New Rides For Compton Leffler
December 6, 2001 | 11:00 P.M. EST
Compton spent two years in Winston Cup with Melling Racing, but team owner Mark Melling lost his sponsor and was unable to secure another for 2002. He recently laid off many employees, and the team’s status for next year is uncertain.
Compton, though, will be driving the No. 59 Chevys for ST Motorsports and could have a Winston Cup job, too. He is still hoping to land a ride in NASCAR’s top series.
But ST Motorsports offered a firm paycheck, and Compton took it.
“I’m excited about joining ST Motorsports and having the opportunity to compete weekly in the Busch Series,” said Compton. “I ran the last race of the season for the team, and if what I saw is any indication of what I’ll be working with, I think we will be a legitimate threat.
“The team definitely has all the pieces to the puzzle. We just need to put them together.”
ST Motorsports used five drivers in its cars in 2001, starting the season with Rich Bickle before turning to Mark Green, Mike Chase, Jeff Purvis and Compton. The season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was Compton’s first career start in the Busch Series, and he finished 10th.
Compton also scored four Top 10s in four Craftsman Truck Series races. He swept the Winston Cup poles at Talladega Superspeedway this season, posting a best finish of 10th in the Daytona 500.
“I’ve followed Stacy’s racing career and I’m impressed with his accomplishments,” team owner Tad Geschickter said. “We think he will help us reach a higher level of success and establish the consistency we need week to week.”
Compton’s career started in go-karts, and he progressed to Late Model Stock Cars. In 1998, he won two NCTS races, and in 1999, finished fourth in the final NCTS points standings. He ran the final four Winston Cup races of that season with Melling, moving to that team full-time in 2000.
Rudd’s Surgery Successful
Ricky Rudd had successful athroscopic surgery on his back Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. and is recovering at his home in Cornelius, N.C.
Team spokesman Steve Post said Rudd had cartilage damage between vertebra in his back from years of running into walls in a stock car. Rudd, who finished fourth in the Winston Cup points standings in 2001, had experienced some pain late in the year, and underwent the surgery.
Doctors cleaned up the scar tissue, and though Rudd is still early in his recovery, the doctors were happy with the results. Rudd will get plenty of rest this month and should be back to normal by the first of the year.
In the meantime, Rudd cannot sit during his recovery, meaning he has to stand or lie down.
Leffler Officially in No. 2 Truck
Jason Leffler was officially announced as the driver of Ultra Motorsports No. 2 Dodges for the 2002 Craftsman Truck Series season. Leffler, who was let go from Chip Ganassi’s Winston Cup team, replaces Scott Riggs, who moves to the Busch Series.
“This will be a breath of fresh air for me,” Leffler said. “Ron Weiner and everyone at ASE have supported my career since my open-wheel days, and to finally be able to come home, so to speak, is really exciting. Ultra Motorsports is a fantastic organization, and (owners) Jim and Marlene Smith have been like family to me for a long time.
“To be able to work with a veteran team like the ‘Ultra Bad Boys’ headed up by Tim Kohuth was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I’ve been spending a lot of time at the shop getting to know everyone and all of the guys are already treating me like I’ve been there for years.”
Leffler had one top-10 finish in his rookie Winston Cup season, but did win a pole at Kansas Speedway. He came to NASCAR’s top series after a year in the Busch Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Leffler carried Team ASE sponsorship as he climbed the ranks in USAC, winning three straight USAC Midget championships.
Ultra Motorsports won a combined 12 NCTS races with Riggs and Ted Musgrave in 2001.
“I’ve known Jason for a long time and I’ve always thought the world of him,” Jim Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a great situation for everyone involved. He’s polite, articulate, and I know he will be a great representative (for our sponsors).
“All the guys are getting to know Jason, and I know it’s going to work out great. Tim Kohuth and Ted Musgrave will be able to guide Jason in the right direction, and the crew will give him great stops like they always have. We have all the right pieces in place. 2002 is going to be a fantastic year for Ultra Motorsports.”
Next Up: Testing at Daytona
The phrase “pitchers and catchers report” is music to the ears of baseball fans, who yearn for the return of their sport. To race fans, “testing at Daytona” sounds just as sweet. Winston Cup cars will be split into two groups in January at Daytona International Speedway, those finishing with an odd number in the points standings and those with an even number.
