Inotebook: /Iplates Considered

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Speeds are so fast at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend that two of the most dreaded words in NASCAR – “restrictor plates” – have been floated through the Winston Cup garage area.

Jeff Green won the Busch Series pole Thursday with a record lap of more than 193 mph. That not only broke the previous Busch record – by four mph – but also set the stock car record here, topping Terry Labonte’s Winston Cup mark.

New pavement at Texas has dramatically increased grip in the turns, which has sent speeds soaring. But is it too fast? NASCAR officials are considering using the plates for Sunday’s Samsung/RadioShack 500, which would rob engines of horsepower and thus take away speed.

“That would be a mistake,” Kyle Petty said. “I don’t think you need it.”

NASCAR's Jim Hunter agreed, saying the plates probably would not be needed.

“Very obviously, what they did here to get a little more rubber on the race track did two things: it slowed the race track down a little bit, and it also gave the drivers a little better feeling,” Hunter said. “We’ll talk to (drivers) after qualifying, but if I had to guess, I don’t think we’re going to need ‘em.”

The Busch Series cars slowed down in race practice Friday, with the best laps around the 188 mph range. That is still fast, but Hunter said the dropoff likely eliminates the need for plates.

“We’ve talked about it the whole time we’ve been here,” Hunter said. “Looking at the speeds, talking to the drivers, and from what happened with the Busch cars from qualifying to practice – going back to 188 – we’re not planning to use the restrictor plate with the Busch cars.

“So far today, I don’t see a need for the restrictor plates because (the Winston Cup cars) will back up as well.”

Last year, Atlanta was the circuit’s fastest track, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning the pole last fall at 192.047 mph. But Texas could beat that in Friday’s qualifying.

“The race track is fast, there’s no doubt about that,” Petty said. “It was fast the first year we came here, and it’s been fast in the past. It’s just got a lot of grip because it’s just been paved. We’re just going to have to live with it.

“The issue is not the speed. It’s the run-off area. When something happens at that speed, you don’t have a lot of time to catch the car or recover. It’s not how fast you go; it’s how fast you stop sometimes. Because you don’t have a lot of recovery time, you’re going to hit a lot harder.”

Some drivers would want the speeds decreased, but most hate restrictor plates.

“As a race-car driver, you want to go as fast as you can,” Green said. “Still, we have to think about safety, and we don’t want to get anybody hurt. It would be a better race if you slowed ‘em down a little bit. But how do you do that? I don’t know.”

Elledge Loses Power Struggle
Team owner Robert Yates said a power struggle between Jimmy Elledge and Todd Parrott led to Elledge’s departure earlier this week. Elledge was hired as Dale Jarrett’s crew chief in the off-season, with former crew chief Todd Parrott moved to the team manager’s role.

But Yates said Parrott remained in charge of the team, and Elledge couldn’t find a niche. Parrott and Elledge couldn’t agree on who was the ultimate boss, and Elledge decided to look elsewhere.

“It turned out to be like two roads where one is like Interstate 40 and the other one is like Interstate 20,” Yates said. “Jimmy liked driving through the mountains and Todd liked driving through the valleys, or vice versa, and maybe there was too much overlapping.

“Jimmy wasn’t pleased that he couldn’t do it totally his way, and he felt very strongly that his way would be the very best way because his experience and knowledge taught him that. He wasn’t content (not being in charge), and Todd wasn’t content walking off because he basically still stayed in charge of the No. 88.”

Yates said Elledge is still employed by the team but is looking at other jobs.

“Jimmy came and said, ‘Give me something else to do that I can do with all my heart and all my might and the way I want to do it,’ ” Yates said. “He doesn’t want to leave the team. He hasn’t left the team officially. I’ve told him he ought to go look and see what opportunities are out there and put them all on a sheet of paper, leaving me down at the bottom of that sheet, and we’ll sit down and talk to him.”

Petty: Andretti Won’t Do Double
Robby Gordon announced last week he would run in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26, but John Andretti won’t. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, but car owner Petty has put his foot down.

