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 Saturday, August 19
Mayfield still fast in return to action
 
 Associated Press

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Judging by his qualifying effort for Sunday's Pepsi 400, Jeremy Mayfield is back at full speed after missing two races because of a concussion.

Mayfield, injured during practice for the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis earlier this month, will start sixth following a qualifying lap at 189.625 mph.

While recuperating, he was forced to miss the Brickyard 400 and Global Crossing at the Glen.

"Now that qualifying is over with, it's like a big relief to me," Mayfield said. "I've heard a lot of horror stories. The last two weeks that's what's been on my mind.

"My biggest fear was when I got here to Michigan. I got in the car and went around to make sure I was OK. That lasted about a lap and then I took off."

Mayfield appeared on his way to victory in the last NASCAR race at Michigan in June. He was leading from laps 120 through 153, building as much as an eight-second margin. However a 90-minute rain delay wiped that out and he was forced out of the race with engine problems on the 177th lap.

"This is the same race car and same type of set-up we had, and just feel real confident about coming here," he said.

MIS no longer MIA
Michigan Speedway will no longer exist as of Monday. No, they aren't bringing in a wrecking ball. They're going back to the track's original name -- Michigan International Speedway.

The track was named Michigan International Speedway when it opened in 1968. Then, four years ago, Penske Motorsports officials dropped "International" from the name to be consistent with Penske-owned tracks in California and Rockingham.

"So many of our guests and the media still refer to the track as Michigan International Speedway," Penske Motorsports president Gene Haskett said Saturday. "For them, as well as many of us here, it will be like welcoming back an old friend."

As part of the name change, MIS will also sport a new logo designed by Jerry Stanley, director of Creative Services for International Speedway Corp.

No D.W. on Sunday
Darrell Waltrip's last visit as a driver to Michigan Speedway didn't turn out exactly as he had hoped.

The 28-year veteran, who is retiring after the Winston Cup season, didn't qualify for Sunday's race. It is the third straight time he has not made the field for a NASCAR race at Michigan.

"It seems like we'd make a little bit of gain and come back, and people would make bigger gains," Waltrip said. "It's a place, obviously, we need to come and test, do some work. We just haven't got it nailed down."

Waltrip ran his first race at Michigan in June 1975, when he started 35th and finished fifth. He won a Winston Cup race on the track in 1977 and 1984, and turned in 18 consecutive top-10 performances on the speedway from 1980-87.

Stewart no fan of fuel-mileage racing
Tony Stewart, who won the rain-shortened race in June at Michigan Speedway, still believes he is at a bit of a disadvantage on the 2-mile oval in Brooklyn, Mich.

The problem is that virtually every stock car race on the high-banked Michigan track comes down to fuel economy.

Bobby Labonte, Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, and crew chief Jimmy Makar played the fuel mileage game in the first Michigan race in 1995 and won. They used the same strategy in the August race that year and did it again.

In Sunday's Pepsi 400, Stewart will be trying to become the first driver to sweep both races at the track since Labonte. But he knows it won't be easy.

I haven't really been around long enough to know for sure, but it just seems like that's the magic word there -- fuel economy," said Stewart, the 1999 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year. "You try to do everything you can to make the engine run as efficiently as possible all day."

That is exactly the kind of racing that the aggressive Stewart dislikes the most.

"Because I don't know how to save fuel, basically," he said. "I think the longer the race, the more you learn how to save fuel. But it seems like you've got two speeds -- fast and parked. So we'll just stick with the fast part right now and worry about the fuel mileage later."

Special place for Elliott
Bill Elliott plans to not only commemorate his 25 years of driving at Michigan Speedway but also to rekindle the success that he once had on the speedway.

Elliott, who will drive a McDonald's special edition red, yellow and silver Ford Taurus, will start from the ninth row after qualifying Friday with a lap of 188.882 mph.

"Michigan Speedway has probably meant more to my career than any other track," Elliott said. "I have a lot of great memories and have a lot of fans and friends in the area. It's always special to race in Michigan."

Elliott, who last won at Michigan in 1989, leads all active drivers in victories at the speedway with seven, has earned more than $1.1 million and is the career lap leader at 872.

However, Michigan Speedway has been rough on Elliott of late. His only top-10 finish over the last four races was a fourth place in the Kmart 400 on June 11.

Back to Todd
Todd Bodine is back in the driver's seat as a replacement for the recuperating Terry Labonte.

