Dover Notebook: Saturday

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DOVER, Del. - Petty Enterprises and Melling Racing, two struggling Dodge teams, will form an alliance in an effort to pool resources and perhaps get more competitive.

The three Petty teams are all out of the top 30 in points and have failed to qualify for a combined eight races this season. John Andretti and Kyle Petty both missed the Coca-Cola 600 last week, while Petty went home Friday after not having enough points to make the MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway.

Stacy Compton, Melling’s driver, is 31st in points, with a best finish of 10th in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“We’re really looking forward to aligning ourselves with the Pettys,” Compton said. “We’ve met with them several times. We’re going to align ourselves heavily with the Pettys. I think that’s going to be good for us, and I think it’s going to be good for them. I think we’ve got some things we can offer them, and they certainly have some things they can offer us.”

Much of the new alignment will be about sharing information learned from test sessions, Compton said.

“Hopefully we can gain some of those resources we’re looking for and be a competitive team,” Compton said. “It’s starting already. It’s going to take a little while to put in place, but I’m pretty excited about it. We’ll send one of our guys when they go testing, and they’ll send one of their guys when we go testing. We’re going to go to Chicago on Monday and Tuesday and hopefully what we learn there we can let them know, and it’ll help them.”

Wednesday, the Pettys made a slight reorganization, naming Chris Hussey as race operations manager and increased research and development head Doug Hewitt’s role.

Hussey, who is also Petty’s crew chief, is supposed to make sure the three teams, the engine shop and R&D group communicate well with each other.

“We’re moving forward. We’re moving ahead,” Petty said. “We’re making whatever changes we need to make to be competitive and to run up front.”

Rain Again: Rain, rain, go away….

Just as it did Friday for qualifying for both the NASCAR Busch Series and Winston Cup Series events, wet weather hampered racing activities Saturday at Dover Downs International Speedway.

After the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event was completed, the Busch Series MBNA Platinum 200 began approximately an hour following, only to be red-flagged for another rain shower after only two laps.

Approximately two hours later, at 3:05 p.m., the sun came out over DDIS and drivers were called to their cars. The cars went back onto the track at 3:30 p.m.

Jeff Green, the series points leader, started from the pole with Kevin Harvick in tow.

The rains came once again with approximately 60 laps left and the race was delayed for another half hour, but the Busch cars got back on the track at approximately 5:20 with no further rain in sight.

Tough Choice: Jeff Green has an interesting decision to make: Stay in the Busch Series, where he’s been tremendously successful, or move to Winston Cup, taking a chance he won’t be a winner.

Published reports say car owner Richard Childress wants Green to drive a third RCR Winston Cup car next season. Green, the 2000 Busch Series champion and current points leader, said Childress hasn’t told him he’s the top choice.

“I don’t know what Richard’s got available,” Green said. “I’m sure if there is something available, I’d be a candidate for it. But I’m sure there’s other guys that are candidates, too.”

Even if Childress picks Green, the driver isn’t sure he wants to make a move.

“If I was 20 years old, it’d be different,” Green said. “But I’ll be 39 in September. I’ve got to focus on if I want to make a change – I specify ‘if’ – if I want to make a change, what do I want to do?

“(Crew chief) Harold Holly and the guys on my ppc race team do a great job for me. I’m comfortable with those people. I’m a friend to every one of them, and we’ve worked together for three years now. For me to get away from that, it would have to be a really, really good deal.”

Green has driven one Winston Cup race this season for Childress – at California – with sponsorship from America Online. He was supposed to race again at Dover on Sunday, but with qualifying cancelled because of rain, Green didn’t make the race.

“I think Richard would be a good deal for me,” Green said. “When you come to Dover and you’re in the Top 10 on the practice sheets in the Winston Cup Series, it makes you think a little harder.

“I don’t know. Saturday’s pretty good racing. I love racing Busch races and love rolling into victory lane. I’m not saying I couldn’t in Winston Cup, but there’s a lot more people that can.”

Green said a decision would be made with the next couple of weeks.

“There’s a time limit: Nestle wants to know,” Green said. “The next two or three weeks is going to be the time limit. I haven’t really talked to Richard about it. We’re going to sit down and talk here in the next two or three days to see what he’s got on his mind.”

