Compton Fills Foyts Cup

Stacy Compton already had a busy schedule planned for 2002, driving full-time for ST Motorsports on the NASCAR Busch Series. Now, those plans have been more than doubled.

Compton was named Friday as A.J. Foyt Racing’s Winston Cup driver for 2002, meaning Compton will attempt to duplicate Kevin Harvick’s feat of running both series this past year.

Both Foyt and Compton are entering their third year in Winston Cup, and both say they are ready to move to the next level of running up front and winning.

“Stacy has certainly shown that he has the ability to be competitive on the Winston Cup level, and I’m pleased that he’ll be driving for us this year,” Foyt said. “More important than that, my team is excited about working with Stacy.”

“I don’t care if it’s Indy Car or NASCAR racing, a race team has to find the right chemistry and pull together to be successful. For the past two years we’ve been laboring to put the right people in the right places to take this team to the next level. With Stacy as our driver, I believe we’ve taken a big step up in our ability to perform consistently in 2002 and beyond.”

Compton replaces Ron Hornaday, who was fired last month. Hornaday finished 38th in the points in his rookie season but failed to qualify for four races. His best finish was ninth at Las Vegas early in the year.

Hornaday was Foyt’s fourth driver in two years, as Mike Bliss started off the 2000 season before being temporarily replaced by Dick Trickle and then by Rick Mast.

“I’m extremely excited to work with Team Conseco and to work for a racing legend like A.J. Foyt,” Compton said. “A.J. Foyt is a guy that I watched growing up. He was one of those drivers in the same class as (Richard) Petty or (Dale) Earnhardt, in that you knew when the green flag dropped he was going to be coming and when the checkered flag dropped he was going to be there, and it was going to be exciting.”

Compton drove for Melling Racing for two years, but the team lost sponsorship and likely won’t run full-time in 2002. Compton began to look elsewhere and landed the No. 59 Busch Series ride last month.

He finished 33rd in the Winston Cup points standings, winning two poles – both at Talladega – and posting a best finish of 10th in the Daytona 500. He failed to qualify for two races and had eight DNFs.

“We’re both in our third year of Winston Cup,” Compton said of he and Foyt. “I don’t care who you are, when you enter your first year you just don’t have a clue about what goes into Winston Cup racing.

“During the second year you feel like you’ve gotten your feet wet, and you’ve got a feel for the tracks and how they react to sun and shade, and that’s really your first year of experience. Then you come to where we are now, in the third year, and we’ll be going back to tracks where we’ve run 500, 1,000-plus miles. I feel like we’ll be ready to compete.”

Compton’s signing is the final full-time puzzle to open Winston Cup rides. With the Daytona 500 a little more than a month away, only Melling’s No. 92 and Andy Petree Racing’s No. 33 are open, but neither team has sponsorship.

The drivers who changed teams for the 2002 season are: Jimmy Spencer to Chip Ganassi Racing, Joe Nemechek to Haas/Carter Motorsports, Dave Blaney to Jasper Motorsports, Hut Stricklin to Bill Davis Racing, Jeremy Mayfield to Evernham Motorsports, Casey Atwood to Ultra/Evernham Motorsports, Mike Skinner to Morgan-McClure Motorsports and Robby Gordon to Richard Childress Racing.

Robert Pressley’s fan club website reported that he was going to run Melling’s car in the Daytona 500, but an official announcement hasn’t been made. One is expected sometime next week.

Foyt owns cars in the Indy Racing League (Eliseo Salazar and Donnie Beechler) and in the Busch Series (Larry Foyt).

“A.J. has put all the resources in place for us to be very competitive, from the in-house motor program, to the personnel that are in place, to the way the Busch Series team will be able to work with the Winston Cup team,” Compton said.

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