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Thursday, August 3, 2006
Q: Who is the only Cup driver to
win a race from the pole at
Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
A: Kevin Harvick, 2003
Race: Allstate 400
Where: Indianapolis Motor
When: 2 p.m. ET Sunday
Defending race winner: Tony Stewart
A major rebuilding process is getting Petty Enterprises’ teams...
BACK ON TRACK
By RICK MINTER
Cox News Service
T [iere’s really ho off time during the
summer for drivers on NASCAR’s
Nextel Cup circuit. Even thougji the
Cup circuit was idle on the weekend before
the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor
Speedway most drivers were busy some
Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards raced
their Busch Series cars in Saturday’s race
at Gateway International Raceway
Others ran at various short tracks across
the country — Denny Hamlin raced at
Gateway and Oxford, Maine.
Kyle Petty used the week to hold his an
nual charity motorcycle ride to benefit the
Victory Jmiction Gang Camp for iU. chil
dren drat was built in memory of his late
This year’s ride left Coeur d’Alene,
Idaho, and wound its way across the coim-
try throu^ Montana, Wynming, Kansas,
Dlinois, Ohio and on to the camp near
Other racing personalities, including
Petty’s father, Richard Petty retired driver
Harry Gant and current stars Bobby
Labonte and Matt Kenseth, joined the
ride, while others who had participated in
the past either had to make short seg
ments or none at ah.
“With the schedule the way it is now, it’s
tough for those guys to give their time like
they used to,” Kjde Petty said during a
teleconference last week. “If they can come
in and ride one day, that’s what they are all
going to try to do.”
Even though the ride has been a big suc
cess during the years, the same can’t be
said for Petty’s race teams.
They’ve struggled in recent seasons.
Last year, Jeff Green, driving the No. 43
Dodge, finished 30th in points; Kyle Petty
in the No. 45 Dodge, was 27th.
This year. Petty Enterprises has shown
remarkable improvement, especially since
former' Cup champion Labonte joined the
team to drive the No. 43 Dodge.
Entering this week’s race at
Indianapolis, Labonte is 24th in points,
with one top-five and four top-10 finishes.
Petty hasn’t done so well. He’s 33rd with a
Petty said the rebuilding process is tak-
ii^ time and still has much work remain
ing, but he’s not discouraged by the seem-
in^y slow tumaroimd.
“I’m not firustrated at all about any
thing,” Petty said. “The battles we’ve had
Cox News Service
Petty Enterprises’ teams are showing improvement, although Kyle Petty
(above) is 33rd in the standings with only one top-10 finish (at Atlanta).
over the last few years are part of the re
building and part of the growing process.
“I teU people there’s a lot of guys who can
jump in race cars and run good times, but
to get really really fast, it takes a lot of
work and a lot of patience, and you’ve got
to look after the small things.”
He said that even thou^ the results
might not always indicate improvement,
positive things happen for the team every
“We might not be gettir^ it done on the
race track, but a lot of the stuff we’re doing
at the shop ig ri^t,” he said. .
Track length: 2.5 miles
Race length: 160 laps / 400 miles
Banking in corners: 9 degrees
Banking In straights: 0 degrees
Frontstretch: 3,300 feet
Backstretch: 3,300 feel
Qualifying record; Casey Mears, Dodge;
186.293 mph: Aug, 7, 2004
Race record: Bobby Labonte, Pontiac;
155.912 mph; Aug. 5. 2000
Catching up with.
Bobby Ginn, a real estate developer, last
week purchased controlling interest of
MB2 Motorsports finm Ndson Bowers,
who had own^ 80 percent of the team tiiat
fields the Chevrolets driven in Nextel Cup
by Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek.
Ginn, whose Ginn Resorts has sponsored
Marlin’s car in some races this year, spoke
on a t^econference with reportm-s, includ
ing Rick Minter of Cox News Seaivice.
Q: Are thme any immediate plans to re
structure the team or do anything differ
ently than it’s been doing for the rest of the
season? And after this season, what do you
see for the team next year and down the
A: Not any major restructuring for this
season. The one thing
we are doing is we are
installing some addi
tional equipment in
the shop itself that
may have a little bit of
impact on this year.
But primarily we’re fo
cusing on things going
into next year. We ob
viously would Uke to
We went into this thinking this would be
a four-car team, and we’re striving to get to
a four-car team. We xmderstand the dy
namics of what that means when you can
get that. What we are going to do for next
year is we are going to work on sponsor
ship, work on cars and hopefully we’ll be a
little bit better next year and continue to
get better thereafter,
Q: How and whydid you make the jump
fixtm sponsorship to car owner? Did you get
into it as a sponsorship with an eye towaiti.
A I always thoi^t I wanted to have a
NASCAR team. ... We for years have been
using the track to entertain with, but
[sponsorship] took it to just a higher level.
From there, we went into a hi^er level of
sponsorship, and we worked our way
through it as we began to do tihat and get
more aroirnd the track, we looked at sever
al teams, ... The reason and the final op
portunity that really made itself available
fixim our perspective was here was a team
that had all of the facilities in place, all of
the drivers and the sponsors to get two
teams started.... The last thing that really
pushed it through, with the Car of
Tbmorrow, I fhirik we have this tremen
Going into next year, there’s a leveling of
the playing field. Everybody has got to
build a new car. Everjhody has got to
retest. Everybody has got to come out and
do some things different. So the dominance
of the four or five big teams, there’s an op
portunity as a crack. I’m not sayir^ that
they are going to go away but there’s a
crack that someone else maybe able to get
in there and compete. It may never occur
Tony Stewart: defending
champ at Indianapolis.
