NASCAR NOTEBOOK | News and notes

Stremme making Cup debut: David Stremme will get his first taste of Nextel Cup racing today when he drives the No. 39 Dodge Charger for Chip Ganassi Racing in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Stremme, a regular in NASCAR's Busch Series who plans to run in a handful of Cup races this season, will drive the Ganassi team's No. 40 entry full-time in 2006 when he replaces longtime star Sterling Marlin, whose contract expires at the end of the season. "I was a little disappointed in qualifying," said Stremme, who was 31st in Friday's time trials. "We probably lost just a little bit with the track changing. I felt our car was a lot better than we qualified." Stremme, who averaged 184.099 mph, had to qualify on speed, which was unusual for him. "Our goal was making the race, but I can't say I wasn't a little nervous. On the Busch side all year we've been top 30 in points and been solid in the field," he said. "Here, we had to qualify in. We did our job and we'll go from there." Stremme would like to finish among the top 15 and help turn around a program that hasn't won a Cup race in three years. "I look at where the organization is going and how it's growing, and I'm just so glad to be a part of it," he said. "So many things are happening that a lot of people don't understand, but it's going to be pretty cool. I think we'll be like Roush [Racing] and Hendrick [Motorsports] here before long."
Cursed? In his six races since botching "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and referring to the famed ballpark on Chicago's north side as Wrigley "Stadium" during the seventh-inning stretch of a Cubs game, Jeff Gordon has dropped from third to 13th in the Nextel Cup point standings. His best finish is seventh, and four times, he has placed 30th or worse. "I don't know if that's exactly why he's had bad luck, but the black cloud found him at 'Wrigley Stadium' -- as he called it," said teammate Jimmie Johnson. Actually, the cloud found Gordon the previous week, when he placed 39th at Richmond. "We feel like we've got that behind us," said Gordon, who was 14th in qualifying. "We've had a lot of fun laughing about it. I expected to come back here and hear some more comments about it but if it got some attention that helped promote the race, that's a good things, that's what we're there to do."
No sour grapes: Besides being a top NASCAR team owner, Richard Childress isn't a bad vintner, either. A 2004 bottle of Childress Vineyards Barrel Select Pinot Gris was picked as one of the top wines produced by celebrity proprietors in a survey conducted by USA Today. Besides Childress, who owns Childress Vineyards in Lexington, N.C., the list of celebrities mentioned in the article included: Francis Ford Coppola and daughter Sofia Coppola; screen legends Fess Parker and Fred MacMurray; Bob Dylan; rock band the Doobie Brothers; Motley Crue singer Vince Neil; and golfers Ernie Els, Greg Norman and Arnold Palmer.
Associated Press

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