Phil Pash's World of Wheels

Popular Victory: Sunday’s race was the final Southern 500 at Darlington on the Labor Day weekend. The Labor Day race next season will be at California Speedway. Here’s a lead by Bruce Martin of Sports Ticker that I wish I had written:

“It’s as much a Southern tradition as pecan pie, boiled peanuts, fried okra and the haze that comes with the morning dew. (He could have included grits with every meal.)

“The Southern 500 will be shifted to the second week in November, when the cotton crops dry up to scraggly brush across the sandy plains of South Carolina’s Pee-Dee region. Just as flying the Confederate flag is no longer deemed politically correct, a holiday weekend race in a small market is no longer considered good business sense for NASCAR.”

So, it was entirely fitting—and popular with just about everyone—that Terry Labonte, 47, won the finale since his first Winston Cup win was the 1980 Southern 500. This victory snapped a 156-race winless streak, and was his first since Texas in March 1999. He now has 22 career wins and two Winston Cup season titles (1996 and 1984).

“I was running with Bill Elliott (late in the race) and thinking to myself, I hope one of us wins it because we appreciate this place more than some of the young guys do,” Labonte said afterward.

“It’s the oldest track that we run at,” he said before the race. “It would be like taking the Indianapolis 500 and moving it to Michigan. It just wouldn’t work. I understand why they are doing it, but I hate to see it.”

Darlington—“The Lady in Black” and “The Track Too Tough to Tame”—is the South’s first superspeedway and NASCAR’s first paved oval, and the Southern 500 is a tradition dating all the way back to 1950, NASCAR’s oldest 500-mile race. There still will be a Southern 500 next season, but it will be in November and maybe under lights—not on Labor Day weekend.

Kevin Harvick was second, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray and three-time Southern 500 winner Elliott.

Series points leader Matt Kenseth was 14th while points runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 25th, nine laps down. The difference between first and second went from 351 points to 389 with 11 races remaining. It has to be Kenseth’s year.

n n n

Quick Pit Stops:

n John Andretti is scheduled to drive the DEI No. 1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. He drove for DEI in the Brickyard 400 and apparently will do a couple of races in the No. 1 car in place of Jeff Green.

n Tony Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing have agreed to a five-year contract extension that will keep the current Winston Cup champ in the No. 20 car through the 2009 season. Financial terms were not disclosed. Stewart, 32, has driven for Gibbs since 1997. His rookie Cup season was 1999.

n There are rumors Bill Elliott might retire after this season, but he’s not playing the game. “When I’m ready to talk, I’ll talk. When I ain’t, I ain’t. That’s just plain and simple. When it’s time, it’s time and I’ll let you know,” he told the Associated Press.

n Ken Schrader’s sponsor, 1 800 CALL ATT, will put a race fan’s face on the hood of his car for the Oct. 26 Georgia 500 at Atlanta. People need to make a collect call on the number by Oct. 8 to be eligible.

n Doug Richert, who won the 1980 Winston Cup championship with Dale Earnhardt, has been named crew chief for rookie Greg Biffle, said Roush Racing. Richert, until now crew chief for Roush’s Carl Edwards in the truck series, replaces Randy Goss, who in the last six years with Biffle won two Rookie of the Year titles and two series championships in trucks and the Busch Series.

n Newell Rubbermaid, primary sponsor of Kurt Busch’s Roush Racing Ford, says it is going to take a more active role “in helping Kurt get guidance and working closely in developing a mentoring program” for the 25-year-old driver. NR expressed displeasure to Busch and Roush over Busch’s recent actions.

n Phoenix International Raceway is prepared to install lights for a night race in prime time if it is awarded a second Winston Cup event for 2005, reported the Arizona Daily Star.

n Kodak, in its 17th year as primary sponsor of the No. 4 Morgan-McClure team, may not return after this season, says The Sporting News. Kodak’s contract runs through 2005, but the deal likely contains an out clause based on performance.

