you have to race differently.

"The drivers out there can dictate how you finish, whether you have the best car or not. Stock cars are so close that if you don't have the respect of the guy in front of you, he can hold you up four or five laps.

"You have to know a lot of stuff. There's a lot of give and take. You have to know to give a lane to someone with new tires, and you can see the guys who will give you a break and a guy who won't. You always race as hard as you can, but there is something different about racing these guys."

Irwin's experiences flow. At Richmond, Mark Martin became the first big-name driver to give him help ("He just came up and gave me some hints about how to drive the track. He wasn't being pompous or anything; he was just being nice, telling me to be careful of a couple things."

And then there was Rusty Wallace at Phoenix. "I was trying to stay on the lead lap, and he GAVE me three or four laps. At least, I think he did. I knew he was a little faster, (but) he kind of gave me a few to see if I was going to get going. When I didn't get going, he kind of showed me that he was faster."

How?

"He just took the air off my car and made me loose," Irwin remembers with a smile. "He was just saying, 'I got to get going.' If I had already been a lap or two down, he would have expected me to get right out of his way. You've got to give a champion respect. It's very much an etiquette thing."

And Irwin thinks that's neat. "A year ago," he says, "I'm sitting in my living room, watching these guys on TV!"

The most exciting part for Kenny, however, will come in February, when he walks into the garage for the first time at Daytona International Speedway.

"I just can't wait to get there and drive the No. 28 car," he says. "I can't wait until the day I show up and it has my name on it."

His eyes show it. ===== As promised:

T minus 18 days and counting 'til the Craftsman Chevy Trucks Challenge T minus 39 days and counting 'til the Winston Cup Bud Shootout T minus 43 days and counting 'til the Gatorade Twin 125 Qualifiers T minus 45 days and counting 'til the Busch Series NAPA Auto Parts 300 T minus 46 days and counting 'til the Winston Cup Daytona 500 ==== Mike Irwin (mailto:mike@nascarfans.com) NASCAR Fans _______________________________________

NASCAR Fans Website http://www.nascarfans.com _______________________________________

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Jerry Nadeau , Ricky Craven , Paul Newman , Junior Johnson , Robert Yates , Stevie Reeves , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin , Davey Allison
Teams Hendrick Motorsports