Inotebook: /Iford Spoilers Increased

NASCAR announced a modification to the rear spoiler height of the Ford Taurus on Thursday, adding a quarter-inch for next month’s Talladega 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Ford spoiler will now measure at 6 inches, up from 5 ¾ inches used in the Daytona 500. Since preseason testing in January at Daytona, the Taurus spoiler shrunk three-quarters of an inch, getting three separate quarter-inch reductions.

Ford officials were not surprisingly upset.

“They took that quarter-inch for a reason in Daytona, because the Ford’s couldn’t keep up,” said Robbie Reiser, crew chief for Matt Kenseth. “Nothing has changed and now they’re adding it back. We’re racing the same car in Talladega that we raced in Daytona, but now there will be an additional quarter-inch. It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know why they think they should change it.”

For Talladega only, the spoilers for Chevy and Dodge stand at 6 ¼ inches, while the Pontiac is 6 ½ inches tall.

The Dodge of Ward Burton won the Daytona 500, but Fords took five of the top seven spots. The first Chevy was Michael Waltrip in fifth, and the first Pontiac was Johnny Benson in 10th.

Of course, the Pontiac of Tony Stewart, the Chevy of Jeff Gordon and the Dodge of Sterling Marlin all ran well in the 500 but none finished well for a myriad of reasons.

The first practice for the Talladega 500 is April 10 at noon ET.

NHIS Adds To Inside of Turns
In early April, New Hampshire International Speedway officials will begin adding another racing lane to the inside of its turns. Workers will grind a portion of the existing surface and add asphalt below the lowest groove on the track as officials hope to make racing a bit better at NHIS.

The flat 1.058-mile oval hasn’t been conducive to side-by-side racing, as cars have a hard time getting grip in the outside lane. Drivers have been critical of NHIS, saying the track needs to add banking to help make racing better.

“The NASCAR Winston Cup Series race last fall was very good as evidenced by Robby Gordon’s win from the 31st starting position,” track president Gary Bahre said. “With this modification, we have the opportunity to make the racing at NHIS more enjoyable for our fans.”

NHIS will hold an open test for Busch Series, Busch North and Featherlite Modified teams April 30-May 1 in preparation for racing there May 9-11.

Carter Doesn’t Plan to Quit
Travis Carter said Thursday he wasn’t quitting as a team owner and intends to be back as soon as he can. Haas-Carter Motorsports, which Carter co-owns with Carl Haas, closed its doors Wednesday and laid off nearly every employee, including drivers Joe Nemechek and Todd Bodine.

“I’m not quitting,” Carter said. “Just because Haas-Carter Motorsports has closed its doors does not mean that I intend to leave NASCAR. I’ve been in this sport for more than 30 years, and racing is what I do. I still have a lot of work to do here, and my main focus is to pursue sponsors and fight to survive. I’ll work on deals that may open the doors up in a few months or that may allow us to race in 2003. Regardless, I’ll keep working to open these doors again. Don’t count me out.

“I have every reason in the world to stay in NASCAR. My 20-year-old son, Matt, wants to be in the sport and I want to provide him with those opportunities. There have also been a lot of people who have worked here that I want to continue working with and supporting.

“Emotionally, this has been a tough load to carry. But through all of this, I’ve had a lot of support from quality people in the racing community and I can’t thank them enough for all that they’ve said or done for me and this team.”

Big Money at Texas
Winston Cup and Busch Series drivers will race for two of the biggest purses in NASCAR next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The Samsung/Radio Shack 500 purse is $5,487,422, up nearly $450,000 from last year’s race. The O’Reilly 300 Busch race has a purse of $1,197,691, up more than $64,000 from last year.

“Each year, Texas Motor Speedway presents two of the largest events in NASCAR with our Busch and Winston Cup races,” speedway general manager Eddie Gossage said. “With almost $1.2 million at stake in the O'Reilly 300, and almost $5.1 million on the line for the Samsung/Radio Shack 500, it is very clear the importance the drivers put on competing here.”

The Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 are consistently the highest purses in Winston Cup, but Texas has been right up there.

“These are important races to the drivers, the sponsors and the fans,” Gossage said. “We will have two of the biggest crowds of the season for both races, we have two of the largest purses of the season and traditionally some of the best TV ratings of the season. Things truly are bigger in Texas.”

Schrader: Clean up Post-Race
Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader said the post-race shenanigans at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend can not continue. After the Busch Series race, Kevin Harvick physically went after Greg Biffle, and after the Winston Cup race, Robby Gordon bumped Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car on pit road. Harvick, Gordon and Earnhardt Jr. were all fined earlier this week by NASCAR.

“We just can’t be doing it, period – the pit road stuff, especially the Cup race,” Schrader said. “I mean, we got a lot of people on pit road, especially after racing. When you’re crashing cars on pit road – it’s easy enough to get hurt in this sport anyway as a crew member, running across there with the cars coming down pit road – but after the race, to get hit by a car or something like that for something that’s uncalled for. I mean, that needs to be addressed, like NASCAR did.”

Benson’s Guys Get a Break
Johnny Benson’s team will get a well-deserved rest this weekend as crew chief James Ince ordered the doors to be closed for three days. The team has been pulling double-shifts since Atlanta, as a poor run there prompted a major change for next weekend’s race at Texas.

Benson was 27th at Atlanta, and Ince decided the team needed a new car with as much aerodynamic changes as possible. A new car was built in three days, tested in a Canadian wind tunnel last week and raced at Texas for two days this week.

“They literally worked 24 hours a day for three days getting that car built, and it was in the body shop by (last) Thursday night,” Ince said. “Building something that fast is a heck of an accomplishment. I’m real proud of our guys. The lights have not shut off on our side of the building for a month. We worked 24 hours a day.

“This weekend we are going to close the building for three days. You have to be real careful. There is a fine line between everybody wanting to do a whole lot and people overdoing it. It’s my job to say, ‘OK, even though you guys want to be here it’s time to go home.’ It’s going to hurt us down the road if you work too much.

“You have to work real hard to keep people motivated. Our entire race team is a bunch of overachievers. I have to be the one that keeps slowing them down. I don’t have to talk them into anything other than getting them to slow down and take some rest. These guys will work themselves until they fall but we still have to go to other races the next week.”

Call Stewart “Smoke”
Tony Stewart has picked up the nickname “Smoke,” and, no, it’s not for his love of Winston cigarettes.

“It started in Sprint cars clear back in ‘91 when I was running USAC,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t very good about not slipping the right rear tire, initially. So it started as ‘Smoker,’ then it got shortened to ‘Smoke.’ Then when I got in the IRL it was ‘Smoke’ because one of the guys on the crew who was my roommate and knew the nickname carried it over to the Indy-car team. But then when I started blowing engines, ‘Smoke’ really stuck. I’ve had it ever since.”

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