Here are some key storylines as the Cup Series heads to Indy:
High expectations at Indianapolis
Manyinsiders in the Nextel Cup garage are ei^iecting Tbny
Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin
to be among the prime contenders in Simda^s Allstate 400 at'
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Stewart, an Indiana native and the defendir^ winner of the
race, typically runs well at his home track, and his crew was
especi^y pleased with the
p^ormance of the No. 20
Chevrolet in a recent test
session at Indy
Hamlin is a contender sim
ply because he swept both
races this year at Pocono
Raceway a track that re
quires si.milai' handlir^ and
set-up characteristics as
Indy And he’ll be racir^ the
same car he used in both
But Hamlin told reporters
after his victory at Pocono
that he wasn’t sure about
that, especially since he did
n’t feel like his Iqdy test was
a huge success.
“I felt like going into the
test that we were going to be really fast, but I seemed to strug
gle when I was there,” he said. “Don’t know exactly what we
were fighting. Just overall grip really”
But he acknowledged that test results often aren’t the best
indicator of speed in the race.
“That’s kind of been the trend of all the Gibbs cars ov^ the
testing throughnnt the year,” he said. “Every time we go to
test, we’re not all that good. We come back to race, we’re real
At the pump
NASCAR’s fii’st fuU-race test of unleaded fuel appears to
have been a success. Saturday’s Busch Series Silver
Celebration 250 at Gateway International Raceway was the
first race in which all cars ran on unleaded fuel. From all in
dications, the race was no diffei-ait from others run with lead
ed fuel, which is preferred by engine builders because it offers
better lubrication for internal ermine parts.
Denny Hamlin’s pole-winning spe^ of 134.852 mph was
just a tick or two of the stopwatch off the track record of
135.021 mph set last year by Martin TKiex Jr., and there ap
peared to be no engine problems related to the fuel. In fact,
there were only two caution periods for 11 laps and both were
for crashes. Carl Edwards was the winnei:
NASCAR plans to continue phasing in unleaded fuel in all
of its top series, including Nextd Cup.
NASCAR’s increasing diversity is evident in tiie back
grounds of two drivers new to the sanctioning body’s top two
Shane Huffinan followed What once was the. primary route
to NASCAR’s elite divisions. A longtime short-track racer
fi-om Hickory N.C., Huffman worked his way up the short-
track ladder to the Hooters Pro Cup Series, whei-e he was dis-
co'veredbyhis car o'.vner. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Huffman made his Busch Series debut at Gateway
International Raceway on Saturday It was the first of fom'
races he’ll run this season for Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports.
The second face new to NASCAR is yet another sign that
the sport once dominated by drivers bom and raised in the
Southeast has taken on an international flavor.
Max Papis, a veteran road racer from Como, Italy wilL at
tempt to qualify for the Aug. 13 Nextel Cup race at Watkins
Glen. He’s the second international driver in recent weeks —
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya is tiie first — to announce
plans to race in NASCAR.
Eye for talent
James Finch, the outspoken Nextel Cup and Busch Series
car owner fiom Panama City Fla., seems to have a trained
eye for driving talent. Early in his career, he teamed up with
Jeff Purvis and found success in dirt racing and ARC A super
speedway racii^ before both moved to NASCAR.
Recently Finch plucked Cale Gale, a Late Model driver
fixim Mobile, Aa., from the short-track ranks, put him. to work
with his Busch and Cup teams as a shcxi specialist and
began entering him in select Busch and ARCAraces.
In last week’s Shop ’n Save 150 ARCA.race at Gateway
International Raceway Finch’s gamble paid off as Gale, who
was named for NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough, drove like
Yarborou^ in -winning the race in just his second career
And he had to hold on through multiple, late-race restarts
that extended the race by 22 laps to seal the victory ‘You get
to thinking after this restart, and then this one, and this one;
you just get a littie anxious,” Gale told reporters in Victory
Steve Wallace, the 18-year-
old son of retired Nextel Cup
driver Rusty Wallace and
nephew of drivers Mike and
is frying to break
into big-time rac
ing. He’s runnir^
select ARCA and
races this year in
his father’s cars
and plans to run
Busch full time
next year. He re- WALLAt
in a teleconference with re
porters, including Rick
Minter of Cox News Service.
On havit^ racit^ family
members to turn to for ad
vice, if needed: “Itis defi
nitely a big help. You’ve got
Dad, who is a Nextel Cup
champion, won a bunch of
races, finished second a
bunch in the championship,
and Mike’s had a good career.
He has won some Busch
races and stuff like that. For
example, we were at
Martinsville — and I’ve never
been there before as far as ac
tually driving on the race
track — and Dad got in
le race car first and he
lade some laps and got a
landle real good and
len I got in it. ... When '
ly dad is not there and I
lave a question, ITl go to
Kenny or Mike.”
On the advantages
if drivii^ for his fa
ther: “I think if I wasn’t
driving for my dad, I
might be fired by now, so it’s
definitely good to have your
dad as a boss and as a driving
On living with the boss:
“Mom is real big on cooking.
We have dinner every night.
We sit down at the table, and
talk about stuff. So if I run
bad and look like an idiot,
[Dad] makes me feel like one.
But if I run good. I’m kind of
the superstar at the house.”
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Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate for Cox News Service. (800) 255-6734. *For release the week of July 31, 2006.