Originally created 07/03/05

NASCAR notebook

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace were honored Saturday night before their final race at Daytona International Speedway.

The retiring NASCAR stars were given framed photos of the first cars they drove at Daytona in 1982 and greeted with a standing ovation during the drivers meeting before the Pepsi 400. The photos also contained head shots that Martin said reminded him of "Starsky and Hutch."

"You got me beat with the mustache, but I've got the hair," Wallace said.

Martin and Wallace entered their final race at Daytona in the top 10 in the Nextel Cup series point standings. Martin was fifth, and Wallace was one spot behind.

Although both drivers have run well at Daytona over the years, neither has had much to celebrate at NASCAR's most famous track.

Martin is winless in 40 career starts in Cup races at Daytona. He is 0-for-21 in the Daytona 500 and 0-for-19 in the Pepsi 400.

Wallace, the 1989 series champion, is 0-for-44 in Cup races here. He is winless in 23 starts in the Daytona 500 and winless in 21 starts in the Pepsi 400.

Throw in various other races at Daytona, and the two aren't much better. Martin has three wins at the track in a combined 108 starts. Wallace has two victories in 102 starts.

TRUEX TAKEN: When Martin Truex Jr. agreed to a three-year contract extension with Dale Earnhardt Inc., it took one of the most coveted drivers off the free-agent market.

Truex, the reigning Busch Series champion, said he signed the new deal right before Friday night's Busch race at Daytona International Speedway. He won the race and announced the new contract in Victory Lane.

"I'm glad it's out of the way and I don't have to read all over the Internet that I'm driving this car or that car," Truex said.

EMOTIONAL EBERSOL: NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol thanked the "NASCAR community" for supporting him through what has been a difficult time.

Ebersol's 14-year-old son, Teddy, was killed in a plane crash in November in Colorado. The pilot and a flight attendant also were killed. Dick Ebersol, Charlie Ebersol and co-pilot Eric Wicksell were injured.

"I wanted to tell you all from the bottom of my heart, 'Thank you,' " Ebersol said.

RUMSFELD RECEPTION: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed autographs, posed for pictures and was generally given a warm welcome as he made his way through the NASCAR garage area before the Pepsi 400.

Rumsfeld also got a standing ovation during the prerace drivers meeting.

"Everywhere I go around the world the troops talk about NASCAR and how much it reminds them of home," said Rumsfeld, the honorary grand marshall for the race.

COACHING VIPS: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops were among the VIPs at the Pepsi 400.

The NASCAR race was the first for Spurrier and the second race for Stoops.

Spurrier, who rode a few laps around the track in one of the pace cars, said drivers might be the best athletes of all. "You don't see many fat drivers out there," he said.

WILD RIDE: Singer Lisa Marie Presley, who performed several songs during prerace ceremonies, had quite an experience when she rode around the superspeedway with former NASCAR Cup driver Wally Dallenbach. "I want to kick his (butt) right this minute," she said. "It would have been great if we just went around really fast in the middle of the track. But he perpetually wanted to make me feel like I was going to die every two seconds, riding me an inch from the wall."


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