Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania on October 25, 2002 · Page 31
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Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania · Page 31

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Friday, October 25, 2002
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(Sascttc SPORTS Friday, October 25, 2002 — Page 31 KNASCAR INSIDER Back to Atlanta The Winston Cup circuit returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this week. Tony Stewart won the track's spring race, the MBNA America 500, on March 10. UPCOMING ON THE TRACKS WINSTON CUP Race: NAPA 500 Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton Ga When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m. EST. Race distance: 325 laps; 500.5 miles Track: 1.54-mile oval Defending champion: Bobby Labonte Race record: Dale Earnhardt, 163.633 mph Nov. 12,1995. - ' Qualifying record: Geoffrey Bodine 197 478 mph, Nov. 15, 1997. Storyline: With four races remaining in the 2002 Winston Cup season, four drivers are within 177 points of standings leader Tony Stewart. BUSCH SERIES Race: Aaron's 312 Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga. Track length: 1.54-mile oval. When: Saturday, 2 p.m. EOT. Defending champion: Joe Nemechek Race record: Mark Martin, 191.661 mph, March 8, 1997. Qualifying record: Ryan Newman, 191.661 mph, March 9, 2001. Storyline: With four races remaining on the Busch Series schedule, Greg Biffle has a 105- point lead over Jason Keller in the standings. CRAFTSMAN TRUCK Race: American Racing Wheels 200 Where: California Speedway, Fontana, Calif. Track length: 2-mile oval. When: Nov. 2, 5 p.m. EST. Defending champion: Ted Musgrave Race record: Kurt Busch, 144.260 mph, Oct 28, 2000. Qualifying record: Kurt Busch, 177.388 mph, Oct. 27, 2000. Storyline: The Truck series is in the midst of a three-week break before resuming Nov. 2 at California Speedway. Three drivers are within 169 points of standings leader Mike Bliss. •Winston Cup points leader Tony Stewart has made it dear he wants success on his terms By RICK MINTER Cox News Service Atlanta T o understand the enigma of Tony Stewart — if that's possible — it helps to look at last weekend. He was a virtual recluse at Martinsville Speedway despite • being the Winston Cup points leader entering the Old Dominion 500. He wouldn't talk to the media, or even issue comments through Pontiac representatives — almost unheard of for a championship contender. But on Saturday night, at a short track in nearby South Boston, Va., where the USAC Midget cars Stewart once drove were running, Stewart couldn't have been more public. He signed autographs, walked the pits visiting with friends and chatted at length with some of the same reporters who he wouldn't talk to at Martinsville. So which is the real Tony Stewart? Both, it seems. "At times he can charm the worst cynical person in the world, and at other times he can insult the nicest person in the world," said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president. Problems off die track In four years on NASCAR's elite circuit, Stewart has produced some of its greatest moments on the track but some of its worst ofT. He is often portrayed as NASCAR's bad boy — although series officials like Hunter say that actual!}' helps the sport at times. Many, including Hunter, say he is not as bad as his reputation. But everyone agrees that Stewart, who enters Sunday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with an 82- point lead in the standings, can have his ill-mannered moments. Stewart, 31, admits he's had a hard time adjusting to the role of superstar. So he's decided to concentrate on what he knows best. "My strength is driving a race car, and my weakness is being a politician," said Stewart. 