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NASCAR NOTEBOOK From Daytona International Speedway



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Huffman wins rain-shortened race: Robert Huffman won the rain-shortened NASCAR Goody's Dash Series 150 on Monday, his second straight victory at Daytona International Speedway. The race, cut from its scheduled 60 laps to 44, had been postponed from Sunday by rain. Eric Wilson led from lap 10 to 32 and Huffman, driving a Toyota, moved into the lead the next trip around the 21/2-mile oval, taking advantage of an early pit stop during a caution period. Rookie Dusty Williams finished second, followed by former Daytona winner and defending Dash Series champion Justin Hobgood. On lap 27, Arlene Pittman, apparently hit from behind in heavy traffic, shot down the banked track, slid for several hundred feet and hit the inside wall. It took safety workers nearly 20 minutes to get Pittman out of the battered car. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital for a CAT scan and was later released.

More problems for Stewart: Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart suffered another Daytona disappointment Monday when his brand new Chevrolet had engine problems during his qualifying attempt. Stewart, one of the favorites to win the Daytona 500 a year ago, lost his motor on the second lap of the race and finished 43rd. He rebounded over the course of the season to win his first NASCAR title. "When we came around and crossed the start/finish line, it made a pop and then it took off again," Stewart said. "After it did that, it started laying down ... I knew we had a problem." Stewart didn't try to finish his qualifying run, pulling the No. 20 Chevrolet off the track and into the garage, where his crew immediately began working under the hood.

Ganassi relief: The relief at Chip Ganassi Racing was overwhelming the instant rookie Jamie McMurray finished his qualifying lap. The third and final Ganassi car to attempt to qualify, McMurray had to have a near-perfect run to ensure he'd make the field for Sunday's race. By posting the 11th-fastest speed, he practically locked up a spot. All three Ganassi cars were strong -- Sterling Marlin was ninth and rookie Casey Mears 23rd.

Foreign object: NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said Monday that he expects an announcement "probably by the end of the week" about the involvement of a new manufacturer in one of its three top series. Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford and Dodge currently race in the sanctioning body's top stock car series, but Toyota, which already is competing in NASCAR's Dash Series, has acknowledged it is working on a truck engine. NASCAR's rules prohibit foreign cars, but it is expected that the Japanese company, which builds cars in the United States, will make its entry into the truck series official before Sunday's Daytona 500.

True Value pulls out of IROC: The International Race of Champions series has lost its long-running title sponsor for 2004. True Value had partnered with IROC for the past 19 years. IROC officials said Monday that they were still searching for a replacement. The year's first IROC race is Friday at Daytona. In the past few years, the series has lost much of its international flavor, with mostly NASCAR drivers and a few IRL competitors taking part. IROC races match 12 drivers from different forms of racing in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds. All races are run on ovals. Among the drivers who'll compete this year are 2002 Busch Grand National series champion Greg Biffle, World of Outlaws star Danny Lasoski and NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Mike Bliss.

No subpoenas in the garage: Lawyers for the estranged wife of four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon attempted to serve subpoenas on several car owners at the track but were rebuffed by NASCAR officials. Brooke Gordon's attorneys have sought contract information from other teams, but owners are fighting the moves to obtain the sensitive details. By serving subpoenas in Florida, her lawyers hope to require the owners to fight them in Florida courts. "It's out of my control, but I think it's really disgusting," Gordon said. "It's a real shame that they are trying to drag all these other guys into this because to me, there are other ways for them to get what they are looking for. This is just harassment."

France confident: NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said Monday that he believes NASCAR has a good case in the Francis Ferko lawsuit. He also said International Speedway Corp. would not sell a Winston Cup date to Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith. Ferko, a Plano, Texas, resident, is a SMI shareholder who is suing NASCAR over an alleged promise to give Texas Motor Speedway a second annual Cup race.




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