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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 1, 2007, New Braunfels, Texas Page 4E — Herald Zeitung — Sunday, April 1,2007 MAfrrmsvTiLE data April I Oct. 21 FEUD OF THE WEEK AIM THE SPOTLIGHT Distance:...............0.526    mile    oval Length of fnmtstretch:........800    ft. Length of backstretch:........800    ft gff J Miles/Laps: 263 mi. - 500 laps Banking in strai Banking in turns 1-4 ► lf you have a question or a comment, write: NASCAR This Week, c/o The Gaston Gazette, PO. Box 1538, Gastonia, NC 28053 ► The Car of Tomorrow is safer. Time will tell whether it makes the racing better. What it was designed for, though, was to make the races easier to officiate. The shape of the various cars is almost identical. NASCAR won’t feel pressure to tinker with the various models. ► lf there's a silver lining with the COT, maybe it's the fact that the Cup cars are less similar to the Busch Series cars, at least when the COT is in use. Perhaps it will make it less beneficial for Cup drivers to moonlight in Busch races. ► Martinsville is a great venue for trucks. The Craftsman Truck Series was designed to be primarily a short-track series, but now most of the races are on tracks of a mile or more. The trucks still fit the Martinsvilles better. ► Toyota had its best week, which still isn't saying much. Five made the field at Bristol. Significantly. though. Michael Waltrip didn't, and pressure is rising amid suggestions that Waltrip’s team isn t capable of supporting three Nextel Cup entries. lf ever there were a slumbering giant, it's Toyota. So far, though, the new manufacturer's wounds have been mostly self-inflicted. ► The changed dimensions of the Car of Tomorrow are giving pit crews problems. The carefully plotted pit stops, methods honed by hundreds of practice sessions, have to be conducted a bit differently, and when wrecked, the COT is much more difficult — and time-consuming — to repair. * The drivers who combined to win the previous eight Bristol races all qualified outside the top 30 before this one. ► Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart pretty much feel the same way about the COT. Notice the difference in tact. Gordon said, “It's a little bit awkward.” Stewart said: “I still think it’s ugly. They’re all ugly, but at least everybody's car looks ugly." ► Like it or not, the Bristol race was historic. Stock cars probably haven't ever faced such a drastic transformation in terms of design, at least not in so short a period of time. ^ Who’s hot — Kyle Busch, whose victory was long overdue. ... Mark Martin, for staying clear of the COT debut. * Who's not — Tony Stew art is fast every week, but he hasn’t climbed any fences.... Dale Jarrett's team fell out c Of the top 35 STEWART in owner points at precisely the wrong time. Scon Riggs Nextel Cup Series No. IO Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge All times Eastern Nextel Cup Goody's Cool Orange 500,1:30 p.m., Sunday Busch Series Pepsi 300, 3 p.m., April, 7 Truck Series Kroger 250, 2 p.m., Saturday rn Race: Goody's Cool Orange 500 ■ Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (.526 miles), 500 laps/263 miles. ■ When: Sunday, April I ■ Last year's winner: Kurt Busch ■ Qualifying record. Tony Stew art, Chevrolet, 98.083 mph, Oct. 21. 2005. ■ Race record: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 82.223 mph, Sept. 22,1996. ■ Last week: Kyle Busch won the Food City 500, a race which will be otherwise remembered as the place where NASCAR first raced the Car of Tomorrow. Prior to the first of two annual Bristol Motor Speedway crashfests, Busch had led three of the season’s first four races, and all he had was a couple of ninth-place finishes to show for it. In the Busch Series, the racing equivalent of a second home, his penchant for doing everything but win had been even more dramatic. In order to burst into victory lane for the fourth time in his career, Busch, every bit of 21 years old. had to overcome the disadvantage of other cars that were faster. He had to surmount a profound dislike for the COT, the new design whose name became inaccurate when "tomorrow” finally arrived to become “today.” And he had to weather a side-by-side, overtime finish in which his Chevy crossed the finish line .064 of a second ahead of another driven by Jeff Burton. ■ Race: Pepsi 300 ■ Where: Nashville Superspeedway, Gladeville, Tenn. (1.333 miles), 225 laps/299.925 miles. ■ When: Saturday, April 7 ■ Last year’s winner: Kevin Harvick ■ Qualifying record: Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 166.515 mph, April 9, 2004 ■ Race record: Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 125.244 mph. June 8, 2002. ■ Last week: Points leader Carl Edwards won for the first time, capturing the Sharpie Mini 300 at Bristol. ■ Race: Kroger 250 ■ Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (.526 miles), 250 laps/131.5 miles. ■ When: Saturday, March 31 ■ Last year’s winner: David Starr ■ Qualifying record: Rick Crawford, Ford, 95.966 mph, Oct. 21, 2005. ■ Race record: Jimmy Hensley, Dodge, 74.294 mph, April 17,1999. rn Last race: Mike Skinner, in a Toyota, won his second straight race, Atlanta’s American Commercial Lines 200, on March 17. He’s Old School Riggs leery of COT, but if he won in it, that would be OK Whatever happened to the “stock” in stock cars? The "S" in NASCAR stands for "stock." What part of stock do you not understand? The Fords and Dodges are transformers. They mag ically transform from four-door to twodoor. The only true, two-door stock car comes out of the door of GM's Chevrolet plant, not out of a garage in North or South Carolina. The Car of Tomorrow is a joke that looks unlike any car seen. The NASCAR charter stated "an American-made, two-door 'stock' car produced in a volume of at least 50 cars to be legal to race." Looks like that narrows the field to Chevrolets, with Ford, Dodge or Toyota grills, taillights and engines. Just change the name to the national association of "not" stock-car racing, or NANSCAR. Bill Hall Oaktown, Ind. We sympathize, but the day of genuine "stock cars" is long over and isn't coming back. The Chevrolet you mention has very little in common with anything coming out of a Chevrolet plant. Doors? The cars raced in NASCAR don't have any doors at all. By Monte Dutton NASCAR This Week BRISTOL, Tenn. — Scott Riggs, whose background evokes an earlier time in NASCAR, remains hopeful despite a slow start to his fourth season in the Nextel Cup Series. Riggs, 36, is from Bahama (pronounced buh-HAY-muh), N.C., near Durham. He cut his teeth racing at Southern National Speedway in Kenly, N.C., where he won 60 features and a pair of track championships. He then moved up to the Hooters Pro Cup and NASCAR All Pro series in the late 1990s. Riggs then successfully competed in the Craftsman Truck and Busch series, winning races in both. In 2006, Riggs switched teams. Though his No. IO Dodge is officially owned by Valvoline’s Jim Rocco, it is a part of Evernham Motorsports, where Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler are Riggs’ teammates. Last year he finished a career-best 20th in the Cup points standings. Riggs has worked tirelessly to advance his career, taking advantage of precious few shortcuts along the way. He’s won three Cup poles but has never finished better than second in a race. After posting the top speed in a Bristol Motor Speedway practice session, Riggs was asked if he was targeting a victory in the first Car of Tomorrow race. “It would be big to win the first race in the COT,” said Riggs. “It would be big to win the first race in the Avenger. It would be big for me to win my first race.” In short, it would be big for Riggs to win anywhere. He’s come close John Clark/NASCAR This Week Scott Riggs, a native of Bahama, N.C., has won three Nextel Cup poles but has never finished better than second in a race. enough to be frustrated by the elusiveness of victory. “We try to win every single weekend,” said Riggs. “We’ve just got to make sure we have a solid weekend. We’ve run well in the past. We just haven’t been able to seal the deal and have a good, solid finish (this year). That’s all we want.” As for the COT, Riggs is leery. “It would help to have a faster car where we could get back in the gas before they (the COTs) do in the corner,” he said. “We’ll see about the ‘bump and run’ (method of passing). If you have damage to the rear wing, you’re going to have to come in and fix it. It’ll probably take 20-30 laps to fix it, but that’s what you’ve got to do.” Contact Monte Dutton at [email protected] New book looks back at legendary racing venues Longtime fans of NASCAR history will love Silent Speedways of the Carolinas: The Grand National Histories of 29 Former Tracks (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, $35). It may be ordered at or by calling (800) 253-2187. Matt Kenseth vs. Dale Jarrett After contact between the two sent Jarrett into a nasty date with the turn-one wall at Bristol, the 1999 Winston Cup champion launched a full verbal assault at the 2003 titlist. “Everybody has this great vision that Matt Kenseth is this nice guy on the race track," said Jarrett. “He is a nice guy away from the track, but he's a rough driver on the race track when he doesn’t have to be." NASCAR This Week’s Monte Dutton gives his take: ‘Kenseth is now one of the best, just as Jarrett once was. Kenseth is a championship contender, and Jarrett is trying frantically to get his Toyota up to speed. When roles change, so do attitudes and perceptions.” Kenseth Jarrett As Burton reminds fans, COT based on safety first AMP BOLTS » a Nextel Cup I. Jeff Gordon 791 2. Jeff Burton -3 3. Jimmie Johnson -75 4. Matt Kenseth -94 5. Kevin Harvick -144 6. Kyle Busch -152 7. Mark Martin -16? 