BUSCH: Madison: News of Note

NEWS OF NOTE * NASCAR Busch Series strong among viewers again... According to Nielsen Media Research, the NASCAR Busch Series attracted 2.65 million viewers on NBC last week at Chicagoland Speedway and ranked 3rd among the weekend's...


* NASCAR Busch Series strong among viewers again... According to Nielsen Media Research, the NASCAR Busch Series attracted 2.65 million viewers on NBC last week at Chicagoland Speedway and ranked 3rd among the weekend's sports events. The NASCAR Busch Series event was second only to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series race for motorsports viewers and easily outdistanced the CART event on CBS, which attracted 1.54 million viewers.

* Tribute to St. Louis icon... Randy's Lajoie's No. 7 Kleenex/Scott Products Chevrolet will sport a special hood paint scheme for the event to honor legendary broadcaster Jack Buck, who passed away June 18."He was pretty much the middle name of St. Louis and it's cool that we are remembering him on our car," LaJoie said."I was at a St. Louis (Cardinals) game a few years ago and threw out the first pitch. I got to go up to the announcers' booth with Jack afterward and call an inning with him. That was a special memory. I even got him to sign a ball for me. Jack's a legend of the game and it won't be the same without him. I just hope that I give him a good ride."

* Same place, different ride... CART standout Christian Fittipaldi (No. 30 Mike's Hard Lemonade Chevrolet), nephew of legendary Emerson Fittipaldi, will take advantage of the off-week in the open-wheel series and compete in the NASCAR Busch Series as part of his limited 2002 schedule. Fittipaldi is looking to make his first start of the season after failing to make the field at Richmond and Charlotte, and may be buoyed by some previous experience at Gateway. He made three starts at the venue in CART from 1998-2000 with his best qualifying and finish coming in 1999. He started eighth and finished ninth.

* Etc... Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Johnny Sauter (No. 2 AC Delco Chevrolet), with his first career win last weekend, became the 12th different winner in 19 NASCAR Busch Series races this season. Jason Keller (No. 57 Albertsons Ford) leads the NASCAR Busch Series with four wins. He also leads the series in laps led with 550... There also have been nine different Bud Pole winners in the 16 NASCAR Busch Series events that had qualifying (California, Richmond and Nazareth were rained out). Jeff Green (No. 21 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) leads the series with three... Thirty-three drivers have led at least one lap this season.


* Jason Keller (No. 57 Albertsons Ford) has four top-five finishes in five career starts at Gateway. Keller has recorded a pair of runner-up finishes (2001, 1997) as well as a fourth (2000) and a fifth (1999).

* Greg Biffle (No. 60 Grainger Ford) had a strong debut at Gateway during his rookie campaign last year. Biffle captured one of his two poles on the season and went on to finish fourth. He also led 55 laps in the event.

* Good career news may be on the horizon for Saturday's winner if the current trend continues at Gateway. All of the past champions of this NASCAR Busch Series event are currently competing in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Elliott Sadler won the inaugural event in 1997, Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 1998 and' 99, and Kevin Harvick followed with consecutive wins in 2000 and 2001.


* "I'm looking forward to going back to Gateway because I've got a good amount of laps there and feel comfortable with the track. I won a race there (in 2000) and came pretty darn close to winning the others, so you can say I like this track. I've never had a poor qualifying run there, but I've never won a pole at Gateway, either. Maybe we can do something about that this weekend." - Jack Sprague (No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet), who had a win and three other finishes among the top eight in four starts (1998-2001) at Gateway in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

* "St. Louis has always been a great race track for me. Every time I have raced there, I have run near the front, only to run into trouble before the end of the night. Last year was special with the chance for the win. I think with what I learned last year and with Tony Lambert working on the Toys"R" Us car, we will have a chance for the win." - Kevin Grubb (No. 54 Toys"R" Us Chevrolet), who finished third in last's year's race.


* In 1998, Shane Hall captured the second pole of his career with a lap of 132.361 miles per hour at Gateway. It marked the last time he has sat on the pole in NASCAR Busch Series competition.


Pre-race schedule (all times CT, local): Friday - Practice, 1:20-3:20 p.m.; qualifying, 5 p.m.; final practice, 8-9 p.m.

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Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jason Keller , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Shane Hall , Christian Fittipaldi , Jack Sprague , Kevin Grubb , Johnny Sauter , Emerson Fittipaldi , Elliott Sadler