Winston Cup Preview Notebook

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Some notes and quotes from the annual T. Wayne Robertson Winston Cup Series Preview Saturday:

When Hut Stricklin left Donlavey Racing late last year, he took the team’s sponsor, Hills Bros. Coffee, with him. Now, Stricklin is driving the No. 23 Dodge for Bill Davis Racing, and Hills Bros. is enjoying the prominence of sponsoring a car for a multi-car team.

When that happened, Stricklin was maligned by some for “stealing” Donlavey’s sponsor. That was far from the truth, Stricklin said Saturday.

“I just want to kind of clear the air about that, or set the record straight,” Stricklin said. “Last year, Hills Bros. sat down with (team owner) Junie (Donlavey) and had a meeting with him, and basically they said they wanted the team to move to the Charlotte (N.C.) area because they thought that’s where they’d be able to sell more coffee.

“Well, Junie just did not want to do that. He said that he had started the team in Richmond and had the team there for so many years, and that he wasn’t going to move the team. That’s when the relationship sort of fell apart. They still wanted to stick with me as a driver, and when I left, collectively we had a choice of teams to go with. Fortunately Bill and Gail Davis welcomed us with open arms, and we’re very pleased to be a part of the Bill Davis Racing organization.”

Stricklin said there were some hard feelings between himself and Donlavey, but that the relationship has mended and that it was a difficult time for everybody involved. Donlavey has since secured a primary sponsor for his No. 90 Ford in the C.F. Sauer Company.

“It was really tough to have to go through all of that,” Stricklin said. “I never wanted any of it to happen. But everything has worked out for the best, I think, for everybody involved.”

Junior As Popular As Ever
A female fan bid $2,800 for a cardboard cutout of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and a kiss from NASCAR’s heartthrob was included.

“I have been told I’m a good kisser,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I don’t see anybody paying $2,800 to kiss you guys.”

Much has been made of Earnhardt Jr.’s fervent parties, but he said Saturday he’s no different than any other driver.

“I like to have fun, and I do it responsibly,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I party with my friends, but I tell you what, I see a lot of drivers out there partying the same time out there partying. I don‘t keep it so private.

“I do it responsibly. I know when I need to straighten my ass because I’ve a race to run or if I’ve got to be (somewhere). I didn’t go out last night. Friday night – who in the hell ain’t out having a good time? I stayed at the house because I had to come here.”

Deer Hunting, 101
Elliott Sadler and Ward Burton traded deer-hunting stories Saturday, much to the delight of the media.

“I can’t tell you how many deer I got in case some of ya’ll know any game wardens,” Sadler said. “But we had a good year.

“The way I do it is a whole lot more fair than the way Ward does it. It’s a lot harder.”

“You’ve got 50 dogs chasing one damn deer,” Burton said.

“We usually agree on a lot of things, but deer hunting is not one of them,” Sadler said. “He’d rather bait ‘em and seed ‘em and tie ‘em to a chain and shoot ‘em.”

Sadler, by the way, holds the unofficial record for most South Boston (Va.) Speedway bologna burgers eaten in one sitting.

“The bologna burger record is still at 16,” Sadler said. “Anybody who wants to try to break that, they’re welcome to. I’m a lot smarter than I used to be. I’m never going to try to eat that many again.”

Kenseth Busch Team Status
Amazing at it is, Matt Kenseth may not be on the track at all in the NASCAR Busch Series in 2002.

Kenseth's No. 17 Reiser Enterprises Chevy team, which has had a great deal of success in the Busch Series over the past few years, has been unable to secure a sponsor for the 2002 season, and Kenseth said the team will not race at all without financial backing.

Visine, Kenseth's sponsor for the past two years in the Busch Series, did not return for the upcoming campaign.

"I just talked to (team owner) John Reiser today and as of this point, we don't have a sponsor," said Kenseth, who won four Busch races in 2000 but slipped to just one victory a year ago but with 12 top-five finishes. "I know they're not prepared or equipped to run any races without sponsorship. Right now we're looking for a sponsor for that team, and if not, we just won't run.

"I don't know if that means laying everybody off or shutting the shop down or what. I really don't know what that means at this point. It will really be a shame if we can't get a sponsor for the car because I've been racing for that team for about five years now and we've had a lot of success. Hopefully we can find a sponsor so we can keep that thing going."

It’s an Attorneys’ World
Mark Martin didn’t like NASCAR’s rule raising the minimum age in the Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series, saying his 10-year-old son Matt wouldn’t be able to run those series until he turns 18.

“I was real disappointed, obviously,” Martin said. “Matt was, too.”

But Martin understood.

