Ipocono Notebook:/I Friday

LONG POND, Pa. – Robby Gordon will drive the No. 31 car for Richard Childress Racing for at least three more races, Childress said Friday morning.

Gordon replaced Mike Skinner last week at New Hampshire, and Skinner is still mending from injuries during the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Gordon will race this weekend at Pocono, next weekend at Indianapolis and then the road course at Watkins Glen. Skinner hopes his broken ankle will be healed in time to run at Michigan on Aug. 19.

“Robby’s going to run the 31 up until the Michigan race,” Childress said. “We’re going to see what Mike’s ankle is like. He took a violent blow down there. He thinks he can be back for Michigan. That’s what we’re shooting for. If not, we’ll try to have Robby in the car after that.”

Dr. Craig Hankins of Hankins Orthopedic Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., performed surgery on Skinner’s ankle, inserting two titanium screws to hold it in place. Skinner said the screws will be removed in six months to a year, but the bones should be healed before then.

“I will be back in the Lowe’s Chevrolet at Michigan,” Skinner said in a statement. “Dr. Hankins said I should be healed and on my way by then. I hate to sit out and not be at the track, but I need time now to heal and recover.”

Skinner won’t be at a race track before Michigan, preferring to rest at home instead of hobbling around the garage on crutches.

The accident also aggravated an old anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee. Skinner tore the ACL in a crash at Texas in 1998, leaving only part of the ligament left. Skinner said Dr. Hankins wasn’t sure if the Chicago crash tore it again, but Skinner doesn’t have an ACL in his left knee anymore.

“A lot of people live without an ACL, but the MCL is torn apart in my knee right now as well,” Skinner said. “(Dr. Hankins) tells me that the MCL helps the ACL support the knee on the other side and helps the knee from buckling. … But I will be able to drive again without repairing the ACL. The MCL will heal during the time I rest my ankle.

Childress wouldn’t say whether Gordon is a candidate to replace Skinner full-time in 2002 should the team decide to fire Skinner, which has been a hot rumor around the Winston Cup garage area in recent weeks.

“Right now, we’re concentrating on what we’ve got to do this year,” Childress said. “Robby is a talented driver. There are a lot of talented drivers. Right now, we’re concentrating on getting through these next few weeks.”

Skinner acknowledged that the decision to keep him might not be up to Childress. Instead, Lowe’s may have the final say.

“Richard is trying really hard to make it work between the two of us,” Skinner said. “Richard is in the racing business, and whether he wants me to drive the Lowe’s Chevrolet or not, he has to have the sponsor’s support for me as the driver.

“I totally understand if we can’t put something together. I really, really want to work things out at RCR.”

Childress said it was bad timing for Skinner to have the wreck when he did.

“It was such an untimely accident for Mike to have because of all the media and everything that’s going on around us,” Childress said. “To have that happen – another setback – is not really good.”

Dodge gets rules break
Starting with next weekend’s Brickyard 400, Dodge teams will be able to use a new front air dam that should help increase downforce. The air dam – the area underneath the bumper – can be extended 2 inches.

“It’ll help on our front downforce at all the downforce tracks,” said Michael Cipponeri, Dodge manager of motorsports labs. “It probably will not be implemented at the superspeedways like Daytona or Talladega.”

The modification is similar to one NASCAR granted Chevrolet last year. Dodge has yet to win a race in its return to Winston Cup this season.

“It does not give us any extra advantage over our competitors, over the other manufacturers,” Cipponeri said. “What it does is give us more of a level playing field and makes us more competitive with them. That’s something we’ve needed if you’ve been watching our results at the downforce tracks.”

Another Busch in trucks
Kyle Busch, the younger brother of Winston Cup driver Kurt Busch, will make the jump to the Craftsman Truck Series next weekend at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Kyle, only 16 years old, will drive the No. 99 Roush Racing truck at IRP. That’s the same truck Kurt drove to NCTS rookie-of-the-year honors last year.

“This is another angle to our development program,” Roush truck general manager Max Jones said. “We tested Kyle a couple of times throughout the season. He’s very good and very fast. We’re looking forward to getting him in the truck in Indy and seeing what he is capable of doing. Kyle has an excellent driving record for such a young driver.”

Kyle Busch won a late model race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this year in his first start in the series. Kurt turned the same trick back in 1997. Kyle has won three late model races in six starts this year, increasing his career win percentage to 46 with 67 victories on 145 races.

Buckshot backup
Buckshot Jones had to go to a backup car after crashing backwards into the Turn 1 wall in practice. Jones’ backup was an all-Petty blue car, and the team had to apply decals as well as prepare the mechanical parts of the car.

Team owner Richard Petty chipped in, helping the crew remove the air cleaner of the crashed car.

Hermie’s fan club: Hermie Sadler will try to slip in to the Brickyard 400 next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His younger brother, Elliott, would be ecstatic if the two got to race against each other.

“It would mean more to me than anything in the world,” Elliott Sadler said. “It would mean more to me to see him qualify at Indy than a lot of things that’s happened to me in racing. I’m the biggest Hermie Sadler fan on the planet. To see him make the Brickyard would be special.”

Pruett in 01 car at Watkins Glen
Scott Pruett will replace Jason Leffler at the Global Crossing at the Glen next month at Watkins Glen International. Leffler, a Winston Cup rookie for Chip Ganassi Racing, failed to qualify at Sears Point. Road racer Dorsey Schroeder joined the Ganassi team as a third car there, but the team will use only two cars at Watkins Glen.

“I have a lot of faith in Jason’s abilities, and I think he is going to be one of the top drivers in this series very soon,” Ganassi said. “Jason has shown continued improvement throughout the season on oval tracks. We would like him to continue to concentrate all of his efforts in that direction this season.”

Leffler will be back in the No. 01 at Michigan. Pruett, who drove Andy Petree Racing’s No. 33 at Sears Point to a 12th-place finish, won the pole for the Busch Series race at Watkins Glen earlier this month.

“I’ve competed against Chip for a number of years in CART, so it will be nice to finally be on his team,” Pruett said.

Millionaire’s club
Thirty drivers have already topped $1 million in earnings this season, and at least four drivers will reach that mark if they qualify for the Pennsylvania 500. Dave Blaney, Brett Bodine, Stacy Compton and Leffler are within $29,901 – the least a starter can earn – of $1 million in earnings.

As close as 1984, no driver won that much in a single season. Darrell Waltrip and Bill Elliott both did that in 1985, and it’s become commonplace since.

Already this year, five drivers have topped $2 million, and two others – Jeff Gordon and Michael Waltrip – are other the $4 million mark.

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