Irir Notes: /Isadler Wants Out

RICHMOND, Va. – Elliott Sadler said Thursday at Richmond International Raceway that he has asked to be released from his contract with the Wood Brothers at the end of the season. What ride he’ll slip in to, no one knows. Not even Sadler.

Sadler confirmed Thursday at Richmond International Raceway that he wants to be let out of his contract, which “ran for a couple more years,” so he and the Wood Brothers can have ample time to find other opportunities next season.

Sadler said he was talking to Dale Earnhardt Inc., among other teams, but said he has no firm plans for 2003 and beyond.

“I’m not anywhere yet at all, 100 percent nowhere,” Sadler said. “I think it’s better to let a team know earlier in the season rather than later, to give everybody more time to figure out what’s going on. I think that’s more respectful than doing it with five races left to go in the season.”

Sadler should be in the No. 21 Ford through the rest of the season. He’s currently 25th in points with two Top 5s in 10 races.

“I’m just not happy with the way we’re running. I want to win races, they want to win races, and it’s not working for either party right now,” Sadler said. “I think they deserve better. They’re a great team. Motorcraft is a great sponsor who deserves to be running better. Maybe it’s just a chemistry thing between the team and I. We’re just not running the way we all think we should be running. Sometimes you’ve got to try to make a change to benefit both parties.”

Sadler made the request Sunday night after the race at California Speedway, where he finished 39th with a blown engine. He met with the team Tuesday at South Boston Speedway, where the Wood Brothers were testing for this weekend’s race. Sadler and co-owner Eddie Wood talked Thursday morning, too.

“It’s bittersweet, and Eddie and I have talked about that,” Sadler said. “They gave me my break in Winston Cup racing. But I have not done the job I felt I’ve needed to do for them. They hired me with the intentions of getting back to victory lane and getting some poles and running like we should run.

“I have not given them the job they’re looking for. I feel that deep down inside and that’s why I think I should move on. I’m very young and all I’ve ever done is race, and I want to stay a part of NASCAR racing as long as I possibly can. I wan to do whatever is necessary for me to do that.”

Sadler is in his fourth season in Winston Cup, all with the Wood Brothers. He came up through the Late Model ranks in Virginia and North Carolina, moving up full-time to the Busch Series in 1997. He won five races in two full Busch seasons before joining the Woods in 1999.

Sadler said he sought out a veteran driver to try the best way to figure out how to get out of his contract.

“I wanted to know the correct way to do things,” Sadler said. “I’m very young in this sport and don’t know how everything works all the time. So yes, I did consult an older driver and ask him the proper way of doing things.

“What’s the most ethical, nicest way to ask for a break? He was very honest and up front with me and gave me some great advice. That’s why I decided to do it now.”

Nemechek to Run No. 81 in The Winston
Dale Earnhardt Inc. officially announced Joe Nemechek would drive one of their cars n The Winston on May 18 in a partnership with NEMCO Motorsports, Nemechek’s Busch Series team.

Nemechek will drive a No. 81 Chevy, which will be a DEI car with a DEI engine. Brian Pattie, Nemechek’s Busch Series crew chief, will lead the team during The Winston, and DEI and NEMCO will share crew duties.

“I’m very excited about working with DEI,” Nemechek said. “With DEI and NEMCO working together, we should be very competitive for this race. We expect to contend for the checkered flag.”

There is no sponsor for the team yet. Nemechek will test the car at Lowe’s Motor Speedway next week. Nemechek is eligible for The Winston because of his victory with Andy Petree Racing last year, but Nemechek moved to Travis Carter’s team. That team is looking for sponsorship and isn’t entering The Winston.

Groovin’ On a Saturday Evening?
Some Winston Cup drivers are worried about have enough room to maneuver during Saturday night’s 400-lap race. The .75-mile track is resealed every spring, and through testing here last month, the second groove hasn’t come in.

“I think everybody who has tested at Richmond is a little concerned,” Terry Labonte said. “Right now it’s really a one-groove race track. The tires that we have this time don’t seem to have quite as much grip maybe as the ones we had a year ago. Something seems to be a little bit different. The track people were concerned about it. They’ve been dragging tires on it; it did not seem to be getting any better.