“I’m not adamant about it; we’re just not doing it,” Petty said. “If you want to call that adamant …”

Petty said he wants Andretti to focus on Winston Cup, and having to worry about Indy wouldn’t help. Andretti has done the Indy/Charlotte double before, and Petty admitted he was in awe of Andretti after he did it. But it’s “incredibly physically and mentally demanding,” Petty said.

“There’s times in this sport when it ebbs and flows,” Petty said. “When you look at a driver and say, ‘Yeah, that’s a good PR deal. That’s something we can do. That’s something the driver really wants to do.’ John really wants to do it, but right now for us at Petty Enterprises – the business we’re in is Winston Cup racing – it’s just not a good time for to have one of our drivers off doing that.

“He’d still like for us to change our mind, but we’re not in a position to change our mind. I’d like to think we could wait until the edge of May and then go get a good car. But all the good cars are going to be gone. I don’t want him going up there and getting in a piece of junk, and he doesn’t want to go get in a piece of junk.

Kirby Gets Ride with Spencer
Jimmy Spencer has hired Stuart Kirby to drive his Busch Series car, with Kirby competing in 15 races this season. The No. 34 Chevy will have sponsorship from the Air Force, with the “Racing: My Anti-Drug” campaign on the car, too.

Spencer has hired former Winston Cup crew chief Larry Carter, who left Haas-Carter Motorsports in March, to lead the team. A full season in 2003 is planned.

Spencer noticed the 20-year old Kirby last year at Lowe’s Motor Speedway last May when Kirby made the race with an under-funded team. Kirby asked Spencer some questions, and Kirby responded by taking Spencer’s advice and running faster.

“I feel like I can take a guy like him and really help him in a lot of ways,” Spencer said. “Look what Jeff Gordon’s done with Jimmie Johnson. I feel the same thing with Stuart. Who knows what it will hold for the future.”

Spencer had driven his own Busch car for several years but joined Phoenix Racing last year.

“It’s an instant failure to own your own team and drive for your own self,” Spencer said. “I did do it in the past and I was pretty successful, but how does the crew chief come to the owner and say, ‘Our driver’s not doing this right.’ It’s something our sport has outgrown.”

Shelmerdine Schedule Released
Kirk Shelmerdine released a five-race Winston Cup schedule for 2002 as part of association with Brett Bodine Racing. Shelmerdine will be Bodine’s teammate at Charlotte, Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte and Atlanta with sponsorship from Naturally Fresh Dressings and Jackaroo Sauces – products of Eastern Foods.

Bodine recently got sponsorship from Hooters, the restaurant chain associated with Eastern Foods.

“This is a great opportunity for me,” Shelmerdine said. “Naturally Fresh Foods has been a great supporter of stock car racing for over 10 years now, and we look forward to this new partnership.”

Sauter Gets One-Race Deal
Tim Sauter’s AP Performance Racing Chevy will have sponsorship from O’Reilly Auto Parts in Saturday’s Busch Series race, which also happens to be sponsored by O’Reilly.

Sauter is 20th in the Busch Series points standings in his un-sponsored car.

“It’s a relief to get some help,” Sauter said. “The AP Team and I look forward to giving O’Reilly Auto Parts a good ride on Saturday. We have a good thing going here with this new AP Performance Racing Team and we are grateful to O’Reilly for recognizing that and letting us carry their name in their race.”

The deal is for only one race, but Sauter and his team will compete in every Busch race with or without sponsorship.

“We have good equipment, good people, a good owner, and for at least one weekend here we have a great sponsor,” Sauter said. “Now it’s time to get back to work and show O’Reilly Auto Parts what it means to team up with us.”

Spencer Gets New Crewman
Randy Cox has joined Chip Ganassi Racing and will work on Jimmy Spencer’s pit crew. Formerly a part of Tony Stewart’s team, Cox will change rear tires on Spencer’s No. 41 Dodge and also work in the shop.

Marlin’s Car Unbeaten
Sterling Marlin brings chassis No. 203 to Texas, a car built by his team in the offseason. A sister car to the one that won at Charlotte and Michigan last year, chassis 203 is 2-for-2 in 2002. Marlin won with it at Las Vegas and Darlington – the only two races the car has been used this year.

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