Inotes:/I Haas-Carter Discovered

CONCORD, N.C. – Haas-Carter Motorsports is back in business, for at least six races. The team announced Sunday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway that Discover Card will back the No. 26 driven by Todd Bodine for the next six races.

Whether the credit-card company will be on the car for the remaining Winston Cup schedule has yet to be decided.

“Their program is a test program,” co-owner Travis Carter said a couple hours before the start of the Coca-Cola 600. “There are a lot of factors. Certainly, a good performance won’t hurt you. You have to see how their support programs go with it. I hope they do well.

“The thing that excites me about this company is they’ve gone about it the right way. They’re doing a lot of what sponsors need to do to be in this business, to support what they’re doing. I’m excited about that. That gives me a lot of encouragement.”

Discover will sponsor the prerace show of the NBC/TNT telecasts, starting July 14 at Chicagoland Speedway. Discover has also bought advertising spots on every remaining Winston Cup broadcast, starting at Dover next week.

Also, Bodine will carry an in-car camera at the six races – Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sears Point, Daytona and Chicago – Discover sponsors the team.

Richard Lalley, vice president of advertising for Discover, said there’s a list of objectives that need to be met before considering a full-season sponsorship.

“We’ve got a number of objectives that we’re trying to achieve that will do the best we can of measuring how this performs,” Lalley said. “Obviously, it’s a program we put together in a couple of weeks that will only last six weeks. There’s only so much we can do. We can’t do a fully integrated program. If we go on as an ongoing sponsor, there’s lots and lots we can do.

“For this six weeks, we’ll look at the amount of brand exposure that we get. Putting the cameras in the car will certainly help with that. Having a good first-rate team is certainly going to help with that. Luck will help with that, too. It’s clear that luck is an important component in racing.”

Haas-Carter knows all about that, especially bad luck. Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection in January and pulled its sponsorship of Haas-Carter’s two teams after the second race of the season. Bodine won the pole at the third race, at Las Vegas, but the No. 66 team was shut down, and Bodine went to the Busch Series.

The No. 26 stayed, with original driver Joe Nemechek and then Frank Kimmel – who brought sponsorship to the team – carrying the load. Nemechek has since joined Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 25 Winston Cup team, leaving Bodine to take over driving duties.

Bodine will have two conflicts between his Winston Cup and Busch teams. At Pocono, Bodine has to be in Nashville with the Busch Series, and at Michigan, he’ll be at Kentucky for the Busch race. For both Cup qualifying sessions, Carter has hired Geoffrey Bodine to drive the No. 26.

Robby Gordon’s Tumultuous Day
Robby Gordon arrived earlier than expected to Lowe’s Motor Speedway after finishing eighth in the Indianapolis 500. He landed at Concord Regional Airport at 4:15 p.m., and the helicopter taking him to the track arrived at the tri-oval grass at 4:30, more than an hour before the start of the 600.

Gordon had to start at the rear of the field because he missed the drivers meeting. With 250 laps to go in the 600, Gordon was starting to get cramps, but had raced into the Top 20.

Gordon overcame a fire in his pits at Indy to finish in the Top 10.

Craven’s Favorite Race? The 600
Ricky Craven and some of the major players in PPI Motorsports sat down in the offseason to talk about the 2002 schedule. Crew chief Mike Beam circled the Southern 500 as his favorite race because Beam is a Southern boy and understands the tradition of Darlington Raceway and that event.

Team engineer Roy McCauley circled the races at Dover because they are close to his home in Maryland. What did Craven circle? New Hampshire? You’d think so because Craven is a favorite in New England. But, no. Craven circled the Coca-Cola 600.

“It’s always been my favorite race,” said Craven. “The atmosphere here the last two weeks is unbelievable. It’s comfortable, it’s home, everybody gets to sleep in their own bed, but the atmosphere under the lights here is second to none.

“The Coca Cola 600 is a trophy I’m determined to take home sometime,” Craven said. “I’d love to win New Hampshire for obvious reasons, but this race – this is it. The Coca Cola 600 is my favorite race.”

Indy 500 Winner Jimmie Johnson?
Had Jimmie Johnson gotten his way, he would have been racing at Indianapolis on Sunday. But his career was directed toward stock cars instead, and Johnson finds himself an emerging superstar in NASCAR.

“As a kid growing up, I always wanted to race at Indy,” Johnson said. “Growing up on the west coast, stock-car racing in general wasn’t that big. Rick Mears, Roger Mears, Robby Gordon – guys like that came from off-road racing and moved into Indy-cars. That’s were I thought my natural step would be from off-road into open-wheel cars.

“When Chevrolet slowed its involvement in open-wheel racing, it opened my eyes to stock-car racing. People at Chevrolet and GM started taking me around the tracks and getting me involved in stock cars. Once Riverside went away, there wasn’t a lot of stock car racing in Southern California.”

Petty: 43 Team Needs to Get Better
While Kyle Petty had improved 15 spots in the points standings since Las Vegas to stood 23rd heading to the Coca-Cola 600, Petty Enterprises teammate John Andretti had slipped two spots to 35th.

And for Andretti’s No. 43 team, that’s unacceptable.

“It’s frustrating for us because the 43 is our marquee team,” Petty said. “That’s who we are. We can stand here and talk 45 and 44 until the cows come home. When people think Petty Enterprises, they think 43. We’ve got to make that team perform. We’ve got to step the performance up there.”

Petty said it would take a few years to completely turn around Petty Enterprises, which has struggled the last several seasons. But that’s not a long time, considering the Pettys have been around since NASCAR’s inception in 1949.

“When you say it’s slow, it’s really not slow,” Petty said. “The slow part was us realizing how far behind we were. The turnaround part will come. It’s going to take three or four years, four or five years. We said that from the very beginning. It’s not instant. You look at it and say, ‘Five years. That’s slow.’ Five years out of 50 or 60 years is not a slow period of time.”

Hot Day for Busch Drivers.
Busch Series drivers were recovering from a difficult day Saturday during the CarQuest Auto Parts 300. Temperatures were in the upper 90s, one of the hottest days of the year. Rookie Scott Riggs, who finished third in his first race at LMS, yanked his driving suit to his waist after the race and was still toweling off sweat some 30 minutes later.

“It was the hottest I’ve ever been before,” Riggs said. “We need to go back and do a little research and put a little more heat shield back in the seat or something. The seat got awful hot, my heels got awful hot, I got awful hot. I tried to keep a cool temperature as far as my mentality.”

Riggs said the surface of Lowe’s Motor Speedway didn’t help, either.

“There’s so much shock travel and so much movement going on because of the little humps and bumps an dips in the race track that that creates a lot more heat in all the suspension parts and adds to it,” Riggs said.

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