'Anything that has to do with politics, I'm not going to deal with." This summer he sought help for anger management after he hit a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway That incident brought a $10,000 fine and probation from NASCAR, and a $50,000 penalty from his sponsor, Home Depot. He's also been accused of shoving a female fan in Bristol (he was TONY STEWART'S UP AND DOWN SEASON THE UPS March 10: Stewart won his first 500-mile event when he wontheMNBA 500 "at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was the 13th victory of his career May 4; Stewart overcame a faulty engine valve to win at Richmond. It was his third career win at Richmond International Raceway. Aug. 11: At WatkinsGlen, Stewart beat rookie Ryan Newman to the finish line in a one-lap Shootout after a late red flag. .. THE DOWNS Aug. 4: Stewart punched a photographer after the Brickyard 400. Stewart was fined and put on probation by NASCAR and his sponsor, Home Depot. Aug. 24: A fan accused Stewart of shoving her at Bristol Motor Speedway. A Tennessee grand jury heard the evidence and did not bring charges. Sept. 13: An ambulance driver claimed .Stewart shoved him at the July New Hampshire race. NASCAR investigated and took no action. Tony Stewart celebrates after winning the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the MBNA America 500. JOHNNY CRAWFORD / Cox News Service cleared by a grand jury) and an ambulance driver at New Hampshire (NASCAR investigated and took no action). It's made for a long season, despite the on-track a ccomplishments. "This series doesn't get any easier," said Stewart. "New hurdles present themselves each week. We've had a target on our back the whole year." In the past few weeks, Stewart has vowed to put distractions behind him and focus on winning his first Winston Cup championship. Demands of success As Lowe's Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler points out, Stewart isn't the first NASCAR driver to have a hard time adjusting to success. "Everybody that has won a bunch of races from 1980 on has been confronted by quite a bit of this [attention]," he said. "I think Gale [Yarborough] had to make some adjustments. Barrel! Waltrip certainly did. Even though it seems that he was born to it, he had to adjust his thinking and his life. "Rusty Wallace had some times when he had to talk to himself, and even though Bobby and Terry Labonte are sort of matter-of-a-fact about everything and don't seem to get excited on the surface, underneath they do." Wheeler said NASCAR's superstars, past and present, usually surround themselves with people to help them with their job demands. In most cases, Wheeler said, the key person is the driver's wife. That may help explain why Stewart, who is single, struggles where others succeed. "The role of the wife is the most underplayed thing in racing," Wheeler said, adding that the spouse often serves as the only coach a driver has. Sometimes that coaching applies to media relations, too. To Stewart and his team, dealing with the media isn't a big part of having fun at the track. "It's not about dealing with the media, it's about driving race cars and winning races," he said, adding that there are some members of the media who he doesn't mind working with and others that he plans to ignore based on his previous dealings with them. "People have to be a little bit upset, but by gosh, we're going to do it our way from now on." Those who know him say Stewart is capable of putting his troubles behind him. "Anger management is going to be the key thing," Wheeler said. "Can he do that? That depends on the help he gets and how bad he wants to change." Stewart, who looks to win his fourth race of the season on Sunday said he's learning from his problems, and even sees some positives. "The good thing about all this is it has made this whole race team stronger, given us all direction," said Stewart. ON THE TUBE Winston Cup: NAPA 500, pre-race coverage noon EST Sunday on NBC. Busch: