Icharlotte Notebook:/I Friday

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CONCORD, N.C. – Jimmy Spencer leaving may be the best thing for the Haas-Carter Motorsports team, Todd Bodine hinted this weekend.

Spencer and Bodine, teammates for the first time this season, often use different setups, so there’s little worthwhile interaction. If co-owner Travis Carter can hire a driver who can work with Bodine, the team should benefit.

“When I spoke to Travis a little bit, it’s a good opportunity for us to take the team in a little different direction and make some changes within the organization that we feel we need to make, and, hopefully, make a positive into a negative,” Bodine said.

Spencer and Bodine are on the front row for Sunday’s UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, but they are using two totally different setups. In effect, Bodine and Spencer are separate teams, not much different than, say, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.

“Every driver is different, and every one has a different liking,” Bodine said. “They like different shocks, they like a different spring combination and it’s really a shame he has decided to leave because as everyone’s seen this year, if it wasn’t for some bad luck, they would probably be in the Top 5 in points right now. They’ve got good chemistry. They’ve really got their act together this year and it’s showing up on the race track.

“Unfortunately, he’s decided to do something different, and everybody will go their separate ways, but it is a case of chemistry. Any race team is that way. If you look at all the successful teams, there’s reason for it and you look down from the driver to the crew chief, to the car chief, to the guy that sweeps the floor, they’ve got something going on that’s special and that’s what makes a good race team.”

Bodine said Spencer made the decision because Carter couldn’t offer a three-year deal like his new car owner.

“I know it was a hard decision for him,” Bodine said. “He’s got a lot of respect for Travis. They’ve had a long relationship together. They’ve had some success and they’ve had some failures, but they’ve been through it all together.

“The only thing Travis had to offer was one more year. The deals he’s looked at and the one he’s gonna take is a three-year deal. When everything shakes down in the end you have to take care of your family, and for three years he’s gonna be able to do that without worrying about it. So, I think that’s what it boils down to.”

Alexander’s body will have autopsy
The body of Blaise Alexander will undergo an autopsy at the North Carolina State Medical Examiner’s office in Chapel Hill, N.C. Alexander was killed Thursday night at the end of the EasyCare 100.

According to a track statement, doctors at the speedway said Alexander’s injuries were “clinically consistent with those of a basilar-skull fracture,” but the official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner’s office.

NASCAR officials have examined Alexander’s car. ARCA cars are Winston Cup-type cars, and most would be legal for Sunday’s race.

Alexander’s death was the fifth on a NASCAR superspeedway since last May, and all were strikingly similar. Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin Jr., Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt and Alexander all struck the wall at a high rate of speed with the right-front of their cars.

“I’ve said it a thousand times: one death is too many, and we’ve had way too many,” Jeff Burton said. “It’s getting old. It was old really quick, and it’s getting older and older and older.”

Speedway president H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler made another call for the “Humpy Bumper,” a unidirectional graphite piece that is designed to take the force of frontal impacts.

“As I’ve said in the past, we must do whatever is necessary to eliminate fatal accidents from our sport,” Wheeler said. “If this means expediting some of the new technology being tested, then let’s start using it now.”

Show me the trophy!
Spencer seemed to be more happy with LMS’s crystal trophy than anything else Thursday night after winning the pole. Spencer also won the pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but that paled in comparison to Thursday’s.

“I won a pole at Indianapolis, and it was an embarrassment for Indianapolis Motor Speedway not to give us a trophy and recognize it like RJ Reynolds and (LMS president) Humpy Wheeler and his staff has done, and that’s the bottom line,” Spencer said. “That is going on my mantle.”

Jarrett expects no problems
Dale Jarrett returned to his race car after a grinding crash Sunday at Kansas Speedway. He suffered a concussion and an apparent broken rib on his left side but qualified Thursday night without any problems.

“I feel good, like nothing ever happened really from that standpoint,” Jarrett said. “Physically, from the other side, I've got another day of rest and then a pretty easy day on Saturday, so I should be all right on Sunday.

“Getting in is the hard part, getting my ribs past my rib protectors is the hard part. Once I get settled into the seat, I don’t really have that much discomfort.”

Jarrett was knocked unconscious for a minute or two and doesn’t remember anything from moments before the impact until being in the hospital

“I kind of said to myself, ‘This is probably gonna hurt,’ and then it’s like somebody cut a switch off,” Jarrett said. “I don’t remember anything until I woke up in the hospital. How long that was from that point in time, I don’t know. Apparently, I was knocked out somewhere between a minute and two minutes because apparently I came to and was telling them not to cut the roof off because that would worry my family.

