BUSCH: Sparta: Event preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 11, 2002) - The resemblance is uncanny, starting with the thick wall of a mustache atop Kerry Earnhardt's upper lip. Yes, no doubt about it, this son looks like his legendary father. The son doesn't want the resemblance...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 11, 2002) - The resemblance is uncanny, starting with the thick wall of a mustache atop Kerry Earnhardt's upper lip. Yes, no doubt about it, this son looks like his legendary father.

The son doesn't want the resemblance to end there. He aspires to remind people of Dale Earnhardt because of his auto racing ability. Kerry's aspirations are tempered, however, due to expectations which are enormous.

Because of his last name, people always have expected Kerry Earnhardt to win races on a regular basis. Because of his last name, his inability so far this season - his rookie season - to win a NASCAR Busch Series race has overshadowed his steady development in the nation's No. 2 motorsports series, which comes to Kentucky Speedway this week.

He's getting better all the time, evidenced by last week's 18th-place run at Nashville Superspeedway. Coming into Saturday night's Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo, Earnhardt is 20th in NASCAR Busch Series points.

Not great, by any means.

But by no means has it been bad.

And in some ways, it has been reminiscent of the early career struggles of his late father.

"It's been kind of tough this year," said Earnhardt, driver of the No. 12 Supercuts Chevrolet."It hasn't been as good a season as we planned, but I'm not complaining because it's still been a decent season.

It's taking me a little time to get a grasp on this thing, but I'm making improvements along the way. I've learned a lot so far."

Earnhardt, 32, is amid his first full NASCAR Busch Series season; prior to this year he accumulated a total of 10 series starts between 1998-2001. He emerged as a viable big-time driver by winning four of 11 ARCA Series starts in the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

This year's highlight thus far: an eighth-place run at Nashville Superspeedway in April.

"We're pretty excited about the [second half of the season]," Earnhardt said."The big thing for us is Daytona. (Site of the July 5 Stacker 2/GNC Live Well 250.) That's a track that has bit me every time I've been there; I've always been in a big wreck.

I know I've got some learning to do, that I've got a big learning curve. Some of the big veterans in the series are way ahead of me. I know that."

Earnhardt also knows what might be on the horizon, once his education advances and he starts winning NASCAR Busch Series races. He has seen the popularity of his brother Dale Jr. explode in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. His life, it seems, is destined to also change.

"I think I will [be ready]," Earnhardt said." That's part of it, part of doing this. I'll be ready to accept the responsibility."

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Points of reference are few, regarding driver history at Kentucky, since the track's first NASCAR event was last year. That said, Saturday night watch out for Greg Biffle (No. 60 Grainger Ford), second in the 2001 event; Tony Raines (No. 33 BACE Motorsports Chevrolet), third last year; Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 46 Civil Air Patrol Chevrolet), fifth last year; and Jay Sauter (No. 21 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet), last year's polesitter.

NEWS OF NOTE:

* Harvick back, but not behind the wheel... Kevin Harvick, last year's race winner at Kentucky Speedway who went on to win the NASCAR Busch Series championship, will return Saturday night - but not to race. Harvick will serve as Grand Marshal for the NASCAR Busch Series Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo, the night before he races in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway.

* Nemechek hitting the road, doing double-duty... Joe Nemechek (No. 87 Cellular One Chevrolet) will race at both NASCAR events this weekend. Nemechek, the 1992 NASCAR Busch Series champion, said the double duty"will definitely be a big challenge. It's a Saturday night race beginning at 8 p.m. (ET) in the same time zone, so air travel will be premium. Practice time for myself will be limited here, if I get any, so we have to do all this testing so I'm comfortable in the car when I get back. If the car is running good, handling good and you keep cool in the racecar, it's not really a big deal. Just having a rest period in between (races) is probably the most crucial." Nemechek will drive the No. 25 UAW-Delphi Chevrolet at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

* Sprague has the lead - and a victory to boot... Jack Sprague (No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet) won the first NASCAR Busch Series race of his career last week at Nashville. It also was his 11th top-10 finish of the season, a run of consistency that explains why Sprague leads the series in points. Sprague moved to the NASCAR Busch Series this year after winning a record three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championships (1997, 1999 and 2001).

* TV viewers choose NASCAR... The national cable television rating for last week's NASCAR Busch Series race - the Inside Traxx 300 Presented by MET-Rx, at Nashville Superspeedway - more than doubled the rating for the CART event (Monterey Grand Prix). The Inside Traxx 300 rating, broadcast by FX, nearly doubled the IRL event (Casino Magic 500). Also, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway had better ratings than the CART event.

* Etc... Team Rensi Motorsports and driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford) have landed a one-race associate sponsorship deal with Ammbusher, Inc. for Saturday night's race. This will mark the second year of Ammbusher's association with Team Rensi Motorsports. Ammbusher sponsored the No. 61"Big White Truck" driven by Randy Tolsma at last year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Kentucky Speedway. Located in Aurora, Ind., Ammbusher, Inc. manufactures skid steer attachments... Saturday night's race will be the second part of a three-part sponsorship deal between Brewco Motorsports and Sequoia, a new smokeless tobacco product from Swedish Match North America, for the No. 37 Chevrolet driven by Kevin Lepage. Sequoia came aboard last week at Nashville; after this week, it will also be the primary sponsor for the No. 37 at Daytona International Speedway, July 5...The No. 66 Phillips 66 Dodge driven by Casey Mears this week is nicknamed"Brutus".

WHAT'S THE WORD?

* "Hopefully we'll be fast, but we won't really know until we get there." - Casey Mears (No. 66 Phillips 66 Dodge), on racing at Kentucky Speedway after encouraging test runs there.

* "What? There's a race in Kentucky this weekend?" - Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle Nesquik Ford), joking about forgetting about the schedule. Riggs and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

When Kevin Harvick won last year's NASCAR Busch Series debut at Kentucky Speedway, it was the second of his five 2001 race victories. Harvick started his No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet 11th in the field.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kevin Lepage , Jay Sauter , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jack Sprague , Scott Riggs , Kerry Earnhardt , Randy Tolsma , Ashton Lewis