BRISTOL, Tenn. - NASCAR completed its fourth and final makeover this week, approving a new body style for the 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and making it nearly identical to the Dodge Intrepid, Ford Taurus and 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Common templates have been a big issue with the manufacturers, but there's enough of a difference - the four cars have cosmetic differences in the front bumper area - that each will have its own identity.
NASCAR calls it "aerodynamic similarities."Once Chevrolet and Pontiac have their new cars on the track next year, the sanctioning body will be able to use many of the same templates to measure the cars during inspection.
"Chevrolet and Team Monte Carlo are excited about the new race car and anxious to see it in action," said Kurt Ritter, general manager at Chevrolet. "We are especially pleased that the design retains the same sporty styling cues that are distinctively Monte Carlo."
THE BIG HOUSE: The Bristol Motor Speedway, a half-mile short track on the Tennessee-Virginia border, will expand to nearly 160,000 permanent seats in time for next spring's race in March.
At its new capacity, only Daytona International Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have more permanent seats on the circuit. Indianapolishas a 2.66-mile track; Daytona is 2.5 miles and Lowe's is 1.5 miles.
An additional 13,000 seats are planned for the backstretch and every seat sold out in less than three hours. Construction hasn't even started.
ATLANTA'S PLEDGE: The Atlanta Motor Speedway is guaranteeing its fans one of the most competitive races of the year on Oct. 27, and it's willing to back up that promise with money.
The speedway bets there will be at least 30 lead changes in the NAPA 500 or it will pay fans $1 for every change short of the pledge.
Only one race this year has had as many as 30 lead changes, and that was the MBNA America 500 at Atlanta. That race had 34 lead changes.
The promise comes at the same time when the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL both are making financial pledges to their fans. The Hawks have promised to refund money to season ticket holders if the team doesn't qualify for the playoffs next year, and the Falcons have reduced ticket prices to win back fans.
While $1 for each lead change doesn't sound like much, it can add up to a lot of money. With nearly 125,000 seats, every change short of the promise will cost the raceway $125,000 in future ticket sales.
PIT STOPS: When Elliott Sadler wrecked on the 69th lap, it was the 18th car he's crashed in the last 19 races. He also tore up a car during Friday's qualifying session. ... Nine couples were married at the finish line early Saturday. Winston Cup Series driver Jerry Nadeau was the honorary best man for all nine couples.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org