n The Winston Cup preseason preview—held in January in Winston-Salem, N.C., and named in honor of Winston’s late T. Wayne Robertson—could be another casualty of Winston leaving racing at year’s end.

n Mike Wallace is slated to drive six Cup races in the No. 09 Dodge fielded by James Finch—Richmond, Talladega, Kansas, Atlanta, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami. Wallace was ninth in Finch’s car in the Daytona 500.

n Jason Leffler will drive the No. 0 Haas CNC Racing Pontiac for the rest of this season and into next season. He was released from his ride with the Ultra Motorsports truck team by owner Jim Smith, who said Jimmy Spencer would take over that seat.

n Hendrick Motorsports teammates Brian Vickers (19) and Kyle Busch (18) finished 1-2 in the Busch race at Darlington, prompting third-place finisher Michael Waltrip (40) to say: “You add their ages together and it doesn’t equal how old I am.” It was the second Busch win for Vickers in 50 starts and the second runner-up finish for Busch in just three starts. He is the younger brother of Kurt Busch. The point battle got tighter with nine races left. Scott Riggs leads, chased by David Green 19 back, Vickers 67 down, Jason Keller 70 behind and Ron Hornaday 79 back.

n Roush Racing has landed sponsor Superchips Inc. to finish out the season on the No. 99 Ford of Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Carl Edwards. Founded in England in 1983, Superchips, Inc., was one of the first companies specializing in the “tuning” of computer-controlled vehicles for more power.

n The Toyota Tundra had its first on-track test last week at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., with Joe Ruttman driving. The vehicle will be in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series next season.

n Turkey has signed a seven-year agreement to be in the Formula One series starting in 2005. Ground is scheduled to be broken this month on a $60 million track in Istanbul. The track is to be completed by March 31, 2005.

n American Townsend Bell, competing in the Formula 3000 series this season, is supposed to get a test with the BAR-Honda F1 team at Monza, Italy. An American driver has not been in F1 since Michael Andretti more than a decade ago. Bell, 28, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., has a checkered history in CART with Pat Patrick’s team, indefinite probation and a $10,000 fine for a 2001 accident.

n Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has mentioned an interest in F1 and F1 certainly has an interest in him, reported Reuters. Abramovich bought the Chelsea football club last month and spent nearly $150 million on players. Minardi, Jordan, BAR and even Jaguar all might welcome investors.

n Sam Hornish Jr., 24, will be driving for Roger Penske next season, replacing Gil de Ferran, 35, who said he will retire at the end of this season. De Ferran figured he might as well go out on top. He won the Indy 500 this season and also captured back-to-back CART titles in 2000 and 2001 before moving with Penske to the IRL in 2002. He drove for Jim Hall and Derrick Walker before joining Penske at the end of 1999.

n The red-hot IRL points race comes to Chicagoland Speedway near Joliet this weekend. Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves leads with 429, followed by Gil de Ferran (404), Tony Kanaan (397), Scott Dixon (387) and Sam Hornish Jr. (348), the highest-ranking American driver. The top three are Brazilians. Injured drivers Felipe Giaffone (Mo Nunn) and Richie Hearn (Menard) could return to their teams.

n, a London-based online gaming company, has signed as primary sponsor for Darren Manning’s CART entry, team owner Derrick Walker said. also will serve as presenting sponsor of the Miami CART race Sept. 28.

n Newman/Haas Racing says it is finalizing details for an upcoming IRL test

with the hope of competing in the 2004 Indianapolis 500. “If the logistics, sponsorship and engineering components can be put together, the team will attempt to qualify for the 2004 Indianapolis 500,” said Carl A. Haas, team co-owner. Testing likely will be at California Speedway with Newman/Haas driver Bruno Junqueira, pole-sitter for the 2002 Indy 500, handling testing duties. The team has not competed at Indy since 1995.

n Newman/Haas drivers Bruno Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais finished 1-2 in the CART Denver street race, separated by .335 seconds. Oriol Servia was third and points leader Paul Tracy fourth, working up from a ninth starting spot. Tracy’s lead now is 204-186 over Junqueira, who also won at Denver last year.

