Inotebook:/I For Pits Sake

DARLINGTON, S.C. – NASCAR officials announced Saturday a new pit road procedure for next weekend’s races at Bristol Motor Speedway. The .533-mile high-banked track is the last facility that hosts Winston Cup and Busch Series races to have two pit roads, and that has presented problems, especially drivers who have to use the back pit.

For both the Winston Cup and Busch Series races at Bristol, the pace car will be stationed in Turn 3, instead of in Turn 1 as in prior events. Once the cars receive the yellow flag for a caution, the front and back pits will be closed, and the pace car will pick up the field in Turn 3.

Once the cars enter Turn 2, all lead-lap cars must enter the backstretch pits, even if they are pitting on the frontstretch. Cars pitting on the front pits will drive through the back pits, around the apron of the track and on to the frontstetch pits.

Cars on the backstretch will pit in their stalls, and then drive on the apron, through the frontstretch pits and back on the track in Turn 1. In effect, it makes for one pit road.

Once the lead lap cars are done pitting, the cars a lap or more down will follow the same procedure.

Under the green flag, the old rules still apply, as teams enter and exit their respective pit roads.

Caterpillar Back With Burton
Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton said sponsor Caterpillar would be back with the Bill Davis Racing team in 2003. The current three-year contract between the two entities is due to expire at the end of the 2002 campaign.

“Things have changed a lot out here in three years, but Caterpillar will be back next year,” Burton said. “We’ll have sponsorship we need to contend with the best of the best.”

Gordon Marital Problems
Jeff Gordon declined to comment Saturday afternoon on the divorce petition filed Friday by his wife Brooke in Palm Beach (Fla.) County Circuit Court, where the couple lived.

The two have been a high-profile couple since wedding seven years ago, but the relationship appears to be at a crossroads.

Gordon later said a press release would be issued Monday. According to the Palm Beach Post, which quoted the petition for divorce, the marriage is “irretrievably broken as a result of the husband’s marital misconduct.” The type of misconduct wasn’t listed.

Bodine Close to Hooters Deal?
Brett Bodine has had a one-race deal with Hooters Restaurants for the past two weeks – at Atlanta and Darlington – and his car is painted with orange numbers and striping. But Bodine could be close to a long-term deal with the sponsor.

“We’ve just got some areas we’ve got to button up to get this thing solidified for a long-term deal, but (Hooters president) Mr. (Robert) Brooks has certainly shown a strong interest in going forward and possibly even a multi-year deal,” Bodine said.

Bodine said he had to lay off 10 people since the start of the season because of a lack of sponsorship. He hopes to be able to start hiring them back as soon as possible. Bodine also said he has $1.2 million in unpaid sponsor bills since last year and $8.5 million since he and his wife Diane bought the team from Junior Johnson.

No Truck Race at Chicago?
NASCAR president Mike Helton said the scheduled Craftsman Truck Series race at Chicago Motor Speedway on Aug. 25 probably will not be run. The track announced before the season it was shutting down operations, putting the NCTS race in doubt.

“We’ve worked very hard very quickly,” Helton said. “The options are being eliminated. It’s getting down to not many options left. I’m not sure we’re going to be able to replace it for 2002. I won’t give up yet, but it doesn’t look very promising.”

Talladega Busch Race Gets 12 Extra Miles
The Busch Series race scheduled for April 20 at Talladega Superspeedway will be 12 miles longer, Michael Waltrip announced Saturday in a brief but comical press conference. Waltrip is sponsored by Aaron’s, the same company that will sponsor the Aaron’s 312.

“You might ask: Why 12 extra miles?” Waltrip said. “I hope you do. I’m sure you’ll want to write it down when I tell you why. There are three good reasons to shop at Aaron’s: 1. Guaranteed lowest price; 2. Everyone’s pre-approved; and 3. 12 months to pay. Get it? 3-12. We think that’s cool.”

Aaron’s signed a four-year deal to sponsor the April Busch race at Talladega. Later, Waltrip was asked about fuel mileage, given the extra distance.

“I’ve got gas,” Waltrip said. “Yep, I do. Barbecue-and-pinto bean supper was really hard on me.”

More Rules Changes
NASCAR also announced a minor change to its “one-engine” rule. Previously teams had been able to changes engines before qualifying without penalty, but the sanctioning body issued a bulletin Saturday stating that one engine must be used from the time the teams start practice through the end of the race.

Also, NASCAR made two other minor rules changes regarding suspension pieces. The first was that the maximum height of the panhard bar frame mount, a part in the rear suspension, must not be more than 15 inches off the ground. And, the difference in height of the panhard bar frame mount and the panhard bar truck arm mounting bolt must not be more than 3 inches.

NASCAR also announced that the minimum number of front coil springs must be 4½.

There were no previous rules regarding either issue.

Newman to Backup Car, Marlin to Back
The top two drivers in the Winston Cup points standings, Ryan Newman and Sterling Marlin, will have to go to the rear of the field for Sunday’s race. Newman crashed during Happy Hour and was forced to a backup car, while Marlin changed engines.

Newman was to start third, Marlin 11th. Newman hit the wall and suffered extensive right-side and right-rear damage to his Ford.

“The car had been loose,” Newman said. “When I stopped on the backstretch, the tire had not hit the body on the left side, but there was a hole in the left-rear tire, so I don’t know if I had a left-rear tire going down or I just the fact I got too loose and couldn’t control it. Jeff Burton came up to me afterwards and said I definitely had a loose race car and was amazed I held on to it as long as I did.

“We’ve got a really good, brand-new backup car to pull out, and hopefully we can have a good run tomorrow and come from the back. I’m sure it will be interesting at times, but this was a brand-new race car and there’s no reason why this next one coming out won’t be as good. I guess we’ll have to see.”

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