“It’s hard to say, after the Busch race, whether or not the second groove comes in. We’ll have to wait and see. Normally, it always does in Richmond. Usually it’s very competitive up there. But in the testing sessions it was definitely just a lone-lane race track, which was a little bit different than we’ve seen in the past.”

Ward Burton is pretty worried, too.

“My biggest concern heading into this week is the resurfaced track,” Ward Burton said. “They just completed that project, and from what I understand, the track is just one groove right now. Some of the guys that tested crashed pretty hard during their test sessions because they couldn’t run on the entire racetrack.

“I think the Busch race will move the groove up back where it was before they resurfaced it. The track should be close to the way it was after all the track time the Busch and Cup cars are going to have on it before the race Saturday night.”

Hendrick Hits Wall in Busch Return
Ricky Hendrick’s return to Busch Series racing hit a snag Thursday afternoon when he spun in Turn 3 and hit the wall. Hendrick was coming back from a shoulder injury suffered in a grinding crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in early March.

Hendrick was fine after Thursday’s crash, and his Hendrick Motorsports crew repaired the damaged car in time for him to get a practice qualifying lap in, but that was only 38th fastest.

Billy Morris III also crashed during the two-hour practice, and he was examined in the infield care center before being released.

Truex in For Spencer
Martin Truex Jr., a regular in the NASCAR Busch North Series, will drive the No. 1 Yellow Chevy in the NASCAR Busch Series race on May 11 at New Hampshire International Raceway. He'll replace Jimmy Spencer, who will take advatange of the the off-weekend in Winston Cup to be with his family and celebrate his son's 16th birthday.

Truex has been successful in the past racing at New Hampshire. The 22-year-old from New Jersey won his first ever Busch North race at NHIS in 2000, leading every lap.

"I like racing at New Hampshire," Truex said. "It's been a good track for me. I've always seemed to run well there. This is a great opportunity for me. Everybody hopes to get a chance like this to get into top-notch equpiment. I'm looking forward to doing my best for the team and for Yellow."

Truex added two more Busch North victories in 2001, when he had one pole and nine top-five finishes.

Spencer will return to the seat of the No. 1 Chevy at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 25 in the Carquest Auto Parts 300.

Petty Charity Ride Heads Northeast
The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, which starts June 23 after the Winston Cup race in Sonoma, Calif., has altered its route for this year’s ride. The cross-country trip will make stops in Jackpot, Nev., Jackson Hole and Cheyenne, Wyo., Omaha, Neb., Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio and Hot Springs, Va. before ending in Trinity, N.C. at Petty’s farm.

“I can’t believe how much the ride has grown over the past seven years,” Petty said. “When we first started this event in 1995, it was just a few of us on our bikes. Last year 250 riders participated and we were able to raise $500,000 for various charities.”

The ride is in its eighth year of trying to raise money for children’s hospitals and other charities. Since 1995, the ride has raised almost $2.5 million for children’s hospitals, the Winston Cup Wives Racing Auxiliary Trust, the STARBRIGHT Foundation and the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

The Victory Junction Gang Camp, a camp for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, is the national charity for this ride. The camp is scheduled to open in the summer of 2004 on land donated by Richard and Lynda Petty in Level Cross, N.C.

Craven Honored for Community Service
Ricky Craven has been named the first-quarter True Value Person of the Year for his efforts to raise money via the Ricky Craven Snowmobile Ride for Charity.

The Person of the Year award designed to honor drivers for their community service contributions and charitable efforts and for their driving accomplishments. Craven’s snowmobile ride in January raised $114,600. In the event’s five-year history, $381,500 have been raised for organizations like the Marrow Foundation, The Travis Roy Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Miracle Network and Give Kids The World.

“When I started this ride, I wanted to give back to my New England roots, while raising money and awareness for various charities,” Craven said. “This project is something I can do with my family and other families can take part in as a group. I’ve been pleased with the results we’ve gotten.

“This year was the first time I was able to take my daughter Riley on the ride and will go down as one of my highlights for the year.”

A group of panelists will select one of the four quarterly finalists as the NASCAR True Value Person of the Year. This award will be presented at the Winston Cup Series Awards Ceremony in New York.

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