Thursday news #1 97-07-31

NASCARFans E-Mail List For the past five years, officials at Ford Motor Company have billed their Taurus as the best-selling car in America. Now there's a new distinction for the sleek sedan and it came Wednesday evening at the Indianapolis ...

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For the past five years, officials at Ford Motor Company have billed their Taurus as the best-selling car in America. Now there's a new distinction for the sleek sedan and it came Wednesday evening at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ford Motor Company put months of speculation to rest by announcing the Ford Taurus as its racing entry for the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. The four-door 1998 model was unveiled at the Indiana Convention Center. "NASCAR is all about racing cars that the fans can relate to," said Bob Rewey, group vice president, Ford Marketing Sales and Service. "So it makes sense that the flagship car for Ford Division would compete in the most popular and exciting racing series in America. Taurus changed the face of the American sedan when we introduced it in 1986. As NASCAR's first full-time, four-door competitor, we expect that it will also change the face of Winston Cup racing." In becoming the standard-bearer for the company, the Taurus will replace the Thunderbird, which has carried Ford drivers to 176 NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories, five Daytona 500 triumphs and four series titles since its re-introduction to NASCAR in 1978. The Thunderbird will cease production at the end of this model year. Ford Special Vehicle Operations and Ford's Motorsport Technology Department were actively involved in the development of the new Taurus, in conjunction with Penske Racing South in Mooresville, N.C., which fields the Fords driven by Rusty Wallace. Roush Racing, which has three Ford Thunderbird teams, also assisted in the building process. Many other current Ford teams offered input. "I think it'll be a positive change for everyone," said Ford driver Dale Jarrett. "There's going to be a lot of work involved, but we think everyone has done their homework." "It's a tribute to our engineers, our new technologies and to the cooperation of our teams that we were able to design and build a new race car in such a short period of time," said Bruce Cambern, director, Ford Special Vehicle Operations. "But we also couldn't have done with without the cooperation of Bill France Jr., and his people at NASCAR who worked with us every step of the way to get this car approved very quickly." Cambern said that initial track testing of the new vehicle will begin within the next few weeks, with many of the Ford teams and drivers expected to participate in early testing as the new Tauruses are being built. There are 21 Ford Thunderbird teams competing full-time on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. "We'll have a winner on our hands with Taurus. Although the Thunderbird has been -- and still is -- a very successful race car evidenced by the 11 wins so far this season, we feel it's important to race what we sell in the marketplace," Cambern said. "We reviewed several options in determining what NASCAR race car we wanted to take us into the next century and the Taurus fit all the criteria that we were looking for. It's the right size, it's got an innovative, aerodynamic shape. It's a car we believe that NASCAR fans will relate to. Our primary commitment to our teams is to provide them with a competitive race car. We believe we've done that with the Taurus." (NASCAR Online)

There's a great picture there at http://www.nascar.com, by the way, for those of you with 'net access. ``We've got some preliminary wind tunnel results, which are quite encouraging, but I don't know that we are in a position right now where I would say, `Let's take all the bodies off of our cars and start with Taurus,''' said former Ford racing director Michael Kranefuss, now co-owner of the Kranefuss-Haas Ford driven by Jeremy Mayfield.

Still, he hailed the switch to Taurus ``because it's a mainstream car and obviously has got a lot more marketing support behind it.''

``One of the things is there's a change in the marketplace from two-door sporty coupes, which don't sell anymore, to the next step, a four-door mainstream flagship-kind of a car for Ford, and that was the Taurus,'' Kranefuss said. (WRAL)

Mast may have had the pole, and led the first lap...but how many people know who the first car out of the inaugural Brickyard race was? Jimmy Spencer, when he was in the McDonald's car. (Thanks, Greg!)

Tony Stewart will attempt to qualify the Joe Gibbs Racing Busch car for the BGN 200 at IRP. (Thanks, Joe)

Danny Hieber, driver of the #47 supertruck will attempt to qualify for the 200 mile truck race at IRP. He will also attempt to qualify for the Flemington 200 mile truck race along with track stars Billy Pauch, John Blewitt and Pete Brittain. (Area Auto Racing News/Joe)

Ernie Irvan's mother, 62-year-old Jo Irvan, underwent emergency surgery last Sunday(7-27) for a perforated ulcer. Following the surgery, Mrs. Irvan developed complications in the form of Adult Respiratory Distress System or respiratory failure. She has been placed on ventilator support and put in a medically-induced coma. Mrs. Irvan is in the intensive care unit of Northeast Medical Center(not sure where this is) where she remains in critical, but stable condition. Does anyone know the address of this hospital? The fan club address, which Mrs. Irvan runs is: 1027 Central Dr, Concord, NC 28027 (Jayski)

Wally Dallenbach said on RPM2Nite he will be back with SABCO and First Union in 1998 (Jayski)