Harvick Back in NCTS?: Winston Cup rookie Kevin Harvick is trying to put together a NCTS team next season for himself and Rick Carelli.

“We’re putting the shop up and trying to put something together,” Harvick said. “Maybe I’ll run two or three races next year. I’m trying to put Rick Carelli in it for the whole year. If we can put it all together, it’ll be a fun deal.”

Harvick raced in the NCTS in 1999 but didn’t win a race.

“To tell you the truth, it’s more of a personal vendetta, just to go back and try and win a truck race because I never have done that,” Harvick said. “We’ve won in everything else. That’s the main reason for going back and doing it.”

Carelli has “done more for me in my racing career than probably anybody but my father.”

“It’ll mean a lot to me if I get a chance to help him,” Harvick said. “We’re not going to do it unless we get a sponsor. We’ve got a couple things sitting there waiting to see what happens.”

Riggs Popular: One of the by-products of leading the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings is rumors about other teams trying to hire you away.

Scott Riggs has heard them, too.

“Just rumors,” Riggs said. “Definitely, other people have approached me and talked to me, but I keep telling them the same story: I’m going to stay focused on trying to win this championship this year. Then I feel like the real opportunities will come forth.

“Jim Smith (Riggs’ NCTS owner) has definitely given me some great opportunities by telling me he wants to stay on with his organization. His Winston Cup team, he looks to the future and wants me to be a part of that future.”

Mike Wallace drives for Smith’s Winston Cup team, but Riggs could become a teammate in the future. Riggs’ contract with Smith also runs out at the end of this year.

“It’s pretty open as far as anything I want to do or anything he wants to do,” Riggs said. “If we agree on it, we can do anything we want to for the future. Right now, the sky’s the limit.

“You wouldn’t hear any rumors about Scott Riggs if he wasn’t leading the points. If we were fifth in the points, nobody would even give you a call. Anybody who’s leading the points at this point is going to get all kind of rumors started about them.”

Riggs, in his second full season on the NCTS, has one victory and seven top-five finishes in the seven races this year. He turned down an offer from Roush Racing to join Smith’s Ultra Motorsports team.

Riggs said he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to leave Smith’s team or not.

“I haven’t really given it much thought,” Riggs said. “I know what I want. I don’t know who has the best offer out there and where I might wind up. Of course, everybody’s ultimate goal is to be in the Winston Cup Series sometime. Right now, I’m trying to take baby steps.

“If we can overcome the Truck Series and put a championship trophy in Jim Smith’s hands, then we’ll have some other opportunities. We’ll sit back after that, take a breather, then try to figure out what direction we might want to go.”

Labonte Milestone: Sunday’s MBNA 400 Platinum 400 marks the 10th anniversary of Bobby Labonte’s first Winston Cup start. Labonte came to Dover with his own car, starting 33rd and finishing 34th.

“We had something like eight guys that worked on both our Busch car and the Winston Cup car that weekend,” said Labonte, who won the Busch Series championship that year. “We brought the Busch car up here, and then we had a pickup truck and an enclosed trailer for the Winston Cup car.”

Labonte picked Dover because “they never had enough cars up here at that time, so it was the best place to make a race. I wasn’t stupid.” But his Winston Cup career was put on hold later that year.

“We were planning to run five Winston Cup races that year,” Labonte said. ”But after the first two we said, ‘You know, I don’t think we need to be doing this anymore.’ We just couldn’t concentrate on the Busch Series and that kind of effort at the same time. We were trying to bite off more than we could chew.”

Reverse Psychology: Most Winston Cup teams love being at the top of the speed charts after each practice or qualifying session. But James Ince, crew chief for Johnny Benson, doesn’t want to see No. 10 out front in Happy Hour.

“We get scared if we’re the fastest car in Happy Hour,” Ince said. “That’s not something we want to be. We want to make sure that we’ve got a race car that is in the Top 15, that is adjustable, that is consistent and that runs good lap times.

“A lot of times that you get a lot of speed in a race car might just be because of conditions, it might be where the sun is, it might be what the air temperature is. When you start the race, you may not have those things going for you.

“We try to build in a safety barrier where our car might not be ‘rocket-ship’ fast starting the race, but it’s going to be there. That allows us a whole race to make it faster as we go.”

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