“Kelley was telling me how sweet that was when I got home, and I said, ‘You know, I’d like to take credit for that, but I don’t remember it.’ She said, ‘Well, I’m glad your sub-conscious is thinking of us anyway.’ ”

Rick Mast is standing by for Jarrett for Sunday’s 500-mile race.

“Yeah, because I don’t know what to expect,” Jarrett said. “They said if it was a full week that I had been recovering from this, then it would probably be no problem. Four days, though, they’re saying I may be pushing it. I’m cleared to drive. They don’t think there’s any problem, but it is up to me to decide when I get in the car if there’s any discomfort there whatsoever.”

Bodine drives No. 11 Busch car
Todd Bodine, who has won two Busch Series races in 2001, was behind the wheel of the No. 11 Highline Performance Group Chevy this weekend at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Bodine won in Buckshot Jones’ car at Las Vegas and Rockingham, N.C.

“Charlotte is a great track to return to Busch Series competition,” Bodine said. “This was a last-minute deal, and (car owner) Armando (Fitz) called needing someone to drive this weekend. I’ve known Armando for quite awhile and wanted to help him out.”


Houston joins Herzog
The Herzog Motorsports Busch Series team officially announced Andy Houston as its driver for next year, replacing Jimmie Johnson. Houston comes to Herzog from the PPI Motorsports Winston Cup team, which shut down operations after McDonald’s pulled its sponsorship of the team.

“Running 30th and struggling to make races isn’t fun,” Houston said of his Winston Cup season. “I feel like this is a great, competitive race team. Jimmie’s proven that this year. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue that. I feel like we will.”

Herzog Motorsports went through more than 200 resumes before setting on 15 drivers and then putting them through on-track testing. Crew chief Tony Liberati said he had drivers who had CART experience to one man who had just finished the Richard Petty Driving Experience call him wanting the ride.

“There some battles between myself and (owners) Randy and Stan (Herzog), trying to get the perfect guy,” Liberati said. “It was like all three of us trying to agree on one girlfriend. It was pretty tough to do.”

Quite a Long shot
Carl Long made the Coca-Cola 600 last year but got out of the car in favor of Darrell Waltrip, who failed to qualify for a race he’s won a record five times. That would have been Long’s first Winston Cup race, but he gave it up.

In 2001, Long had tried six times – and failed – to make races. His Mansion Motorsports team switched to a Dodge and got an engine from Petty Enterprises, and then went out and qualified for Sunday’s race.

“This is a brand new car,” Long said. “It’s the first new car I’ve ever driven. Kyle (Petty)
and them started talking about putting this together in May. I was just trying to ask for guidance. He said his engine program needed some help. He said if I could get a car put together than he’d let me do some R&D work with their engine stuff.”

The Pettys, of course, recently announced they will be getting engines next year from a new business that is an offshoot of Robert Yates’ engine company. Two Petty cars, Petty and Buckshot Jones, failed to make the race.

“The guys at Travis Carter’s team are still helping me,” Long said. “They’re helping me with the shocks. Kyle’s guys are helping me as well, so I had a choice. Norman Negre put the car together in his shop. I’ve got a piece like everybody else’s. The engine is better than anything I’ve ever ran.”


Fans can get names on No. 77 car
Fans who make a $50 donation to the Department of Defense Pentagon Relief Fund can have their names on the decklid of Robert Pressley’s car during the Pennzoil 400 race at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway later this year.

Jasper Motorsports’ sponsor, Jasper Engines & Transmissions, will match the first $20,000 donated.

“We are proud of those who have served, and are serving in our Armed Forces,” team owner Doug Bawel said. “Because of them, America is the ‘Home of the Free.’ This is our way, and that of our sponsors, of saluting them and saying ‘Thank you.’ ”

Four charities benefit from the Pentagon Relief Fund: the Air Force Aid Society September 11 Attack on America Fund, the Army Emergency Relief Society Pentagon Victims Fund, the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society Pentagon Assistance Fund and the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund.

Pressley’s car will also have a special paint scheme honoring veterans for that race.

“This is another great opportunity to help out those people victimized by the recent terrorist attacks as well as pay tribute to the Armed Forces,” Pressley said. ”We were proud to be able to raise money for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund in Dover and we look forward to being able to help out these worthy causes at Homestead. Our car will honor those people who have served in our country’s military, plus give the fans an opportunity to show their support and see their names on a Winston Cup Series car

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