Inotebook:/I Petty Looks For Sponsor

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Sprint informed Petty Enterprises recently that the company would not pick up its option to sponsor the No. 45 Dodge driven by Kyle Petty in 2003. That means Petty Enterprises is looking for primary sponsorship for the car for next season and beyond.

“We continue to keep our options open with Sprint, and we fully expect that we will continue to be involved with them in some way,” Petty said. “They’ve been an important part of our team since 1996, and it’s been a very successful relationship for both parties. The bottom line is that Sprint has not exercised its option to continue as the primary sponsor, and so we need to look at other opportunities for the No. 45 Dodge.”

After finishing 43rd in the Winston Cup points standings last season, Petty has improved his team to 18th in 2002. Petty Enterprises aligned itself with an aerodynamic/engineering company, signed a deal with Mike Ege Racing Engines, hired Robin Pemberton as vice president and added Steve Lane as Petty’s crew chief.

The move has paid dividends, and Petty has qualified for every race this season after missing 12 events last year. Petty only has one top-10 finish, but he’s finished 15th or better seven times. He didn’t finish higher than 15th a single time in 2001.

“We’ve had great success delivering a complete marketing platform that helps drive results for our sponsors,” Petty Enterprises executive vice president Bill Scott said. “The combination of Kyle’s enduring popularity and his current success on the track creates an exciting opportunity for a new sponsor.”

Sprint joined Petty Enterprises as sponsor of Kyle’s son Adam, but when Adam was killed two years ago, Kyle took over Adam’s car and sponsor.

Earnhardt/FitzBradshaw to Try Winston Cup
Kerry Earnhardt will attempt to qualify for the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in October with his Busch Series team, FitzBradshaw Racing. Earnhardt will drive a No. 83 Chevrolet, with the car and engine coming from Dale Earnhardt Inc. The number is significant to the Earnhardt family – Kerry’s grandfather used No. 8 and his dad used No. 3.

Earnhardt is 18th in the Busch Series points standings with two top-10 finishes.

“It’s another piece of the large puzzle that we started, with our goal of completing the full Busch schedule in 2002 with Kerry and then break into Winston Cup racing,” said Armando Fitz, co-owner with former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

“Our team is finally coming around,” Earnhardt said. “Our team has been there, but I’m finally coming around.”

Fitz wants to run a few more Cup races this year, and then perhaps seven in 2003 to preserve Earnhardt’s rookie status for 2004 – should sponsorship be found for a full season.

No Bull Five Pairings
Winston always has unusual ways of pairing drivers with fans as part of the No Bull 5 bonus program, which pays $1 million to an eligible driver and the fan paired with him. Friday, a special race was held at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club outside Turn 1. Five greyhounds representing one of the eligible drivers raced, with the No. 6 greyhound winning.

That meant Mark Martin was paired with Nancy Miriani of Whitehouse, Texas. Other driver/fan pairings are: Ricky Craven with Bryan Dickerson of Couence, Tenn., Jeff Gordon with Loretta Abercrombie of Dahlonega, Ga., Ricky Rudd with Darlene Milks of Sevierville, Tenn., and Mike Schiermeyer of Grants Pass, Ore.

No Respect?
Geoffrey Bodine, who starts second in Saturday night’s race, said he’s the Rodney Dangerfield of Winston Cup: he gets no respect.

“Why should it start now?” Bodine said. “I’ve never gotten it as far as I’m concerned. It hasn’t changed. That’s OK. Actions speak louder than words. I’ve always believed that and lived by it. I’ll just go out there and do what I can do. Hopefully, it’ll be good. That’s all I care about. What people think or say, I can’t control that.”

Bodine said not being a Winston Cup regular hurt him in February because other drivers didn’t want to draft with him. He said he hopes drivers realize he has a good car and will work with him Saturday night. Bodine said he can win the race.

“My strategy is now to try to stay up front – to race up there all day and I believe we can,” Bodine said. “This car is definitely capable of doing that."

NASCAR Hooks Up With Soap Box Derby
NASCAR announced a partnership with the All-American Soap Box Derby that is part of the sanctioning body’s Youth Program initiative. NASCAR hopes to gain from associating with 68-year-old youth racing program, while the Soap Box Derby hopes to gain from NASCAR’s marketing and public-relations programs.

“The All-American Soap Box Derby is a long-standing American tradition that possesses many of the core values of NASCAR including teamwork, the spirit of competition, perseverance and sportsmanship,” said NASCAR president Mike Helton, who raced in the Soap Box Derby as a kid in Bristol, Tenn. “We look forward to working with Goodyear and assisting the All-American Soap Box Derby in its mission of instilling in today’s youth its core values and, on a grassroots level, helping nurture some of the nation’s future racing stars.”

The All-American Soap Box Derby is based in Akron, Ohio, the same location as Goodyear. The two companies have partnered for years.

“With its success and visibility, NASCAR provides an outstanding opportunity for the All-American Soap Box Derby to further its growth in the future, both promotionally and sponsorship-wise,” All-American Soap Box Derby executive director Tony DeLuca said. “We possess similar traits and values and it is great to see two All-American racing traditions working together for the betterment of our youth.”

NASCAR’s Youth Program includes the Diversity Summer Internship Program and support of the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia. Both programs are aimed at making youth more aware of stock-car racing.

“The All-American Soap Box Derby is a natural fit with our existing efforts,” Helton said. “We have been pleased with the growth and success of the Diversity Summer Internship Program and the Urban Youth Racing School and look forward to enjoying as much success with our new relationship with the All-American Soap Box Derby.”

Busch to Pitch at Wrigley Field
Winston Cup driver Kurt Busch will throw out the first pitch at the Atlanta-Chicago game at Wrigley Field on July 15. Busch is a diehard Cubs fan, and his family is from the Windy City.

“I’m really excited about the chance to throw out the first pitch at the Chicago Cubs game,” Busch said. “The Cubs are just an all around great team, you can’t help but like them. And Wrigley Field has so much history that it is truly going to be an honor just to stand there on the mound and throw the pitch. I just hope that I throw a good, solid pitch.”

Busch will be racing in the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway the day before his appearance at Wrigley.

“I’m a fan of a lot of sports other than just racing,” Busch said. “And to be able to fulfill one of my childhood dreams is just an incredible opportunity. Even though our schedules are a bit hectic, it’s still important to be able to do things like this, it’s fun and will be a memory that I will have for the rest of my life. And who knows maybe I can give these ballplayers a few tips on the best way to use a Sharpie.”

Busch Series Crew Chief Fined
Robert Bakeef, crew chief for Tim Sauter in the Busch Series, was fined $1,000 earlier this week for a violation after last weekend’s race at The Milwaukee Mile. NASCAR officials found an unapproved front spring in the car after qualifying, and Bakeef was fined under Section 12-4-Q of the Busch Series rule book: “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that parts and/or equipment used in the Event do not conform to NASCAR rules.”

Staff Writer Lee Montgomery can be reached at lee.montgomery@rmg3.com

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