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Friday, May 4
Wallace considering racy sponsorships
By Cary Estes
Scripps Howard News Service

Is there such a thing as clean pornography?

Winston Cup driver Kenny Wallace obviously believes so. Wallace, driver of the financially strapped No. 27 Eel River Racing Pontiac, acknowledged that the team recently discussed the possibility of accepting a sponsorship from Playboy magazine.

Wallace defended the decision to pursue sponsorship from a pornographic magazine by stating that Playboy offered a "cleaner" form of nudity.

"It was Playboy, not Penthouse. That's a lot better, because Playboy is a little bit cleaner magazine than Penthouse," Wallace said. "(Playboy publisher) Hugh Hefner is a pretty cool guy."

Those statements will not win Wallace any fans among the Moral Majority. Neither will his comments about a proposed sponsorship deal with Crown Royal liquor.

"There is nothing wrong with a liquor sponsor. It's great, it's clean, it's moral," Wallace said. "A lot of people have a little mixed drink after work at a nice bar for happy hour. If a man can't have a liquor sponsor, then I don't know what to say.

"Let me ask you this. Would you rather see a 10-year-old kid in a Mark Martin/Viagra T-shirt or a Kenny Wallace/Crown Royal Fishing shirt. That's the way the sponsorship is being sold, as the Crown Royal Fishing Tour."

Take your choice, kids. Sex or liquor.

Wallace admits his team is desperate for money and, at this point, basically will take any sponsorship deal out there. And the Moral Majority doesn't seem to be offering a check.

"We're just down and out right now," Wallace said. "Sometimes telling the truth gets you in trouble. But we just need that sponsor. There is no money out there because the economy is so low. People are cutting back their marketing expenditures."

Making matters worse for Wallace was the sight of Bobby Hamilton winning the Talladega 500 two weeks ago in the No. 55 car owned by Andy Petree. Wallace voluntarily left the No. 55 car at the end of last season to join Eel River.

"The truth is, I was disappointed to see him win the race," Wallace said. "I wasn't happy that he won the race."

Maybe some Crown Royal and a magazine will make him feel better.

Labonte's luck runs out
After avoiding misfortune for most of the past two seasons, defending Winston Cup points champion Bobby Labonte is having rotten luck this year.

Labonte dropped out of a race with engine problems only once in the previous two seasons. He already has had three engine failures this year. He also has had more DNFs this year than in the past two seasons combined.

As a result, Labonte is 15th in the current points standings following a 22nd-place finish Sunday at California Speedway.

"A lot of people were saying it was just a matter of time before things started going wrong for us," Labonte said. "But we still know what we're capable of. It's not like we all of a sudden forgot how to do our jobs."

Big bucks for big brothers
Johnny Benson is still looking for his first Winston Cup victory. And he recently received some added incentive when his sponsor, Valvoline, announced it would make a $1 million pledge to Big Brothers/Big Sisters if Benson can win both the pole position and a race on the same weekend.

In addition, Valvoline pledged to donate $5,000 for every race Benson wins, $2,500 for a pole, $1,000 for a top-10 finish, $500 for a top-20 and $20 for every lap led.

"They're putting a little pressure on me," Benson said. "But hopefully we can have some fun and spend some more of Valvoline's money."

Final word
Kyle Petty on the demise of Petty Enterprises: "I compare this organization to the Green Bay Packers. In the 1960s they just dominated football, then they fell off for a long time. That's what Petty Enterprises did. We dominated for so long. Then somewhere along the line we got complacent, maybe lackadaisical. We just fell off the bandwagon, and now it's incredibly hard to catch up."

Cary Estes writes for the Birmingham Post-Herald in Alabama.

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