He failed to qualify for the field during the first-round qualifying Friday after turning in the 28th fastest lap of 187.725. However, he will likely make it by staying on his speed during Saturday's qualifying session.

Bodine was first called to action earlier this month for the Brickyard 400 when Labonte could not drive due to lingering effects from an accident July 1 at Daytona. He qualified the Kellogg's Chevrolet 25th and finished 15th.

Last week, Ron Hornaday sat in for Labonte in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and also turned in a 15th-place showing.

"Terry's still not 100 percent and because of that, we're putting Todd back in the car," said Rick Kendrick, Hendrick Motorsports chief executive officer. "He did a great job filling in for us at the Brickyard and we're confident he'll do the job again at Michigan. It's more important to have Terry back 100 percent and ready."

A new Ironman
Now that Terry Labonte's string of 655 consecutive starts is over, Dale Earnhardt is the man with the longest streak -- 634 heading into Sunday's race at Michigan Speedway.

But the seven-time Winston Cup champion would rather Labonte was still doing his iron man thing.

"Terry made a tough decision in Indy," Earnhardt said, referring to Labonte's decision to end his 21-year starting string by sitting out the Brickyard 400 because of the residual effects of a concussion. "I told him to take a lap and get out, but he knows what's best for him and his team. The main thing is that he gets healthy and back on the racetrack soon."

Labonte was hoping to return in time the Michigan race, but now is aiming to return in Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 26. Todd Bodine, who subbed for Labonte in Indy, will be in the No. 4 Chevy in Michigan.

No more Mr. Nice Guy
Richard Petty is getting mighty tired of talking about his Winston Cup team's hard luck season.

Both John Andretti and son Kyle Petty have struggled for Petty Enterprises this season, with Andretti 26th in the points and Petty 37th. They each have scored one top-10 so far this year.

"The luck has just been terrible this year," Andretti said. "The King (Richard Petty) got me after the race at Indianapolis and said, 'When we win one, even if every other car in the race drops out, the first guy who walks up and says we were lucky, I'm probably going to pop him one in the nose.'

"It's been that kind of year, and we're due for some pretty good luck now."

Musgrave to drive 01 rest of the way
Ted Musgrave will drive the No. 01 Chevrolet for the rest of the Winston Cup season, beginning with the Pepsi 400 on Sunday at Michigan Speedway.

Musgrave has driven the Team SABCO car twice since Kenny Irwin was killed in a crash during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway on July 7.

"We seemed to mesh well," Musgrave said of the team. "I'm glad to be back in the seat and plan on helping these guys get some solid finishes."

Musgrave also will drive SABCO's Chevy in Saturday's Busch Series race at Michigan.

Stricklin takes wheel
Hut Stricklin will drive the Junie Donlavey-owned Ford for the rest of the Winston Cup season.

"I'm excited about the opportunity. I want to get this team competitive again," Stricklin said.

The Alabama driver has been with the team for three weeks, alternating between driver and crew chief. He replaced Ed Berrier as the team's driver two weeks ago, and finished 14th in the Brickyard 400.

"He has been a positive influence on the team in every aspect," Donlavey said. "His performance and determination at Indy lifted the spirits of our team to a new level."

McSwain fined for Glen infraction
Michael McSwain, crew chief for Ricky Rudd's Winston Cup car, was fined $10,000 by NASCAR on Tuesday for rules violations last weekend in Watkins Glen, N.Y.

^___=

LOOKING AHEAD: After missing the last two races while recuperating from a concussion, Jeremy Mayfield is ready to begin racing again in Michigan.

Mayfield, who suffered a concussion when his car slid through oil and hit the wall during a practice session for the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, has won two races already this season and was well on his way to a top-10 finish in the points.

Since missing the races in Indy and Watkins Glen, N.Y., he has slipped to 22nd in the standings.

"If everything you ever wanted boiled down to you being in a race car, then you can imagine how I've felt not being in my race car," Mayfield said.

Kyle Petty replaced Mayfield at Indy, while road racing ace Tom Hubert was his sub at Watkins Glen.

"Neither one of those were easy for them - any easier than it was for me watching on television," Mayfield said. "I pulled hard for them. I wore out two carpets in front of my television set."<

^___=

STAT OF THE WEEK: Thirty-eight of 62 Winston Cup races at Michigan have been won from the first four starting positions. Only nine have been won from a starting spot outside the top 10.

However, things may be changing. Six of the last 11 Michigan races have been won from outside the top 10.<

^End Adv for Weekend Editions, Aug. 19-20

 


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