Aaron's 312,1 p.m. EDT Saturday on TNT. Craftsman Truck: American Racing Wheels 200, 5 p.m. EDT Nov. 2 on ESPN. GORDON NASCAR NOTES Atlanta race prompts memories of Kulwitki E very year at Atlanta's fall race, talk inevitably turns to one of the most memo- • rable events in Winston Cup history — the 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 10-year anniversary of that event evokes even more memories than usual. It was Richard Petty's final race, Jeff Gordon's first in the Winston Cup Series, and Alan Kulwicki completed a dream season by clinching the series title by only 10 points over Bill Elliott. Elliott won the race that day, but Kulwicki finished second and led the most laps to earn the small championship margin. Kulwicki, who owned his o\vn team, was the ultimate underdog. The next year, tragedy struck as Kulwicki died in a plane crash on his way to the spring Bristol race. Magazine honors Gordon Jeff Gordon was honored last week at the GQ Magazine Men of the Year Awards at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York — site of this year's Winston Cup awards ceremony on Dec. 6. Comedian Dennis Miller hosted the GQ event, which featured Gordon being named Individual Athlete of the Year. Gordon, .Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are featured in the October issue of GQ Magazine. The GQ awards show will be televised Dec. 14 by NBC at 10 p.m.. ET. McMurray back in No. 40 Dodge Jamie McMurray returns to the Winston Cup Series this weekend, subbing for injured Sterling Marlin for a third time, in the No. 40 Dodge. McMurray also will drive the No. 27 Chevrolet in Saturday's Aaron's 312 Busch race. McMurray won two weeks ago at Lowe's Motor Speedway in his second Winston Cup start. He is scheduled to drive full time next season as Mailin's teammate for owner Chip Ganassi. Cope takes over in No. 49 Dodge Derrike Cope returns to racing this weekend in the No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge. Cope hasn't raced since a Sept. 6 accident at Richmond International Raceway during a Busch Series event. Cope is scheduled to drive the No. 49 car the remainder of the season. Bonus grows in record territory The Winston Cup Leader Bonus is worth §280,000 this weekend — the highest amount in the program's seven-year history The bonus goes to a race winner, if the driver also leads the points standings after the victory. Plenty of viewers tuning in Final ratings from Nielsen Media Research report that the UAW-GM Quality 500 held at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Oct. 13 was watched by 7,903,000 viewers on NBC. The race earned the highest network rating for a NASCAR event in September, October or November. A LOOK AHEAD Nov. 3 — Pop Secret 400, North Carolina Speedway Nov. 10 — Checker Auto Parts 500 presented by Pennzoil, Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 17— Ford 400, Homestead-Miami Speedway DRIVER STANDINGS Outspoken Spencer still gives circuit a charge WINSTON CUP STANDINGS 1. Tony Stewart, 4,263. 2. Jimmie Johnson, 4,181. 3. Mark Martin, 4,140. 4. Rusty Wallace, 4,089. 5. Ryan Newman, 4,086. 6: Jeff Gordon, 3,972. 7. Kurt Busch, 3,946. 8. Matt Kenseth, 3,929. 9. Ricky Rudd, 3,923. 10. Dale Jarrett, 3,862. 11. Bill Elliott, 3,824. 12. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 3,784. 13. Sterling Marlin, 3,703. 14. Jeff Burton, 3,680. 15. Michael Waltrip, 3,601. 16. Ricky Craven, 3,498. 17. Bobby Labonte, 3,413. 18. Jeff Green, 3,367. 19. Dave Blaney, 3,267. 20. Robby Gordon, 3,232. 21. Kyle Petty, 3,165. 22. Kevin Harvick, 3,158. 23. Terry Labonte, 3,098. 24. Ward Burton, 2,991. 25. Jeremy Mayfield, 2,975. 26. Elliott Sadler, 2,922. 27. jimmy Spencer, 2,913. 28. John Andretti, 2,851. 29. Ken Schrader, 2,686. 30. Johnny Benson, 2,614. 31. Bobby Hamilton, 2,515. 32. Mike Skinner, 2,505. 33. Casey Atwood, 2,444. 34. Steve Park, 2,273. 35. Jerry Nadeau, 2,250. 