Close Winston Cup race heads to shops this week

November 03, 1992|By Tom Higgins | Tom Higgins,Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There will be some exceptionally long hours put in at racing shops in Charlotte, Harrisburg, Ingles Hollow, Arden and Liberty this week.

They're the facilities where the Fords of Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Bill Elliott and Mark Martin are maintained, plus the Olds of Harry Gant and Pontiac of Kyle Petty.

The five will stage a NASCAR Winston Cup Series version of The Battle of Atlanta Nov. 15 when they race for the stock car circuit's $1 million championship.

In a surprising turnaround that produced a wild points swing, Allison won the Pyroil 500 Sunday in Phoenix and Kulwicki finished fourth to charge ahead of Elliott, who had led by 70 before the race. Allison leads Kulwicki by 30 points. Elliott, who experienced engine problems and placed 31st, is 40 back heading to the Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where testing is scheduled this week with most participating teams.

Gant trails by 97 points, Petty by 98 and Martin 133.

It's the sixth-closest chase going into the last race under the NASCAR scoring system dating to 1975. Previously, never more than three drivers had a chance with one race remaining.

"All this is going to make for some tough decisions and a lot of work going to Atlanta," said Robert Yates, the engine-builder and owner of Allison's team. "I expect we'll keep the same strategy that got us this far. The same people will do the same jobs. More attention will be paid to detail.

"We'll try to run smart while going for the win and try not to worry about anyone else."

Allison leads the season with five victories, but hadn't won since June. A crash in July at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway interfered, leaving the driver with fractures of the right arm, wrist and hand.

"This season has been a pressure cooker for a lot of teams," said Allison.

"We'd started asking, 'Man, where are we going to win again?' " said Allison's crew chief, Larry McReynolds. "That little voice had started haunting us."

During the AC Delco 500 Sept. 25, Allison and McReynolds uncharacteristically had a sharp exchange over their radios about a pit stop call. They huddled privately with Yates for about 90 minutes after Allison finished 10th to patch things up.

The Phoenix performance seems to indicate they did.

"We were doubting ourselves and Davey was doubting himself," Yates said. "This signals he's back 100 percent and so are we."

Even so, a lot of work, both mental and physical, faces all the contenders leading to the climactic race in Atlanta.

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