Rare Sunday off is big hit with Burton

On Motor Sports

May 23, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Ward Burton is happy making his living in Winston Cup racing. And, he said, NASCAR has been in the business of putting on races for longer than he has been alive, so he isn't about to tell it what to do.

But race weekend at Richmond International Raceway did give a lot of people something to think about. It had been scheduled as a two-day weekend, instead of the usual three. And even when rain washed out the first round of qualifying and practice on Friday there was still time to practice, qualify and race on Saturday.

The only ones who may have minded the curtailed schedule were souvenir sellers and hotel and restaurant owners who missed an extra day of sales to the 103,000 fans who swarmed the track.

Certainly Burton, 37, didn't mind.

"I spent Sunday taking my grandmother to brunch and my children, Sarah [12] and Jeb [6] to the zoo in Richmond," Burton said. "Then we all went home and played in a little lake. We spent the rest of the afternoon throwing water on each other."

Burton points out that with three-day race weekends, crewmen get to spend only one day a week at home with their families. And he gets little more, admitting, "I never get to go to my children's soccer games or dance recitals.

"I'm not complaining," he said. "But I think we should be able to have some kind of a life away from racing during our careers. I think we need more Saturday races. And we don't need any more races."

With new tracks either built or being built in St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City and another in the planning stage in or near New York City, more races are certainly in the future of the Winston Cup Series.

Whether NASCAR takes events away from existing tracks that have two events a year or wedges them into the existing schedule remains to be seen.

"We race nearly every weekend from February to Thanksgiving now," said Burton, currently eighth in the Winston Cup points standings. "Just one rainout and we could find ourselves racing on Thanksgiving Day. It's not going to help the sport by adding five more races. Anyone you ask, if they're honest, would tell you the same thing."

The older you get

A survey of the regular drivers in Formula One, CART, the IRL and NASCAR's Winston Cup series shows drivers on the totally American stock car circuit are collectively older.

In the F-1 series, drivers average 28.9 years; in CART, the average age is 30.1; in IRL, 34.1; and in Winston Cup, 38.4.

Of course, Dave Marcis, the wily Winston Cup veteran skews the average a bit at age 58. But the Winston Cup series has three drivers 50 or older (Darrell Waltrip, 52, and Geoffrey Bodine, 50), and two others in their late 40s (Dale Earnhardt, 48, and Dick Trickle, 47).

None of the other three series has anyone older than the IRL's 45-year-old Arie Luyendyk, who is retiring after next Sunday's Indy 500.

Nuts and bolts

Mark Martin, who won the Hardee's 250 at Richmond, Va., last weekend, will be going for his second consecutive Busch Grand National win today in Nazareth, Pa. The 43-car field takes the green flag at noon and will be carried live by ESPN.

The Busch Series rookie race is getting tighter. Adam Petty continues to lead Tony Raines, but only by five points, 1,081-1,076. At Richmond, Randy LaJoie became the first driver to earn $3 million in a Busch Series career, when he collected $14,225 for his 42nd place finish in a 43-car field.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will try to tie a record for successive wins at the same track two years in a row at Dover, Del. Junior won at Dover last spring, and if he can do it again June 5 in the MBNA Platinum 200, he will join Harry Gant, the only driver to accomplish the feat in Dover International Speedway's Busch Grand National race. Gant did it in 1990 and 1991.

Earnhardt Jr. is to make his Winston Cup debut next Sunday in the Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte, N.C.

Today is busy for fans who want to watch what's happening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At noon, ESPN2 will begin four hours of live coverage. At 4 p.m., ABC picks up with Indy 500 qualifying. And at 6 p.m., ESPN checks in for an hour.

On the Internet, each day from 6 to 7 p.m. through Friday, Indy's racing historian Donald Davidson talks racing at http: //www.broadcasts.com/sports/ motorsports/auto racing/Indy 500. And next Sunday, Davidson will be back from 2: 30 to 6 p.m. with a post-Indy wrap-up.

Tri Star Motorsports will offer a live, continuous video and audio feed over the Internet from the garages of its drivers Tony Stewart and Dr. Jack Miller at Indy. The site address is www.tristarmotorsports.com. There will also be a daily live interview and call-in with the drivers and crew members at 6: 30 p.m.

For Stewart fans, he and Krista Dwyer of Rockville, Ind., have announced their engagement. She is the marketing and recruiting coordinator for Dental-Medical Power of Indianapolis. Stewart drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Winston Cup series and will run the Indy 500 for Tri Star.

Pub Date: 5/23/99

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