“The thing you have to remember is I live in my little world,” Martin said. “I don’t live in NASCAR’s world, in NASCAR attorneys’ world. There’s a lot more too this than little me saying, ‘Gosh, that’s such a shame that 16-year-olds can’t race NASCAR.’”

Ricky Rudd, The Family Dog?
One of the negatives of Ricky Rudd’s athroscopic surgery on his back was that he couldn’t sit down so pressure wouldn’t be on his spinal column.

“I could stand up, I could walk, lay down, but I couldn’t sit down for two weeks,” Rudd said. “I had to eat every meal standing up or laying down. The doctor never said I had to lay in bed, so I took about one day of that, and I was pretty hyper.”

He and wife Linda “rode all over the place for two weeks,” but Rudd had to lay down in the back of their vehicle.

“Linda would open up the hatch and let me out, and I’d roll out like onto the pavement like a family dog,” Rudd said.

Benson: First Victory is Coming
There were five first-time winners on the Winston Cup Series, and many were surprised that Johnny Benson wasn’t one of them. Benson, though, wasn’t jealous of Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Craven or Robby Gordon.

“It’s not frustrating to see them win,” Benson said. “It’s great we’ve had a lot of first-time winners. We’re disappointed we weren’t one of them. By the same token, we’ve been competitive week-in and week-out and running up front. That’s more important to me to make sure we’ve run consistently.”

Benson said he doesn’t want to win while sacrificing consistency. Winning and running 30th in the points is not what he wants to do.

“We’ll get our wins,” Benson said. “I’m more happy about running in the Top 10 and sometimes in the Top 5 than I would be just to win a race. We’ll win our race and get where we need to be.”

Wallace Wants to Win Daytona
Rusty Wallace struggled last week during testing at Daytona International Speedway, but the eternal optimist in him won’t allow him to frown – even with Fords struggling, too.

“I never go into the Daytona 500 thinking I can’t win it,” Wallace said. “I’ll be one of the most boisterous guys down there if things aren’t right (with the Ford). I know Dale Earnhardt, he was the king of that. I remember him jumping up and down, screaming, ‘If Bill Sr. knew this, he’d roll over in his grave.’ I might be using that same term.”

Wallace has never won at Daytona in his 17-year career.

“I’ve won just about everywhere except Daytona,” Wallace said. “I should’ve won Daytona three or four times, but I didn’t do it. Hopefully, this will be the year. I’ve got a great team, a great teammate, good horsepower, a good car, good pit crew, all the resources we need to get the job done. We’ve just got to get all the moons lined up at the right angle to win this thing.”

Harvick The Target
Kevin Harvick’s name came up on more than one occasion Saturday. Seems he ruffled a few feathers last year, and Winston Cup drivers don’t easily forget.

Harvick and Robby Gordon tangled at Sears Point last year, spoiling a possible Gordon victory. The two are now teammates at Richard Childress Racing.

“Kevin knows he has one coming,” Gordon said. “It’s OK.”

Gordon was kidding. Maybe. But Elliott Sadler, who called Harvick a “great race car driver,” wasn’t when he talked about the future. Sadler was angry last year when he and Harvick tangled in two races, and even though he said post-race comments were a bit hasty, Sadler laid down a warning.

“If people are going to push me, I think I’m big enough that I can push back,” Sadler said.

Hermie Sadler Has ‘Cool Sponsor’
Sadler said older brother Hermie has a “cool sponsor” lined up for the Winston Cup races at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2002, but Elliott didn’t want to spoil the upcoming announcement.

“He’d probably kill me if I told ya’ll,” said Elliott, who did mention Hermie’s other sponsors.

Hermie, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, will run 10 Winston Cup races with sponsorship from the Virginia Lottery and the other sponsor and four Busch Series races with sponsorship from Little Trees.

Wanna Bet?
As Jimmy Spencer was leaving the podium during his press conference, he and Stacy Compton talked about the pole-winning speed for the Daytona 500 next month. They agreed to make a friendly wager, as Spencer said it would take a 48.5-second run and Compton a 48.0 run.

Once Spencer heard Compton’s prediction, Spencer said, “How much money do you want to put on that?”

Ask Me Again
Spencer has been impressed with Chip Ganassi Racing and its engineering department, saying its members stumped him this week at Daytona.

“The engineering staff is incredible,” Spencer said. “Never in my life have I been to a test, and I’ve been asked about stuff, and I was like, ‘I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.’”

How Old Is Schrader?
Ken Schrader is only 46 years old, but he poked fun at his age when asked a question about NASCAR’s recent growth.

“I don’t see a change from last year or the year before,” Schrader said. “From when I started in 190-shit, it’s changed a lot.”

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