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ACDelco 400 Saturday notebook By Shawn A. Akers Some notes and quotes Saturday surrounding Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Speedway: Tabasco isn't going anywhere else with NASCAR Winston Cup ...

ACDelco 400 Saturday notebook By Shawn A. Akers

Some notes and quotes Saturday surrounding Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup ACDelco 400 at North Carolina Speedway:

Tabasco isn't going anywhere else with NASCAR Winston Cup sponsorship. Yet. McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco brand Pepper Sauce, announced today it has come to an "amicable agreement" with Tim Beverley and ISM Racing Corp. to complete the 1998 NASCAR Winston cup season. Darrell Waltrip will remain the driver of the No. 35 Team Tabasco Pontiac for the final two races of the 1998 season. "McIlhenny Company made a major commitment to NASCAR Winston Cup racing in 1997 for the 1998 season, and we have exhausted every effort to ensure the success of our marketing efforts in the sport," said Paul McIlhenny, president and chief operating officer for McIlhenny Company. "Since entering the sport of NASCAR, we have developed a connection with the NASCAR fan that is invaluable to the Tabasco brand." "Everyone involved with our racing program has worked overtime to bring success to Team Tabasco," said Beverley, co-owner of ISM Racing Corp. "We intend to continue to do the best job possible for Team Tabasco for the remainder of the 1998 season." Tabasco's plans for 1999, however, have not been finalized.

Mark Martin, who has enjoyed the best season of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in 1998, said he'll have surgery on his aching back at the end of the season, which for him will be the Jiffy Lube 300 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National event at Homestead, Fla., in two weeks. "I'm racing the Busch race in Homestead on the 15th of November, and I've gotta be in the hospital at 7:30 a.m. on the 16th," said Martin, who'll start Sunday's ACDelco 400 from the pole. " I think personally I could have (driven) after having the surgery, but I didn't want to jeopardize it. "If we caught it where we had a weekend off, then I would have a week and a half before I had to get in the car. It's major surgery, but it's not fusion. That's a pretty tough operation, but I wanted to wait. The pain, it varies from (jokingly thinking) suicidal thoughts to thoughts of maybe not having the surgery but letting everybody think I am so I get two weeks off." Martin said his back problem, in which the sciatic nerve is pushing against his spine causing muscle spasms, causes him to cut back on his rigorous physical fitness routine he developed over the years.

No two Pontiac drivers have finished in the top-10 in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings since 1993. That may happen this year, as Bobby Labonte and John Andretti are primed to accomplish that feat. Labonte is assured of a top-10 spot. He's currently in sixth in the standings, while Andretti, the driver of the No. 43 STP Pontiac, is holding onto 10th place in the standings, 63 points ahead of Bobby Hamilton, who drove the STP Pontiac last year. "It's an ironic deal," Andretti said. "It would have been easier for me if it wasn't him (Hamilton) because he came from the 43. I think that Bobby is good. He is consistent. He's always right there. "It boils down to the last two races, but it's not likely they're going to make a difference as a whole. Every race makes a difference. I'm realistic to know that if we finish in the top-10, that's above realistically what I expected to do the first year back here (at Petty Enterprises). But I expected to win six races, so I guess it's a tradeoff."

The last time the championship was clinched with two races remaining was by Dale Earnhardt in 1994, when he locked up his seventh career NASCAR Winston Cup championship at North Carolina Speedway. Jeff Gordon can do the same on Sunday if he finishes 40th or better. Gordon currently leads Mark Martin by 329 points heading into the final two races of the year.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Mark Martin