36. Joe Nemechek, 2,184. 37. Brett Bodine, 2,160. 38. Todd Bodine, 1,808. 39. Hut Slricklin, 1,781. 40. Stacy Compton, 1,527. J immy Spencer, NASCAR's "Mr. Excitement" for many years, may have mellowed some, but he still can put some electricity into routine events like question-and-answer sessions. Spencer, who finished 24th in Sunday's Old Dominion 500 at Martinsville Speedway expounded on a variety of subjects before the race, then thanked his audience, took a big chew of Red Man tobacco and went back to driving his No. 41 Dodge. Spencer said too many drivers today won't say what they really think, and that's bad for the sport. "We can't have guys with no emotions getting out of these cars," he said. "Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Richard Petty — they all had personalities. "Today, some of the Winston Cup champions have been pretty boring in my eyes." Spencer admires Tony Stewart, the current points leader, for speaking his mind. "Tony will add a lot of spice to the series as a champion, if he does come through," Spencer said. Spencer also said he'd welcome slower speeds, which he says are too high and contribute to injuries, such as the one that knocked teammate Sterling Marlin out of the points race. — RickMinter BUSCH SERIES STANDINGS 1. Greg Biffle, 4,244. 2. Jason Keller, 4,139. 3. Scott Wimmer, 3,887. 4. Jack Sprague, 3,808. 5. Mike McLaughlin, 3,755. 6. Kenny Wallace, 3,667. 7. Jamie McMurray, 3,617. 8. Scott Riggs, 3,594. 9. Bobby Hamilton Jr., 3,589. 10. Randy LaJoie, 3,473. 11. Tony Raines, 3,470. 12. Stacy Compton, 3,463. 13. Tim Sauter, 3,287. 14. Hank Parker Jr., 3,119. 15. Johnny Sauter, 3,049. 16..Shane Hmiel, 3,016. 17. Ron Hornaday, 2,856. 18. Todd Bodine, 2,837. 19. Kerry Earnhardt, 2,819. 20. Larry Foyt, 2,818. 21. Ashton Lewis, 2,705. 22. Kerry Earnhardt, 2,773. 23. Jeff Green, 2,723. 24. Kevin Grubb, 2,578. 25. Kevin Lepage, 2,551. 26. Ricky Hendrick, 2,125. 27. Jimmy Spencer, 2,113.28. Michael Waltrip, 1,915. 29. Shane Hall, 1,813. 30. Jeff Burton, 1,795. 31. Mark Green, 1,517. 32. Brian Vickers, 1,491. 33. Casey Kahne, 1,463. 34. Joe Nemechek, 1,453. 35. Jay Sauter, 1,437. 36. Chad Chaffin, 1,430. 37. Mike Wallace, 1,315. 38. Jeff Purvis, 1,309. 39. Mike Harmon, 1,174. 40. Brad Teague, 1,032. TRUCK SERIES STANDINGS 1. Mike Bliss, 2,922. 2. Rick Crawford, 2,837. 3. Ted Musgrave, 2,773. 4. David Starr, 2,753. 5. Jason Leffler, 2,701. 6. Dennis Setzer, 2,698. 7. Robert Pressley, 2,660. 8. Terry Cook, 2,647. 9. Travis Kvapil, 2,591. 10. Coy Gibbs, 2,583. 11. Brendan Gaughan, 2,469. 12. Jon Wood, 2,407. 13. Lance Norick, 2,280. 14. Bobby Dotter, 2,186. 15. MattCraffon, 2,036. 16. Carlos Contreras, 2,028. 17. Bill Lester, 1,972. 18. Lance Hooper, 1,935. 19. Steve Portenga, 1,879. 20. Brian Rose, 1,870. Race a big step for diversity T he No. 09 Chevrolet entered in Saturday's Aaron's 312 Busch Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is the first NASCAR team with a Hispanic owner, sponsor and driver. Veteran open-wheel driver Roberto Guerrero will make his stock-car debut in the Ciclon Energy Drink-sponsored car for HRT Motorsports, owned by Rudy Rodriguez and Mike Vazquez. "NASCAR is so big, and the Hispanic market is so big in the U.S. and it's continuing to grow, so it's only natural for NASCAR to have Hispanic representation," Guerrero said. "Actually, most of the other series have so many Latin-American drivers, and NASCAR really hasn't had any" — Rick Minter TTttCK PROFILE ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY Track: 1.54-mile oval; banking in turns 1-4, 24 degrees; banking in straights, 5 degrees; length of frontstretch, 1,415 feet; length of backstretch, 1,320 feet. Where: Hampton, Ga. Date opened: 1960 First Winston Cup race: Dixie 300, July 31,1960. Grandstand seating: 124,000. On the Web: www.atlantamotor speerjway.com

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