8. Clint Bowyer -170 9. Denny Hamlin 185 IO . Carl Edwards -193 Busch Series I. Carl Edwards 1.005 2. Kevin Harvick -197 3. Kyle Busch -248 4. Dave Blaney -291 5. Matt Kenseth -322 6. Juan Montoya* -350 7. Marcos Ambrose* -363 8. Greg Biffle -370 9. Mike Wallace -382 IO. Bobby Hamilton Jr. -405 Craftsman Truck Series I. Mike Skinner 550 2. Todd Bodine -69 3. Ron Hornaday Jr. -99 4. Jack Sprague -101 5. Ted Musgrave - HO 6. Mike Crafton -113 Pick Crawford -113 8. Johnny Benson -141 9. Travis Kvapil -142 IO. Dennis Setzer -192 * rookieBy Monte Dutton NASCAR This Week BRISTOL, Tenn. - Jeff Burton said it was important to consider that the COT had been devised with a priority on safety. The quality of racing may determine the public’s perception, but it was safety concerns that led to the whole development process. “Without people being hurt, we’d be thinking we were doing good enough, and that’s one of the things we have to guard against in the future,” said Burton. “It’s real easy to look around and say ‘Look how good we are, look how great we are.’ Ifs real easy to convince yourself that you’ve done enough.” That all changed with Dale Earnhardt’s death in 2001. “We weren’t good enough,” said Burton. “We weren’t doing enough to move the bar. ... It’s not acceptable that we have to be constantly trying to move the bar when we weren’t doing it, and when I say we, I don’t mean just NASCAR. I mean all of us. It takes the teams, it takes the drivers, it takes the manufacturers, it takes everyone.” Remember when? This race marked Bristol’s 50th consecutive sellout, dating back to August 1982. As a track release noted, the streak began when Jeff Gordon, now 35, was ll. Darrell Waltrip won the first sellout, the Busch 500, and earned $22,925 for first place. Matt Kenseth’s take was $336,516 in August 2006. The pole winner for the first sellout, the late Tim Richmond, averaged 112.507 mph. Now the record, set by Ryan Newman in 2001, is 128.709 mph. At the time of that first sellout: “Late Night With David Letterman” debuted on NBC. Its descendant, of course, is now “The Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS. Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson had just been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Sally Ride had been selected as the first female astronaut. Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games streak had just begun. Michael Jackson released “Thriller,” which would sell 104 million copies. Georgia’s Herschel Walker was on the way to winning the Heisman Trophy, and it was Paul “Bear” Bryant’s final year as head coach at Alabama. His No. I fan — It’s been slightly over six years since retired Buddy Baker took on Ryan Newman as a personal project. Since then, Newman has won 12 Cup races and a whopping 38 poles. Baker, 66, was no slouch himself, finishing his career with 19 victories and 40 poles. “He’s as close to a third son as I’ve ever had,” said Baker. “I don’t have a record that I wouldn’t like to see him break.” ■ Work in progress — Denny Hamlin said it’s important to remember that the COT will continue to evolve during the phase-in process. “They’re going to change the current car around in probably in the next three years,” he said. “Once we run them in race conditions and we see what can be improved on, I think it’s going to be an evolving car that’s just going to keep changing.” Not his first rodeo — Robbie Reiser, Matt Kenseth’s crew chief, played down the new inspection procedures applied to the COT. The process went smoothly, according to most observers, but it was more lengthy than in the past. “You put your car up on jack stands, they check the motor, they check underneath, you go through the tent, they put all the templates on and other than a few new templates and the tolerances being tighter, it really ain’t that different,” he said. “It’s still a stock car. It’s still racing.” ■ Same car either way — The Chevrolet version of the Car of Tomorrow would look exactly the same whether it had been branded Impala or not. The same is true of the Dodge Avenger. If Dodge hadn’t decided to call it an Avenger, it would be a Charger, and the only difference would be the decals on the nose. Still, the fact is that the COT is called an Impala, not a Monte Carlo. The next Impala victory will be the first for that model since Wendell Scott’s only victory, the race run in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 1,1963. The Impala began its reinvention just one shy of the total victories of the Lumina, which won 61 races during the 1989-94 period. In NASCAR history, Monte Carlos have won 415 races, Lumina 61, Impala 60, BelAir (or Biscayne) 54, Chev-elle 7 and Camaro two. The all-time Chevy total was 599 entering Bristol. ;