Originally created 09/01/01

Stewart, Spencer unsure if they will wear safety devices

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Tony Stewart won't wear a head and neck safety device at the Southern 500.

A team representative for Stewart said Friday that although the driver wore a Hutchens device during testing this week at Talladega Superspeedway, he would not put one on at Darlington.

Jimmy Spencer, a holdout along with Stewart on the safety device this past Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, said he wasn't sure if he would wear a restraint device here.

Stewart, the winner of Bristol's Sharpie 500 this past Saturday, said earlier this week that pressure from competitors and e-mails and messages from fans helped him decide to wear one during testing.

"It's nice to know so many people care about you staying around," Stewart said earlier this week.

However, Stewart said he was not comfortable during the tests.

Spencer said Friday he was trying the Hutchens apparatus, but didn't know if he'd use it on Sunday. "I'll just have to see," he said.

Spencer said he wasn't getting extra pressure from racers to put one on.

The focus on additional safety items comes less than two weeks after NASCAR's report on Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash at the Daytona 500. Earnhardt was not wearing a head and neck device. He died of a skull fracture.

ANOTHER GORDON: Another Gordon - Tina - will try and master Darlington Raceway this weekend. Gordon, a driver on the All-Pro circuit, didn't get into the South Carolina 200 Busch Grand National race on time, but on a provisional. She will start 42nd in the 43-car event Saturday, her first Busch race.

"There's no relation" to NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, she said. "That's usually one of the first things people ask."

"That's our two goals at Darlington, to make the race and finish the race," she said.

"We need a lot more seat time, but hopefully coming in we can get that in qualifying and in the race," Gordon said.

Gordon was looking to debut at Bristol Motor Speedway, where she has run a few times in the All-Pro Series, but felt it was smarter to come and test at Darlington last week to get comfortable with the car.

Busch driver Gus Wasson came with Gordon to Darlington a week ago to point out the rough spots. "The rumors are definitely true, this is a tough, tough track," Gordon said. "Just trying to make yourself stay up against the wall in the turns is definitely tough to do."

ROOTS RACIN': Bill Elliott says he'll do a little dirt-trackin' this Labor Day.

The former Winston Cup champion will compete at Sugar Creek Raceway, a dirt track about 75 miles north of Atlanta.

Elliott is running as a favor to track promoters David Turner and Michael Hill, who were volunteer members of Elliott's pit crew more than 20 years ago when he started his career.

The 3/8-mile track is about 20 miles from Elliott's home in Blairsville.

"The last time I was at that track at an event I was so small they wouldn't let me into the pits," said Elliott, who'll race a red No. 9 dirt car he recently bought.

SPARK PLUGS: The silly season of NASCAR rumors is here. This week, Kyle Petty knocked down whispers that driver Buckshot Jones would not be with Petty Enterprises next year. "I want to make this as clear as I can: Buckshot Jones has a long-term contract. We want him to stay and he wants to stay," Petty said. ... Dale Earnhardt, A.J. Foyt, Bill France Jr. and Glen Wood will be inducted into the NMPA Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Earnhardt, who died in February's Dayton 500 crash, was admitted by the rule that allows "exceptional candidates" to gain entrance right after their careers end. ... Darlington Raceway named its infield press center after Jim Hunter, the track's nine-year president who became a vice president with International Speedway Corp. earlier this year. ... A victory by Dodge at Darlington on Sunday would be the manufactuer's first here since Buddy Baker won the Rebel 400 in 1971. ... Rain has shorted three of the past five Darlington races, including last year's Southern 500. The forecast for the weekend? Scattered showers.


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