51 cars are entered for Saturday's fourth annual running of the Brickyard 400. With a maximum field of 43 starters, including the use of a past champion's provisional, at least 8 drivers will not make the field for the race. (NASCAR Online)

Thursday's Busch Pole Qualifying will consist of one lap per car with the fastest 25 cars earning the top-25 starting positions. Friday's Busch Second-Round Qualifying will establish starting positions 26-38. Up to five provisional starting positions will then be available to non-qualifiers. Busch Pole Qualifying gets under way Thursday at 2:30 p.m. EDT. (NASCAR Online)

A four-hour practice session was held on Wednesday afternoon. Defending race winner Dale Jarrett led the field with an unofficial track record of 178.983 mph. Jarrett was one of seven drivers who unofficially broke the track record on Wednesday. (NASCAR Online)

Mike Skinner crashed his Lowe's Chevrolet in Turn 1 of the rectangle-shaped track. Skinner will likely resort to his backup car for Busch Pole Qualifying on Thursday. (NASCAR Online)

Bobby Hamilton and Dick Trickle ran together exiting the garage area. The two drivers apparently misinterpreted signals from speedway traffic directors when exiting the garage for practice. (NASCAR Online)

Robby Gordon will attempt to become only the second driver to qualify for two Indianapolis races in a single year, following John Andretti in 1994. Andretti not only started the Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis 500, he also raced in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway following his run in the Indianapolis 500 -- on the same day. He remains the only driver to perform that double. (NASCAR Online)

Among anticipated announcements this weekend, expect to hear that Kenny Irwin, Jr. will be named to replace Ernie Irvan in the Texaco/Havoline Ford for 1998. However, according to one source close to the situation, Yates might make the surprise announcement that he's decided to re-sign Irvan, though for a much smaller price tag than Irvan had originally wanted. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow) Also, IRL driver Tony Stewart will announce his sponsorship for the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, and Tabasco hot sauce will announce their involvement in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for 1998. (NASCAR Online)

RICK HENDRICK, who is ill with leukemia, has begun planning to dismantle his mammoth racing operation, according to General Motors sources. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

TRAVIS CARTER said that he and Jimmy Spencer have signed a new contract, taking Spencer out of contention for rival rides. Spencer had been under consideration for rides with Larry McClure and Richard Petty, according to men close to those teams. Spencer told McClure no last week, according to one report. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

ANDY PETREE says he'll meet next week with a potential sponsor about backing Ernie Irvan in a second team out of his Asheville shop. ''I'd like to get it done soon,'' Petree said. He says Nike isn't one of the sponsors he's talking with. ''But they could be,'' he added, ''If they'd call.'' Petree had been considering putting Irvan in a Pontiac, but now says if the deal goes through he would run two Monte Carlos. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

JACK ROUSH ''wants to get big in the business, really big,'' according to one close associate, talking about Roush's plans to expand his Winston Cup operation. According to one GM source, Roush might use the Pontiac card to try to leverage NASCAR to OK body changes for the new Ford Taurus. Unconfirmed reports are that Roush is interested in adding both Johnny Benson and Ward Burton to his stable of drivers. Roush is also close to deciding to run his own IRL team next year, according to team sources. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

According to NASCAR sources, the new 1998 season will probably look like this:

February: 8 -- Daytona Clash; 15 -- Daytona 500; 22 -- Rockingham; March: 1 -- off; 8 -- Las Vegas; 15 -- Atlanta; 22 -- Darlington; 29 Bristol; April: 5 -- Texas; 12 -- Easter; 19 -- Martinsville; 26 -- Talladega; May: 3 -- Fontana; 10 -- Mothers Day; 16 (Sat.) -- Charlotte, Winston All-Star; 24 -- Charlotte 600; 31 -- Dover; June: 7 -- Richmond; 14 -- Pocono; 21 -- Michigan; 28 -- Sonoma; 4 (Sat.) -- Daytona; 12 -- Loudon; 19 -- Pocono; 25 -- open (IRL Charlotte); August: 1 (Sat.) -- Indianapolis; 9 -- Watkins Glen; 16 -- Michigan; 22 (Sat.) -- Bristol; 30 -- Loudon; September: 6 -- Darlington; 12 -- Richmond; 20 -- Dover; 27 -- Martinsville; October: 4 -- Charlotte; 11 -- Talladega; 18 -- open; 25 -- Rockingham; November: 1 -- Phoenix; 8 -- Atlanta; 15 -- open; 22 -- Suzuka, Japan. (Mike Mulhern, JournalNow)

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 John Andretti , Ward Burton , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Dale Jarrett , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Dick Trickle , Rusty Wallace , Mike Skinner , Jimmy Spencer , Robby Gordon , Johnny Benson , Mark Ford , Richard Petty , Billy Pauch
Teams Team Penske , Joe Gibbs Racing