The “odds” test Jan. 7-9, with Jan. 10 as a rain date, with the “evens” a week later, Jan. 14-16, with Jan. 17 as a rain date. Among the odd-numbered drivers are Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, Sterling Marlin, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Some of the evens are Tony Stewart, Rudd, Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton.
In previous seasons, teams were split into manufacturers groups, but this year, NASCAR decided to change things around. The two sessions are all the time Cup teams get before Speedweeks.
“Anytime you can test and try to get better, it’s very, very important,” said Mike Skinner, who takes over the No. 4 Chevy for Morgan-McClure Motorsports next season.
Other NASCAR series will test at Daytona in January: the Goody’s Dash Series (Jan. 12-13), the Craftsman Truck Series (Jan. 18-20) and the Busch Series (odd Jan.21-22, even Jan. 24-25).
New Paint Scheme for Benson
Among the many changes for the 2002 season are paint schemes for several teams. Johnny Benson’s is one such team, and the MBV Motorsports team unveiled its new paint scheme this week.
“I really like what Valvoline came up with,” Benson said. “This new scheme gives our team its own identity, plus I think our fans are really going to like it. It’s a little bit different than what the Valvoline car has looked like in the past, but I think everyone likes the change.”
Jim Rocco, the senior vice president for Valvoline and the listed owner of Benson’s car, reviewed more than a dozen designs before settling on the final choice.
“We took our time and listened to a lot of people,” Rocco said. “This was a tough decision, but we wanted something that would please our millions of customers, race fans, and our race team.”
Benson isn’t the only driver who will have a new look in 2002. Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Harvick, Hut Stricklin, Robby Gordon, Ken Schrader, Jimmy Spencer will all have new designs, and there could be others.
Brewco to Use BDR Engines
The Brewco Motorsports Busch Series team has contracted to use engines built by Bill Davis Racing in 2002. Jamie McMurray’s No. 27 and Jeff Purvis’ No. 37 will be powered by engines built at BDR’s shop in High Point, N.C.
“During the last several races of the 2001 Busch Series season, we tried everybody’s engines in our cars,” Brewco President and General Manager Todd Wilkerson said. “Bill Davis was the best overall to work with, and we’re delighted to work out a program with them for next season. It’s not just the engine deal, it’s an opportunity to tie in with Bill (Davis) and his Winston Cup programs as well. In the brief period of time we’ve worked with Bill Davis, we’ve been able to establish a great working relationship.”
Marlin Suit Raised $2,550
The driving suit worn by Sterling Marlin in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway raised $2,550. That’s the amount Chip Ganassi Racing donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through an online auction on E-bay.
The winning bidder was Jody Gable of Cobleskill, N.Y. Gable plans to display the Target suit at the Dodge showroom of the car dealership he owns.
“I heard about the auction through an email from Chrysler,” Gable said. ”I know how these auctions work so I waited until the last couple days and got it with a minute left in the auction.
“One of the reasons I bid in the auction is because the proceeds were going to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. We’re active in charitable contributions, and I was glad that the money was going to a good cause.”
NASCAR Goes IMAX
NASCAR announced a deal last week to partner with the IMAX Corporation to produce an IMAX film about stock car racing. Production begins next year, with the film to be released in IMAX theaters in 2003.
IMAX film technology is enhanced by a six-channel, multi-speaker sound system that is projected onto large rectangular screens, up to eight stories high.
“As we look to continue the growth of NASCAR to a world-wide audience, a NASCAR-IMAX film is perfect in bringing together two of the biggest brands in sports and entertainment,” NASCAR vice president of broadcasting Paul Brooks. “The sights, sounds, speed and passion that fuel NASCAR make us a natural fit for an IMAX experience, and most importantly, the audience will see up close the real life stars of our sport who compete week in and week out in NASCAR racing across America.”
There are more than 220 IMAX theaters operating in 30 countries.
“We are so pleased to have entered into this important partnership with NASCAR,” said Greg Foster, IMAX’s President, Filmed Entertainment. “This remarkable sport is a perfect fit for what IMAX does best – putting the audience in the middle of the action. NASCAR has captured the imagination of fans globally because of its energy, excitement, culture, sights and sounds and this IMAX film will translate the experience onto the giant screen.”