Originally created 12/16/04

Labbe to be crew chief for Mayfield



ATLANTA - Richard "Slugger" Labbe originally was hired at Evernham Motorsports to give the team a hand with restrictor-plate racing. Now he's being asked to bring much more.

The crew chief who helped Michael Waltrip win two of the past four Daytona 500s has been signed to be Jeremy Mayfield's new crew chief for the 2005 season.

Jacksonville's Kenny Francis, considered one of the top engineers in the sport, will give up his crew-chief duties to be the team director.

"I'm looking forward to 2005 with more focus on my technical and engineering background," Francis said. "... By bringing Slugger in to handle more of the day-to-day operations of the race team, it will increase the strength of the entire organization."

Labbe also helped Waltrip win the Pepsi 400 at Daytona and the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. All four of Labbe's career wins as a crew chief came in restrictor-plate races.

SHAKEUP AT NBC: Bill Weber and Allen Bestwick will change jobs next year.

Bestwick will move to pit road to be the lead reporter when NBC and TNT take turns at broadcasting Nextel Cup and Busch series races in the second half. Weber will move to the announcer's booth to be the lead play-by-play man, joining Benny Parsons and Wally Dallenbach.

Weber filled in for Bestwick for two races last year when Bestwick was recovering from a broken leg.

NASCAR SUES PORN COMPANIES: NASCAR filed a lawsuit against three companies that created a video called Racetrack Girls Go Nutz. The sanctioning body said the companies violated trademark and service mark rights.

"Obviously, we don't want to be associated with that kind of video," said Ramsey Poston, a NASCAR spokesman. "We have an obligation to protect NASCAR's trademark and good name."

STEWART BUYS ELDORA: Racer Tony Stewart already has had a busy off-season.

After winning the USG Person of the Year award for his community service and charitable efforts, Stewart donated his half of the $100,000 prize to the Victory Junction Gang Camp.

Then he bought the 20,000-seat, half-mile Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Stewart promised to upgrade the popular track, which needed repairs.

"One of the reasons Earl (Baltes) sold it to me is that he knew I wouldn't need income out of it," he said. "I have a job. Anything we make, we can put right back into it."