Originally created 11/04/04

Veteran keeps Busch focused



AVONDALE, Ariz. - Jimmy Fennig has won two races as a crew chief for Bobby Allison, 14 with Mark Martin and 11 with Kurt Busch.

After 18 years, he's been a perfect mix for Busch, a 26-year-old driver in his fourth full-time season on the Nextel Cup Series circuit. His calm demeanor has had a soothing affect on Busch, and it's helped the young driver lead the first seven weeks of the 10-week Chase for the Championship.

"Jimmy Fennig is an example of what a rabid dog crew chief would be if he stayed at his business for a long time and didn't get caught up in political ambitions or didn't let his head swell," said car owner Jack Roush, who hopes to win consecutive championships with Busch, Martin or Matt Kenseth. "Jimmy Fennig is the consummate crew chief. He's dedicated to work. He's not distracted by things going on around him. He focuses on his driver and on his car and he's extraordinarily dogmatic."

Until he blew an engine in last week's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Busch had six consecutive top-six finishes to start the Chase. Although he lost his 96-point lead over Jeff Gordon, he managed to stagger out of Atlanta with a 59-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, 72 over Gordon, 81 over Martin and 98 over Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Eight of the 10 drivers in the Chase had troubles at Atlanta, and that softened the blow to Busch's problems.

"Right now we're just staying focused one race at a time," Fennig said. "We got into each race trying to get a good finish and win it if the opportunity presents itself. We're really just trying to focus each week on each racetrack."

MISSING ZEBRAS: At first, Atlanta Motor Speedway's plea to return seven missing zebras seemed amusing. But the theft of $11,200 worth of props for the upcoming movie Racing Stripes wasn't funny.

The zebras - six of them 8-feet-tall and 15-feet-long and one of them 8-feet-tall and 4-feet-long - were positioned on the hillside in the first and second turns during last Sunday's race. Warner Bros. Films and Alcon Entertainment reported them missing Monday.

"We had planned to use these zebras at all of our upcoming Racing Stripes events to help support the film, and we had also had a request to send one of the zebras to Victory Junction Gang Camp when we were finished with them," said Tony Loiacono, president and CEO of the Next Box, the marketing firm for the film company.

"We're hoping to find them because we don't have enough time to create a whole new herd."

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.