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Winston Cup Series

Thursday, December 4

Elliott eyes 15 Nextel Cup races
Associated Press

Bill Elliott

NEW YORK -- Former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott will drive a limited schedule in 2004 for Evernham Motorsports.

"I'm still competitive and I could have kept driving full time for a few more seasons," he said Thursday. "But this is the way to go, and I think other older drivers will see how it works and might want to do the same thing."

The 48-year-old driver said he would like to drive 15 of the 36 Nextel Cup races in 2004 if sponsorship can be found. He and team owner Ray Evernham would like the arrangement to be for more than one year but that is not set.

Evernham has committed Elliott to two or three races at the start of the season while searching for sponsorship for the rest of the limited schedule.

Elliott said he will drive at tracks he enjoys -- Las Vegas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas and Michigan. He will skip the Daytona 500 and the race at Rockingham, N.C., before opening his regular season March 7 at Las Vegas.

There had been speculation since early in the 2003 season that Elliott, the 1988 Cup champion, was going to retire. A strong surge in the second half of the season carried Elliott to ninth place in the standings.

"I didn't want to see Bill Elliott leave the sport," said Evernham, who hired Elliott as a driver when he started Evernham Motorsports three years ago. "He's my business partner and my friend."

Also at the announcement were holdover driver Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne, who Evernham said will take Elliott's place as the full-time driver of the No. 9 Dodge. Kahne is moving up from NASCAR's Busch Series.

Evernham and Kahne said the 23-year-old driver has completed his obligations to Ford Motor Co. But Ford spokesman Kevin Kennedy said Kahne has a contract for the next two years and has not been released.

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