n Mika Salo, one-time Formula One driver, was 14th in his CART debut, replacing Max Papis in the PK Racing entry. He is PK’s fourth different driver this season. The 36-year-old Finn is a veteran of 110 F1 starts with Ferrari, Sauber and Toyota.

n Chicago industrialist Gerry Forsythe told the Toronto Sun that he has Paul Tracy and Patrick Carpentier under contract through the end of the 2004 season and “CART will not fail.” He is part of a group trying to buy the series and take it back to private ownership.

n Danica Patrick of Roscoe was fifth in the CART Toyota Atlantic race at Denver, one place behind her new teammate, Jon Fogarty. She qualified seventh and is seventh in points with 93. A.J. Allmendinger won the race.

n MotoRock LLC announced it will be the title sponsor of the Trans-Am Series, henceforth to be known as the MotoRock Trans-Am Tour for the BF Goodrich Tires Cup. The agreement is a continuation of MotoRock’s title sponsorship of the Denver Trans-Am. Also, the series will return to the Grand Prix Americas in Miami Sept. 26-28 with a concert featuring Elton John and another act TBA. In addition to a new audience drawn by rock music, the Trans-Am is looking at the possibility of re-introducing a four-cylinder, under-2.5-liter class specifically tailored to the import-tuning crowd. That could be huge.

n Scott Pruett posted his seventh victory in nine starts, leading all 59 laps to win the Denver Trans-Am in a Jaguar XKR. Boris Said was second in a Ford Mustang, and Johnny Miller was third in another Jag. Said and Miller are the only other drivers to win this year. If Pruett doesn’t have his third title locked up, there can’t be too many ways he can lose it.

n Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader and Ray Evernham drew a packed house to Farley (Iowa) Speedway in August. Elliott (15th) and Schrader (eighth) raced in late models, Evernham in a modified (he used to race modifieds).

n Schrader and Tony Stewart are scheduled to race IMCA modifieds tonight (Wednesday night) at Plymouth, Wis., near Sheboygan. The event was rained out earlier this season. Hot laps at 6 p.m.

n Davey Ray has clinched the Badger midget driving title for this season. Ray now lives in Roscoe, according to the local daily.

n Three-time American Speed Association champion Butch Miller and SS Racing have agreed on a deal that will keep Miller in the No. 52 Timber Wolf car through the 2004 season. Since he joined SS Racing part way into the 2002 season, Miller has collected six wins and seven poles.

n Veteran Frank Kimmel beat Shelby Howard (18) and Jason Jarrett to win the ARCA stock car race at Winchester Saturday night. It was Kimmel’s fourth win at Winchester and the 49th of his career. ARCA was to race at the DuQuoin State Fair Monday, and will be at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend.

n Reggie Showers, who wears prosthetic legs after both were amputated below the knees because of a childhood accident, won the K&N Filters Pro Bike Klash and $15,000 at IRP Saturday night. Final elimination of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals were to be run Monday, but were postponed by rain until this weekend.

n NHRA announced a 23-race schedule for 2004 with all the same venues as the 2003 schedule, but two will be on different dates. The season opener at Pomona will be Feb. 19-22.

n When “Big Daddy” Don Garlits stepped up for his PA interview at Cordova Dragway Park, he was reminded that he first burst on the national scene with his victory at Cordova in 1957. He also was reminded that he and his wife, Pat, welcomed their first daughter just nine months later. “She was conceived under that tree right over there…” Garlits said. “In a tent,” reported the Quad-City Times.

n Ricky Carmichael clinched his fourth straight AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross Championship. Carmichael, 23, of Havana, Fla., is the first rider to win four AMA 250cc Motocross titles. He has a record 10 AMA national titles. In addition to the four 250cc championships, he holds three titles each in 125cc and Supercross divisions.

n Team Sports Entertainment, known as TRAC, has discontinued its efforts to develop, own, operate and sanction an automotive racing league. The group was trying to sell six franchises to race sports cars starting in May 2004.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!