Jarrett Battles Cracked Rib

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CONCORD, N.C. – An injury to Dale Jarrett could hamper his chances in the Coca-Cola 600 and could prevent him from finishing NASCAR’s longest event.

Jarrett said he felt something pop during the Winston Cup Happy Hour on Saturday morning and later found out that it was a cracked rib, perhaps from Thursday’s crash as he was headed to the green flag for his qualifying attempt.

“I was pretty sure that it was broken... I feel I’ll start, and my plan is to finish," said Jarrett, who had X-rays done by a Charlotte-area physician. "With the amount of time we have here (before the race), we’ll be OK.”

Jarrett backed into the Turn 4 wall Thursday and was fine after Saturday morning’s first practice. But during the second, he felt the injury and had to come to the garage.

“I was going into Turn 3, and I just felt a pop,” Jarrett said. “I don’t know if it’s from a previous injury or something from the other night. It’s on my right side, so it doesn’t make sense that it would have happened the other night, but you don’t know.

“I had no indication. I worked out yesterday and lifted weights and ran like I normally would and had no problems.”

After feeling the pop, Jarrett said it was hard to catch his breath.

“I ran about four more laps and told (my crew) I couldn’t do it anymore right then,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett, who was receiving treatment from MRO’s fitness and rehabilitation team, tried a flak jacket late in Happy Hour, but that was no help.

“I need something that is gonna help kind of tie this together so when I go to turn the wheel that I’m not gonna get that much pain,” Jarrett said.

Ali-Frazier-Stewart? Forget Tony Stewart simply being able to run both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday. That’s a feat in and of itself, sure.

Suppose, somehow, he was able to win at the Brickyard, hop on an airplane to Lowe’s Motor Speedway, then win here. How big would that be?

“That’s Joe Namath beating the Baltimore Colts,” LMS President and General Manager H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler said. “That’s Ali-Frazier 1, 2 and 3 all combined.

“The ability of one man to focus that intensely over that long a period of time and come out and win both of them would be astronomical.”

And it might help smooth over some of the bad feelings some fans and others within the NASCAR circle have over Stewart doing the double. Some have said Stewart is being selfish, callously disregarding his Winston Cup team.

That’s hardly the case, according to 1969 Indy 500 – and 1967 Daytona 500 - winner Mario Andretti.

“He’s a hero,” Andretti said. “He’s a hero of mine for doing that. That shows the burning passion he has for driving, and that’s something I certainly recognize. I have tremendous respect and admiration for that because it’s not an easy task.

“This has to go down to a personal goal, personal satisfaction. If that’s what the man wants to do, respect him for it. We all have special goals. Tony Stewart cut his teeth in single-seaters, dreaming about Indianapolis. While he’s at the peak of his game, why not try to do it?”

Travel Worries: Joe Gibbs will be sweating Sunday afternoon, praying that Stewart makes it back from Indianapolis in time to make the start of the Coca-Cola 600.

“I’ll be worried, absolutely,” Gibbs said. “This a risk deal: You weigh the risk and you weigh the value.”

Gibbs said he had a “long discussion” with Stewart, making sure the mistakes made in 1999 when Stewart tried to run both races aren’t repeated. Stewart wasn’t as physically fit then, and he became fatigued at the end of the 600.

“I was kind of a little bit naïve the first time,” Gibbs said. “We had people with him. He said, ‘I feel great.’ I don’t think he really understood what this takes.”

One of Gibbs’ Busch Series drivers, Mike McLaughlin, took some laps in Stewart’s Winston Cup car Saturday and will stand by as a backup.

“I got in and out of the car a couple of times to get a feel for it,” McLaughlin said. “We can’t do much changing because the goal is to make Tony as comfortable as possible. He was talking on the radio during out practice and helping with which line to run.”

Only the Jones’: Buckshot Jones was the only Petty Enterprises car to make the Coca-Cola 600 after John Andretti and Kyle Petty failed to qualify.

