Bristol Sunday Notebook

Food City 500 Sunday Notebook by Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 29, 1998) Ricky Craven, the regular driver of Hendrick Motorsports' No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet, may be on a medical sabbatical, but he is still making his ...

Bristol Sunday Notebook
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Food City 500 Sunday Notebook by Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online

BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 29, 1998)

Ricky Craven, the regular driver of Hendrick Motorsports' No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet, may be on a medical sabbatical, but he is still making his weekly appearances at the race tracks visited by the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Saturday he visited Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Food City 500, the sixth race of the season and the second Craven has missed since being diagnosed with a "post concussion syndrome" initially triggered by a heavy crash last April at Texas Motor Speedway.

As well as keeping a high profile in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series garage, Craven is aggressively pursuing his rehabilitation at the University of North Carolina Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

"The therapy is eye exercises and head movement exercises," said Craven, who is also opting to get reconstructive surgery on his right knee. "I'm also taking a couple of classes of martial arts. It's all about balance, and it's going well.

"I'm going to have to back off on the martial arts, because I'm going to have my knee operated on Tuesday morning. I'm going to get everything fixed. I'm out for three months ... all the things that are bothering me, I'm going to get fixed."

Craven's former ride, which was put into 10th spot for only the second time this season by substitute driver Randy LaJoie, was liberally decorated with "hurry back" decals plastered inside it as a message of cheer for Craven.

LaJoie was well pleased by his 10th place finish, saying teamwork paid off for him in the No. 50 Budweiser Chevrolet.

"It's good to have teammates because we took a half Gordon setup and a half Labonte setup and made it into a LaJoie set," LaJoie said. "Obviously, we did need to get it a little better because they were first and second today. Compared to last week, we won the race today."

Robert Pressley, who crashed in Turn 3 during a wild final 10-lap flurry in the Food City 500, was airlifted out of Bristol to Wellmont-Bristol (Tenn.) Regional Hospital, since the race had been completed and the huge crowd had snarled the road system. Pressley, who complained of a sore shoulder, was treated and released after a CT scan of his shoulder proved negative.

Crew chief Tony Furr solved the mystery of where at least one Hendrick Motorsports Pontiac had gone.

"We gave it to our truck team," he said of the Jack Sprague and Dennis Connor pairing. "We were going to try and test it, and then maybe run it at Atlanta. But the weather never allowed us to do that test. I'm not sure what they're going to do with it, but they might run it in the Winston Open at Charlotte."

NASCAR chief of timing and scoring Morris Metcalfe passed a milestone with Sunday's Food City 500.

"There have been 75 NASCAR Winston Cup races held at Bristol," Metcalfe said prior to Sunday's race, "and I've scored all of 'em."

Hut Stricklin was transported to Wellmont-Bristol (Tenn.) Regional Hospital by ambulance following a wreck in Turn 1 that involved Brett Bodine and Kenny Wallace. Stricklin's Circuit City Chevrolet, after spinning and backing into the wall, was hit squarely in the driver's door by Wallace's Square D Ford.

Stricklin, who was alert and awake after the accident, complained of neck pain. He was transported as a precaution and he was treated and released. The Stavola Brothers Racing crew put his car back together, which created an interesting dilemma -- no one was out of the race who could drive the car.

Ultimately Mike Dillon, who had been standing by as a potential relief driver for Mike Skinner in the No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet, got in the car.

Funeral services for Betty Jo Punch, the mother of ESPN motorsports commentator Dr. Jerry Punch and motorsports PR rep Dennis Punch, will be at 11 a.m. Monday (March 30) at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Newton, N.C. Visitation for Mrs. Punch, who passed away Saturday morning in Charlotte, N.C., after a long battle with cancer, will be Sunday night from 6 to 8 at the Drum Funeral Home in Conover, N.C.

Kenny Irwin, whose No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford was eliminated in a lap 88 wall-banger, replaced Geoff Bodine under caution at about lap 350. Bodine was overcome by heat and, with the same problem Stricklin's team encountered, Irwin was pressed into service after his use was approved by NASCAR Winston Cup Director Gary Nelson.

When Michael Waltrip led lap 344 of the Food City 500, it was the first lap he had led this season.

Darrell Waltrip scored his best finish of the season in his debut with the No 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, and was in typical form after the race.

"If a coach named Tubby can take the Kentucky Wildcats to the finals," said the Owensboro, Ky., native, "I'm sure a crew chief named Philippe (Lopez) ought to be able to help me win a race."

Thanks to yeoman work by crew chief Robin Pemberton and the Miller Lite Ford crew, Rusty Wallace maintained his lead in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point race. Wallace crashed after running over a piece of lead that apparently fell out of Ricky Rudd's Tide Ford. The crew got Wallace back on track in time to pick up two positions and lead teammate Jeremy Mayfield by a single point heading into next weekend's Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Mike Skinner was happy to escape a major crash with Bobby Labonte and Chad Little unscathed as he continues to recover from injuries he received earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"We ran in there (Turn 3) on those guys and everybody checked up a bunch," Skinner said. "I went in there a little bit too hard because I expected them to go on, I hit the brakes, the car wheel-hopped and I ran right into the back of Bobby Labonte and wrecked him."

NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division driver Elliott Sadler, who won the Moore's Snacks 250 on Saturday, confirmed a five-race NASCAR Winston Cup schedule for later this season.

His Diamond Ridge Motorsports team will run a schedule composed entirely of "intermediate track" events, including the May 24 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Aug. 1 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Sept. 6 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the Oct. 4 UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte and the Nov. 8 NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith hung around for the Food City 500 after serving as grand marshal for the Moore's Snacks 250. He gave the command to start engines to the 43 starters in the sixth NASCAR Busch Series race of the season. Smith was the guest of Steve Johnson, a former teammate with the Cowboys who is now the managing director of The Virginian, a swank golf club in Bristol.

Bristol has 60 permanent staff, but the number swelled to some 2,701 this weekend, including 300 ushers, 100 Sullivan County deputy sheriffs, 100 car parkers, 100 souvenir program magazine vendors, 130 pre-race staff, 65 ticket stubbers, 85 emergency service personnel, 40 firemen, 65 security officers, 50 guest service workers, 25 "cooler checkers," 25 ticket sellers, 16 bus drivers, 10 shuttle drivers, 50 hospitality workers, 10 media staff and a cleanup crew of 150.

Alan Winninger, who has been involved with NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing for the past 15 years, primarily in the racing apparel aspect, has formed Speed Apparel, Inc. Winninger, who most recently was with Exquisite Designs of Denver, Colo., will base the new company in Fairfax, Va.

"Working with Alan Kulwicki has to have been the best of times for my NASCAR career," Winninger said. "I worked with him to develop the 'Mighty Mouse' apparel to his line, bringing one of the first cartoon characters to the NASCAR sport."

Source: NASCAR Online

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