Inotebook: /Ihot Dog Its Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – There is $3.47 million dollars on the line in Sunday’s Virginia 500. There is $3.75 million to be won by the NASCAR Winston Cup champion. Clearly, Sunday’s race is serious business.

So what is one of the big topics of discussion this weekend? Hot dogs.

Yes, hot dogs. The culinary delights of Martinsville Speedway are famous to drivers and teams, who eat hot dogs like they breathe air. They are a lunchtime favorite, but you can eat a Martinsville hot dog any time of the day.

“I could probably eat three,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, “but three is good.”

But you wouldn’t dare eat one before got in the car, would you?

“Sure,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “This morning, as soon as I got here. That was 10 o’clock. It’s all right. I’ve got an iron gut.”

Apparently, so does Tony Glover, team manager for Sterling Marlin. He had two before 9 a.m. Saturday on his way to eight.

“I know it’s going to be a short day, but I’m going to eat eight,” Glover said. “I’ve been eating ‘em for a long time. I used to buy one at a time when I was a kid, and I couldn’t afford many, although they were only a quarter, back then. That’s about all I had.”

Of course, Glover is fudging a bit. His hot dogs are, well, dog less. There’s not an actual fire-red Jesse Jones hot dog in a “Glover Dog.” He eats the bun, with chili, mustard and onions. Around here, that’s known as a “Lost Dog.”

Eighty dozen packages of hit dogs were delivered to the Martinsville infield for hungry consumers – drivers included. Marlin won’t eat eight, but he’ll put away four or five. When told about Glover’s exploits, Marlin said, “I’d hate to be around him tonight.”

Or Eddie Wood, the co-car owner of Elliott Sadler’s team. Wood is famous for his hot dog eating, too.

“Eddie Wood, who weighs about 120 pounds, he probably had six this morning for breakfast,” Dale Jarrett said.

Jarrett gave up hot dogs a few years ago, but he understands their drawing power.

“I quit eating those,” Jarrett said. “But I used to have at least eight or 10 a weekend.

“Somebody just had three in (his hauler) a while ago. They’re great. It’s hard. That’s why I lock myself in the back. I don’t have that much willpower.”

Monte Carlo at a Disadvantage?
A Chevrolet hasn’t won in 2002, leaving some Chevy drivers to wonder if the Monte Carlo is at a disadvantage.

“We’re definitely a little bit behind the Dodges and the Fords right now, and they’re basically a common template among the two of them,” said Jeff Gordon, who starts on the pole for Sunday’s race. “I’ve always said I’d just love to be on equal ground with everybody and just let our team, our people and our engines speak for itself.”

Gordon finished second last week, his first Top 5 of the season. He’s not the only guy to struggle. Kevin Harvick, a driver some picked to win the title, is 22nd in points. Gordon’s teammates, Terry Labonte and Jerry Nadeau, are 19th and 23rd, respectively.

Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers Earnhardt Jr. (11th) and Michael Waltrip (27th) are outside the Top 10, while the No. 1 Chevy is 26th in car owner points with Kenny Wallace and Steve Park driving.

“Usually when it’s consistent, that says something,” Gordon said. “It started to become consistent toward the end of last year. I feel like we were limited as to what we could do coming into this season. That’s why NASCAR made the concession to help us out with a little front downforce. It’s helped a little bit. I can’t say it’s helped a lot.

“We’ve run good this year, though. I haven’t really felt like our problems have been that we haven’t run fast enough. We’ve been fast. We’ve just had a little bit of bad luck. I can’t put a whole lot into all the rules and the way they are right now.”

Chevy has considered a new car for 2003, or at least a new nose for the Monte Carlo.

“I have been in some of the discussions,” car owner Andy Petree said. “I don’t really know how much they want to talk about it.”

But NASCAR isn’t pushing for a common-template car for next year.

“No, no,” Petree said. “NASCAR, I don’t think, has really pushed this. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it’s a mandate from NASCAR, no.”

Jarrett Likes New Crew Chief
Jarrett had a new crew chief for Monday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, but it was an old crew chief. Todd Parrott returned to his duties as Jarrett’s crew chief after Jimmy Elledge stepped down.

“Things are going good,” Jarrett said. ”Things have always been good between Todd and I, it’s just a matter that our guys and everybody knows who is in charge now. Todd is working extremely hard, he always has, but you see him kind of more determined. He got a little bit of rest over the winter and that’s helped him, but I see a focus in him that he wants to try to get this team back to the front.”

Jarrett is 24th in the points standings with only one top-10 finish this season.

Gordon Keeps It Clean
Jeff Gordon is one of the cleanest drivers when he talks during the race to his crew chief, Robbie Loomis. But he didn’t used to be. Gordon was quite animated in his younger days.

“We both were,” said Ray Evernham, Gordon’s former crew chief. “It wasn’t just him.”

Gordon has since calmed down.

“That comes with age, too,” Evernham said. “As you get older, you realize you don’t have to use all those words. You don’t control your temper better, you just don’t use those words.”

Gordon Appears to Have Strong Car
Gordon starts from the pole for Sunday’s 500-lap race, and that’s in a car he didn’t think would qualify well. He could be trouble Sunday.

“The other car really qualified well and it rolled through the center of the corner well,” Gordon said. “It carried a lot of momentum through the corner. It did it in the race too, but as the pressures built up, and when the tires started going away it just got real loose. We just could not find a way to tighten the car up. It just wasn’t working out for us.

“This car seems to stay real consistent. It doesn’t turn in the middle quite as good in qualifying, but in the race when the pace slows down you can drive in nice and easy. It seems to turn in the middle good and drive off real nice and solid all day. Our biggest worry with this car was qualifying. That worry is gone now. This should be a strong car for the race.”

Stewart, Marlin Fastest in Practice
Gordon was in the Top 20 in both Saturday practices, which were led by Marlin and Tony Stewart. Marlin’s fastest lap in the first session was 92.769 mph, narrowly edging Stewart and Terry Labonte.

Stewart then went 93.061 in Happy Hour, topping Bobby Hamilton and Marlin. Earnhardt Jr. was in the Top 10 in both sessions, as was Jarrett and Rusty Wallace.

Looking for a darkhorse? Hermie Sadler slipped in with the seventh-quickest lap in the second practice at 92.551, and that doesn’t appear to be a fluke, for he was 14th in the first.

Richmond Race a Sellout
Next month’s Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway is sold out, president Doug Fritz said.

“We are grateful to the fans who come out and support us year after year,” Fritz said. “Our NASCAR Winston Cup tickets are among the most difficult to obtain on the circuit, which speaks volumes about the quality of the racing at Richmond International Raceway.”

Gaughan Not Gone
The weekend was almost a wash for Brendan Gaughan. And if hadn’t been for Dennis Setzer’s truck failing post-qualifying inspection, Gaughan (pronounced Gone) would have packed up and headed home.

NASCAR’s original post-qualifying results sheet from Friday’s Craftsman Truck Series qualifying session had Gaughan in the 33rd position. The Craftsman Truck Series takes the Top 32 qualifiers on time and allows four provisionals. By that standard, Gaughan, who has a first-year team and doesn’t have enough team owner points yet for a provisional, would have missed making Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts 250.

Instead, Setzer’s Chevy was flagged for illegal springs, and his Top 5 qualifying effort was disallowed. Setzer does have enough owner points for a provisional, and he started Saturday’s race from the 33rd position.

The victim in all of that was Dana White, who had been given the fourth and final provisional prior to NASCAR finding the illegal part on Setzer’s truck. White was bumped from the field and failed to make the field.

Related Topics:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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