By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 1, 2002
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Many of the world's best drivers could be humbled today by one of stock-car racing's trickiest corners -- Turn 2 at Darlington Raceway.
Some love it.
Some hate it.
"Turn 2 is my favorite part of the race track," said Jeff Gordon, a five-time Darlington winner. "Maybe I love it because it's hard. It's definitely a challenge."
Coming off Turn 1 on the 1.366-mile oval, the race track is wide enough to accommodate two grooves. By Turn 2, there is only one groove, inches from the outside wall. The slightest miscalculations result in a Darlington stripe, a black streak on the right side of the car from scraping the wall.
"The more aggressive you get in Turn 2, the slower you're going to be down the straightaway," Gordon said. "You've got to know where to ease out of the gas to get the car to turn late up off Turn 2."
WEATHER REPORT: The weather was dreary Saturday, but the rain stopped long enough for two Winston Cup practice sessions in the morning. Rain canceled qualifying Friday.
Rookie Ryan Newman led the first practice with a fast-lap of 29.732 seconds at 165.398 mph. Kurt Busch led the second at 163.604.
Eight Darlington races have been shortened by rain, six of those the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. There is a 40 percent chance of rain today.
FRANCE UPDATE: NASCAR chairman Bill France had surgery Saturday morning to repair a broken hip sustained Tuesday night. On Wednesday, France, 69, had bypass surgery, recommended by doctors who examined him at a Daytona Beach hospital.
"He's resting comfortably and the doctors are extremely pleased with the results of both the bypass surgery and (Saturday) morning's hip surgery," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "Bill is on his way to a full recovery."
JUDGE HIM: Kenny Wallace debuts today in the No. 23 Dodge owned by Bill Davis. Wallace, who replaced Hut Stricklin, will drive full time for Davis next season.
"You should start judging me right away," said Wallace, 39, whose greatest success came as a substitute last season for injured Steve Park in the No. 1 Chevrolet. "I don't want any time. This is a performance-oriented sport."
PIT STOPS: Rusty Wallace has 20 top-10 finishes in 37 career Darlington starts but has never won at NASCAR's oldest track. ... Legendary owners Bud Moore and Leonard Wood, crew chief Dale Inman and pioneer NASCAR official Edward Otto were inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame on Saturday night. The hall is at Darlington Raceway.