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Marlin says new Ganassi deal his wish

LAS VEGAS -- It's no secret in the garage area that Sterling
Marlin needs results to get a contract extension at Chip Ganassi
Racing.

Marlin said Saturday getting a deal done is one of his top
priorities.

"I'd like to get something worked out by May or June,'' Marlin
said at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of his last Nextel Cup
victory, in March 2002. "A few people have walked up and asked me
when my deal's up with Chip, but I like where I'm at.

"If I can stay here, I'll stay here.''

A win Sunday in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 would be a good
starting point for making a deal happen. Marlin was on top of his
game back in 2002, when he kicked the season off with a pair of
wins in March and led the points standings for 25 consecutive week.

But he broke his neck in a September accident and missed the
final two months of the season. He's since gone 98 races without a
victory.

"Winning helps everything,'' he said. "We know we've got a
team that's capable of winning in this series. If we can get a
break here and there, and not lose ground in the pits, we can win.

"There's no doubt in my mind I can still get the job done.
We've just got to get everything working right and go out and do
it.''

Stay home
NASCAR's first foray outside of the U.S. was
considering a success for the racing series, which ran a Busch
Series event in Mexico City last weekend.

But at least one driver doesn't understand why NASCAR bothered
to run in Mexico.

"We need to touch people in the United States before we go to
Mexico,'' said Ryan Newman, who will start from the pole Sunday at
Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "The Pacific Northwest for sure. The
upper Midwest, maybe North Dakota. And there's a lot of people in
Montana.

"We need to take care of the United States before we take care
of anything else. Maybe that's selfish. Canada is more my style
than Mexico. But I still think taking care of the United States is
number one. We don't need to be a traveling international series.''

Newman didn't participate in Sunday's race in Mexico, although
several Nextel Cup regulars did.

Some aid they would even be interested in a race in Canada, with
Jeff Gordon singling out the road course in Montreal.

"I'd love to see us in Canada,'' said Gordon, who didn't
compete in Mexico City. "Staying in North America is extremely
important. Canada seems like the next natural place for us to go.
Obviously Mexico went well for the Busch cars; that might be a good
option (for a Cup race) as well.

Diversity program
NASCAR has picked three more drivers for its
diversity program.

Jesus Hernandez, 23, will drive in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly
Series for Belnavis Racing. A native of Fresno, Calif., Hernandez
will compete in 20 races from April 2 through September 24 at the
Motor Mile Raceway in Radford, Va.

Terri Williams, from Emporia, Va., will drive for a team owned
by Hermie Sadler and former NBA player Bryant Stith. She was the
grand stock champion last year at South Boston Speedway.

Michael Gallegos will drive a Late Model for Innovative
Motorsports at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. this season. A
native of WheatRidge, Colo., he raced in three events last season
in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division.

"For NASCAR to continue to succeed and grow, no other issue is
more important,'' said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "The same
stands true for our nation, which reflects an exciting and diverse
ethnic and racial citizenship that deserves respect, support, and
inclusion.''

Drivers' donations
This year's annual driver auction by the
Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children's charities raised $180,000
-- about $20,000 more than last year.

NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick, Scott Wimmer, Kyle Petty, David
Green, Stacy Compton, Clint Bowyer, Randy LaJoie, Shane Hmiel, Reed
Sorenson and Kevin Lepage participated in the auction along with
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, co-owner of LaJoie's No. 34
Busch Series Chevrolet.

The Las Vegas chapter of the children's charities donated
$275,000 last year to 51 southern Nevada children's causes.
Speedway Children's Charities distributes funds to help provide
medical, emotional and social services to children in need.

It was founded in 1984 by Bruton Smith, chief executive officer
of Speedway Motorsports Inc., whose six holdings include Las Vegas
Motor Speedway. The auction was hosted by Sam's Town Hotel &
Gambling Hall, sponsor of Saturday's Busch race.

Long odds
For rookie Eric McClure, any recognition is
welcome.

He starts Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 from the No. 41 spot
on the grid -- second from last.

But he walked into a casino sports book after Friday's
qualifying to check out the basketball games -- and saw his name on
the odds board. At 300-1.

For a driver making the second Cup start of his career, it was a
big moment.

"Hey, if my last name was field, I would have been on the board
before,'' he said.

Field bets are odds set for any driver not included in the
betting line.