Chicago Notebook: Friday

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JOLIET, Ill. - Slowly but surely, right before his own eyes, Jeff Green may be seeing a second NASCAR Busch Series title slip away from him. And there’s very little he can do about it.

Green, who is expected to be named driver of the Richard Childress-owned AOL Chevrolet in 2002 at a press conference Saturday morning, is struggling. Following last week’s engine failure and subsequent 31st-place finish at Watkins Glen, the series’ defending champion has fallen 302 points behind Kevin Harvick in the championship chase, a far cry from this time a year ago, when his role was reversed.

Three of the past four races, however, have produced finishes of 29th or worse, and Green has slipped to fourth place in the Busch Series standings heading into Saturday’s inaugural Hills Bros. Coffee 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, where he’ll start from the ninth position.

Friday during qualifying, Ryan Newman won the pole for the race, followed by Jimmy Spencer, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Bobby Hamilton Jr.

“We’ve just stubbed our toes these past few weeks,” Green said. “We’ve beaten ourselves. We’ve proven we had the best car at several of those races, but we messed up. Whether it was me or someone else, we just have to regain our focus and move forward. Address the issues and make the changes.

“We won’t change our goals in trying to win each practice, qualifying and the race each weekend. However, there will have to be a big turnaround in points for us to win another championship this year. We weren’t able to take risky chances to win races last year. We may be able to be a little more aggressive in taking that chance to win now.”

At this point of the season a year ago, Green had four victories. He’s won but two races in 2001.

Fast… Early: The leader in Friday’s morning practice - and then later in qualifying - for the Busch Series was Ryan Newman. His fast lap of 183.705 mph was 0.027 seconds faster than Kevin Harvick. Third through fifth fastest in practice were Bobby Hamilton Jr., Greg Biffle and Mike Skinner.

Four Inductees: Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Jr., Glen Wood and A.J. Foyt are the 2001 inductees into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame in Darlington, S.C.

They will be officially inducted on Sept. 1 in Darlington.

Davey Remembered: Eight years ago on this date, Davey Allison was killed in a helicopter accident at Talladega.

Allison, the son of NASCAR legend Bobby Allison, won 14 Winston Cup events and twice finished third in the points standings.

Skinner Skids: Winston Cup driver Mike Skinner christened the Chicagoland Speedway third-turn wall in Friday’s final practice session. Unfortunately for Skinner, the Lowe’s Monte Carlo lost in the crash was the RCR team’s favorite chassis. Skinner finished 12th at Pocono, 10th in the Winston Open and 11th in the Coca-Cola 600 with the chassis.

Our Guy: RacingOne columnist Rick Benjamin has signed on to anchor NBC’s telecasts of the American Le Mans Series beginning with the July 22 race at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Don't worry folks, Rick will continue his columns exclusively on RacingOne.

Purvis Gets Busch Gig: Jeff Purvis has landed the Richard Childress Racing/Brant Motorsports No. 21 Busch Series ride for the upcoming events at Gateway International Raceway (July 21) and Pikes Peak International Raceway (July 28). Purvis will substitute for Mike Skinner, who will concentrate solely on his Winston Cup program with RCR.

Purvis has run 17 Busch Series races this season, earning one top-five and six top-10 finishes. He was released from Joe Gibbs Racing earlier this month when the team decided to go with a single-car Busch Series effort due to the lack of sponsorship.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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