Originally created 10/26/02

Weather cancel qualifiers

HAMPTON, Ga. - Rain Friday night washed out pole qualifying for both today's Aaron's 312 Busch race and Sunday's Winston Cup NAPA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The starting lineups for the races were set by the car owner standings.

Today's Aaron's 312 (1 p.m., TNT) will have points leader Greg Biffle on the pole.

As the Winston Cup points leader, Tony Stewart inherited the pole position for Sunday's main event (12:30 p.m., NBC). He was second-quickest during the only practice session earlier in the day at 190.365 mph.

Bill Elliott was the fastest in practice at 190.955 mph, but his 11th-place position in the point standings means he will start in the sixth row.

WAR OF WORDS: The rivalry between Speedway Motorsports Inc. and NASCAR intensified when the company that operates six raceways on the Winston Cup Series circuit was accused of trying to "enrich itself at the expense of the sport and its fans."

Both sides issued statements after SMI made a court filing this week in a lawsuit by a SMI shareholder against NASCAR. The complainant, Francis Ferko, claims the value of his stock is hurt by the fact the Texas Motor Speedway only has one Winston Cup Series date each season.

Ferko and SMI both claim NASCAR promised a second date.

The lawsuit also claims there is an unfair relationship between NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation, which operates 12 race tracks on the circuit. NASCAR and ISC both are owned and operated by the same family.

While a second racing date is the focus of the lawsuit, it's clear Ferko hopes to expose the relationship between NASCAR and ISC that seems to favor ISC facilities. Four of the last five raceways added to the circuit are owned by ISC.

That prompted NASCAR to respond with a terse statement.

"It comes as no surprise that, in its recent filing, Speedway Motorsports Inc. has finally admitted what most suspected, that this suit is only about SMI's near-sighted desire to get a second NASCAR Winston Cup Series date at one of its tracks and thereby increase its own profits without regard for the rest of the industry," according to a release.

NASCAR officials said they never promised a second date.

PIT STOPS: When doctors told Sterling Marlin his broken neck would take 4-to-6 weeks to heal, he hoped he might be able to return for the final two races of the season. On Friday, he wasn't optimistic. "We're going to get some x-rays on Monday, but there's something ain't right in my neck," he said. "So I doubt it (that he'll return)." ... NASCAR moved the fall race at Atlanta to the final weekend of October to miss the bad weather that seemed to plague the raceway late in November. Friday's weather, and a forecast for scattered showers for today and Sunday, exemplified the track's reputation for having bad luck. "You hate it for everyone at the track because they're good people and it's a great race track," Dale Jarrett said. "I don't know the answer. It just seems their luck with weather isn't very good."

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.


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