See Photos below.
The 2003 UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour
hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway continued on Tuesday, featuring
visits to Dale Earnhardt, Inc., a trip to Jay M. Robinson High
School in Concord, N.C. to visit with Ricky Rudd and the Wood
Brothers team, and the unveiling of the new NASCAR Research and
Dale Earnhardt Inc. was the first stop on this the second day of the
tour, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother, Teresa Earnhardt
spoke about their new Busch Series venture – Chance 2 Motorsports.
Earnhardt Jr. plans to run three events in the Busch Series with the
new team, while DEI driver Steve Park and Busch North Series driver
Martin Truex, Jr. will drive five races each. Ron Fellows, the
Canadian road-racing specialist will drive the car in Winston Cup
events at Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen, while Busch Series
standout Jason Keller will tackle the Winston Cup event at
In addition to the Chance2 Motorsports announcement, Earnhardt, Jr.
confirmed he had agreed to a new, five-year contract on Monday that
carries through the 2007 season. One of the provisions of the
contract reduced the number of personal appearances Earnhardt Jr.
would have to make, a key point in the negotiations.
“It wasn’t the fact that we couldn’t agree (on a contract), it’s
just we never could just sit down and do it, get everyone in the
same room.” Earnhardt said. “We were really just passing around a
revised copy (of the contract) back forth and making small
adjustments, and then yesterday we sat around for about four hours
and worked it out.”
Earnhardt, Jr., only two short months into his role as car owner
admits he has a new appreciation of the relationship between the car
owner and the driver.
“It does put you in a different perspective,” said Earnhardt. “It
definitely will provide me with a lot of information and knowledge
and experience that I probably wouldn’t get otherwise. Hopefully,
it’ll improve my relationship with everybody within the company.
This will hopefully give me the ability to understand them more.”
Steve Park, who returned early in last season to the #1 Pennzoil
team after suffering a near-fatal head injury during a Busch Series
race in September of 2001 at Darlington Raceway, is still proving
wrong all those who said he might never race again. However, his
on-track performance has yet to silence his critics. Parks best
finish of sixth at the fall race at Talladega was only his second
top ten finish of the year, leading some to wonder if Park returned
“I’m tired of hearing that,” Park said. “I don’t think I came back
too soon. I think I came back at the right time. The team I came
back to was kind of picked apart and wasn’t the same team that I
left. When I came back, we were in a rebuilding stage.
“Right now, we want to take the steps to get us back into the top
ten in points, win some races and look forward to a championship in
the future. We feel we have the catalyst and the members on this
Pennzoil team to do that.”
Park’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, said he “guaranteed” a win in 2003
for the team.
Jay M. Robinson High School was the third stop of the day. General
Rice of the United States Air Force joined Motorcraft, the Wood
Brothers and Ricky Rudd to kick off a celebration of the 100th
anniversary of the first flight and the 100th anniversary of Ford
Rudd, contented with his chances for 2003, echoed the remarks of
“There is no better time for me to be a part of the Wood Brothers
with the Air Force,” said Rudd. “I’ve been a pilot since 1983, so
aviation is something that has always excited me. Celebrating 100
years of flight really makes it special.”
The No. 21 Motorcraft/Air Force Ford will carry a special “100th
Centennial of Flight” paint scheme in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s
Motor Speedway in May.
Rudd spent nearly two-thirds of the 2002 season embroiled in a very
public contract dispute with Robert Yates. Rumors of retirement and
a possible deal with Chip Ganassi were rampant before he signed a
last minute, three-year deal with the Wood Brothers, one of just a
handful of single-car operations left in NASCAR.
“The Wood Brothers have great equipment,” Rudd said. “We’ve tested
five or six times already. We have some fast race cars, and I think
we will win some races this year.”
Sandwiched between visits at DEI and the Wood Brothers Racing was a
news breaking stop with the NASCAR brass. NASCAR executives, led by
Bill France showed off its brand new, state-of-the-art Research and
Development Center in Concord, N.C. The 61,000 square-foot facility
features engineering, fabrication and prototype shops, as well as a
fluid dynamics lab, machine shop and impound rooms.
The primary function of the facility is to continue the development
of safety, competition and cost containment in NASCAR.
“Everyone at NASCAR is extremely proud of this facility,” said
NASCAR President Mike Helton. “We are committed to new safety
initiatives, close competition and working with our teams to ensure
we move forward in a cost-effective manner.”
NASCAR Executive Vice President Brian France, NASCAR Senior Vice
President George Pyne, and Bill France, Jr. joined Helton in an
address to the media about the past, present and future of NASCAR.
Among the major announcements made was a new policy limiting access
to the garage and pits areas. NASCAR will no longer allow fans in
the garage area while cars are on the track. During this time, a
special “hot pass” will be required to access the garage area.
NASCAR also announced they are in the process of hiring a director
NASCAR is also considering the possible re-alignment of the Winston
Cup series schedule for 2004, suggesting some race dates might be
moved from one track and given to another within the same ownership
“We are going to talk to each and every track to figure out if
there’s a better way to model our schedule,” said Brian France.
“NASCAR will have to decide when and if any moves are possible. The
whole schedule is subject to negotiation with every track.”
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