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France breaks hip, then has bypass

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 30, 2002

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. is recovering from bypass surgery performed Wednesday.

The surgery was recommended by doctors at a Daytona Beach hospital who examined France, 69, after he fell and broke his hip Tuesday evening. France was headed to dinner with a friend when he fell.

"I have spoken to my brother and he is alert and in good spirits," said James France, president of International Speedway Corp. "The doctors say to expect a full recovery."

Bill France is CEO for NASCAR and ISC, which owns several tracks in the United States, including Daytona International Speedway and Darlington Raceway, where the Winston Cup series races this weekend. France, who completed cancer treatments last year, turned the day-to-day NASCAR operations over to president Mike Helton in 2000.

"We have a great team at NASCAR and we will press on with business," Helton said. "Bill expects no less."

BURTON FINED: NASCAR fined driver Ward Burton $5,000 Thursday for "actions detrimental to stock car racing." Spun out by Dale Earnhardt Jr. late in Saturday's race at Bristol, Burton removed the heat shields from his shoes and climbed the banking to throw them at Earnhardt's car during the caution.

READY TO WIN: Points leader Sterling Marlin knows he will have to pick up the pace if he wants to win his first Winston Cup championship. He has just two victories, the last at Darlington in March.

"At Darlington, you really have to race the track and you have to stay pretty focused all day long," said Marlin, who leads Mark Martin by 95 points with 12 races left. "You run so close to the wall that you can get into it pretty quick. Rubber builds up 6 inches away from it and one little slip and you're in the fence."

BRISTOL HANGOVER: Rusty Wallace was graceful in defeat after Jeff Gordon bumped him to take the lead with two laps left at Bristol, but the veteran was stung by the loss. Before leaving the track, he asked his team not to contact him for a few days.

Wallace put a lot of energy into the Bristol race, testing there for two days with a car built specially for the .533-mile track, where Wallace is a nine-time winner. He seemed in command Saturday until lapped traffic allowed Gordon to close.

"The guy who finished first said that he just wanted the win worse than Rusty did and I certainly disagree with that," crew chief Bill Wilburn said. "Rusty came in there all fired up. He was really up on the wheel the whole weekend, so I know there's nobody who wanted to win any more than Rusty did."

Wallace remains in the championship hunt, 162 points behind Marlin, but has not won this season and desperately wants to extend his 16-year win streak.

FREAKY FRIDAY: Rookie Jimmie Johnson, fifth in the standings, will try to break his Friday jinx today in qualifying. Johnson has been forced to go to backup cars four of the past seven races because of a practice accident or engine change. He qualified fifth at Darlington in the spring.

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