Jones came to LMS having missed the past two races.

“I don’t even like to think that the other two cars went home,” said Jones, who qualified 13th. “I hate it when we had to go home. I know how it feels. You just feel like going home and sit down to cry.”

Jones was pretty slow Saturday, posting the 28th-fastest lap in the first practice and the 40th in Happy Hour.

“Right now we’re not as good as we need to be,” Jones said. “It kind of hurts not having my two teammates here. I always go to those two guys and ask them what they’re doing. A lot of times John and Kyle can help me out. We’re going to try a few more things in practice. We’ll talk to a couple of other drivers. It’s kind of hard talking to someone else because it seems everyone’s setups are a little different if they’re not driving a Dodge. It’s almost like we’re playing a guessing game here.”

Happy B-day Stacy: Stacy Compton celebrated his 34th birthday Saturday. The Melling Racing driver lines up 22nd for Sunday’s race.

“I’ve got some pretty good birthday presents so far,” Compton said. “I got golf balls from my crew chief (Chad Knaus). He lost all mine, so he decided to get me some more. I haven’t seen the car owner (Mark Melling) yet. He’ll probably wait until Sunday and see how we do in the race. Maybe I can give him a present.

“I feel a year younger today. A great birthday present would be a top-10 finish Sunday.”

Gordon Again: Many consider Jeff Gordon to be the man to beat Sunday. Gordon is coming off a victory in The Winston last week and has three Coca-Cola 600 wins in eight tries in his career.

“This is a long race,” Gordon said. “No matter who is favored or who has the car to beat, there’s still a lot that has to happen. But yes, I think so. We certainly should be. I hate to say this, but (my 600 car) it’s a lot better than that car I had the other night (for The Winston).

“I don’t know if this car would have gone faster in that last 10-lap segment. In those 30-lap segments, this car is better. That’s why we brought it here because we’ve got to go 50 or 60 or more laps under green. You’ve got to have a car that’s comfortable and that has a lot of adjustment to it. It is definitely giving me the feel I want.”

Gordo Picks Tony: It took Gordon less than a second to make his pick for the Indianapolis 500: Tony Stewart. Perhaps that’s odd, considering Stewart and Gordon have had a few well-publicized on-track incidents the past two years.

“It’s one of those things where you would typically think you’d (pick) an IRL regular that knows those cars and has been running those cars for the past couple of years, but then Juan Montoya threw that all out the window last year,” Gordon said. “I think Chip Ganassi knows how to put a good strong effort out there and that Tony Stewart is as good as anybody out there to get that car around there. If the race starts on time, and he doesn’t have to pull out with 10 laps to go leading the race, I think he might have ‘em.”

Stewart has said he’d get out of the car to make to Charlotte, even if he was leading with 10 laps to go.

“I think the only way he’s going to get out of the car if he’s leading… is if Joe Gibbs has a kill button on that car,” Gordon said.

Team Views: Several crew chiefs and drivers were polled – on a scale from one-to-10, with one being the best – about how their cars were running for the 600. There were some interesting answers.

Jimmy Fennig, Mark Martin’s crew chief: “How are we doing? Well, despite my ulcers, constipation, hemorrhoids and whatever … No. We’re getting better, headed in the right direction. I’d say we’re a one-and-a-half.”

Jimmy Spencer: “As a driver, I’m never happy. If we were a one, what would be the use of driving?”

Ray Evernham, car owner for Bill Elliott and Casey Atwood: “I haven’t known what I’m doing now for two years. The 19’s about average and the 9’s a little below average, but by tomorrow, I expect the No. 9 to be above average.”

Richard Childress, car owner for Kevin Harvick and Mike Skinner: “They’re about threes right now.”

300 Sponsorship: Officials of CarQuest Auto Parts and Lowe’s Motor Speedway announced Saturday that CarQuest will remain as the sponsor of the spring Busch race at LMS through the year 2006.

CarQuest has sponsored the race since 1997.

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