Originally created 03/10/02

Nascar notebook



HAMPTON, Ga. - Another race at Atlanta, another photo finish.

At first it appeared Chad Blount won a dramatic side-by-side finish with Damon Lusk as they raced to the caution flag in the rain at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Five minutes later, ARCA Re/Max officials changed the leaderboard to show Lusk on top shortly before the race was called 44 laps short of completion.

The computerized scoring system put Blount on top, but ARCA watched the slow motion replay of the finish and decided to trust their eyes over a computer.

Two years ago, Dale Earnhardt beat Bobby Labonte by less than six inches to win the Winston Cup Series race. Last season, Kevin Harvick beat Jeff Gordon by three inches.

Lusk beat out Blount by less than an inch. It was the closest finish in the series' 50-year history.

Cam Strader finished third, followed by Michael Vergers in fourth, Jason Jarrett in fifth, Andy Belmont in sixth, Billy Venturini in seventh, Tina Gordon in eighth, Shelby Howard in ninth and Doug Stevens in 10th.

CHECK ENGINE LIGHT: If Satuday's ARCA race was any indication, engine failures will be a prominent story line during today's MBNA America 500 for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

Nine cars suffered engine problems in the first 117 laps of Saturday's race. With NASCAR now forcing teams to practice, qualify and race with the same engine, there is growing concern about the mechanical longevity of today's 325-lap race.

Nearly every team already has at least 100 miles of practice and qualifying on the same engine that's now expected to go 500 miles at 190 mph.

Jerry Nadeau, who won the fall race at Atlanta in 2000 and was within a half mile of winning last November's race when his car ran out of gas, was the quickest in the final practice session at 184.125 mph. Equally important, he put 34 laps on his race engine in the final workout.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second-fastest at 184.088 mph. Unlike the others, he's not too concerned about engine stress.

"I'd rather blow up running first than running 20th all day," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I'm the type of guy to push the envelope a little bit and try to get the horsepower out of the motor, even if it's a risk. I feel like we're really soft on our motors. I feel like there's a lot more there that we're not taking advantage of. I understand the motor guys are trying to save their jobs."

Sterling Marlin was third-fastest in the final session, followed by Matt Kenseth in fourth, Jimmy Spencer in fifth, John Andretti in sixth, Dale Jarrett in seventh, pole-sitter Bill Elliott in eighth, Elliott Sadler in ninth and Ward Burton in 10th.

FREE WHEELING: One of the most-entertaining moments of the Pork the Other White Meat 400 came on the 92nd lap when one of tires from Robert Burroughs' car came off on the backstretch.

His car stopped midway down the backstretch, but the tire continued to roll around the third and fourth turns, then down onto pit road.

Larry McReynolds, a color commentator for the Speed Network, then made the following crack: "The tire's coming down pit road for a car change."

Burroughs said the crew loosened the lug nuts on the left tires during a pit stop but forgot to tell him they were changing tires. The tire stayed on the car for about three-quarters of a mile before it came off.

PIT STOPS: The Texas Motor Speedway announced Saturday all 154,861 grandstand tickets have been sold for the April 7 Samsung/RadioShack 500 for the Winston Cup Series. Despite selling every seat during the speedway's six-year history and being the second most-watched television race a year ago, Texas still can't win enough confidence from NASCAR for a second racing date ... The official entry list released by NASCAR early Saturday shows Kenny Wallace driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Dale Earnahardt Inc. next Sunday at the Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, not Steve Park. DEI announced Friday that Park would make his return to the Winston Cup Series at Darlington. Park suffered a brain injury in a crash at Darlington last September. ... That same entry list shows only 42 entries and one of those, a Ford driven by Joe Nemechek, won't make the trip unless it has a sponsor. Regardless, next week's race won't have enough cars to fill every spot in the starting lineup.