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2nd tribute to Earnhardt to be special

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2003

Fans nationwide will flock toMooresville, N.C., to pay tribute to a racing legend at the second annual Dale Earnhardt Day festivities April 29.

The daylong event at the Dale Earnhardt Inc. headquarters is held on Earnhardt's birthday and is a celebration of his life and racing accomplishments. Last year, more than 12,000 fans attended and this year looks to be even bigger.

Fans will be allowed inside DEI to view race cars and cars from Earnhardt's classic car collection. Some never have been seen by the public and are being put on display for the occasion.

Also, there will be a musical display in conjunction with the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Concert June 28 at Daytona International Speedway. There will be albums, autographed guitars and photos from Earnhardt's personal collection.

The Mooresville community, about 30 miles north of Charlotte, is embracing the event, with three hotels offering special room rates and a shuttle service to and from DEI for fans staying at the hotels and those who just want to attend.

Throughout the day, Totally NASCAR will tape the events to use on the show later that night. Three local radio stations will broadcast live from DEI headquarters and two more will make on-air appearances.

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UP TO SOMETHING: Alex Zanardi is planning a surprise when he serves as grand marshal for the German 500 on May 11. The appearance will be his first at Eurospeedway Lausitz since the 2001 crash that resulted in the amputation of both lower legs.

"It was always nice to be cheered by the crowd and it will be great to hear those cheers, even through a symbolic effort such as this," said Zanardi, a two-time CART champion and one of the series' most popular drivers. "But I am working on something to make sure that I will do more than just wave a flag as the grand marshal."

Zanardi waved the green and checkered flags for last year's Molson Indy Toronto, climbing the flag stand with prosthetic legs in his first visit to a series event since the accident.

BACK TO WORK: After a rare open date, the Winston Cup series visits southern California this weekend. Five drivers will hit the road early.

Points leader Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, rookie Jamie McMurray, Jack Sprague and Casey Mears will participate in a test session today and Wednesday at Infineon Raceway, 38 miles north of Fresno in northern California.

Kenseth has tested there the past two years, but has an average finish of 30th on the 12-turn, 2-mile road course (formerly known as Sears Point) in three career starts.

UP TO SPEED: A.J. Foyt IV, 18-year-old grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, became the youngest driver in Indy 500 history to pass his rookie test. Josele Garza was 19 when he passed his rookie test in 1981.

Foyt was among eight participating Monday in the rookie orientation program, gaining valuable experience on the 21/2-mile speedway in preparation for the May 25 race. Drivers are required to demonstrate their ability in four speed tests.

OUT OF ACTION: IRL IndyCar series driver Dario Franchitti will miss the Indy 500 and possibly three races in June because of a vertebra fractured in a motorcycle accident. Orthopedic surgeon Terry Trammell said the injury requires rest to heal.

SPEED READING: For each lap Winston Cup driver John Andretti completes Sunday at California Speedway, primary sponsor Cheerios and First Book, a national children's literacy organization, will donate 43 books to children in need in the Los Angeles area. Andretti drives the No. 43 Dodge.

STIR CRAZY: Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader, who will race nearly 100 nights this year on everything from superspeedways to dirt tracks, knows the value of a weekend off for his hard-working race team. But the driver of the No. 49 Dodge could do without the break.

"I'm never into taking a weekend off," he said. "I'm not that big on taking a day off. I like to race; I want to do it every day if I can. The guys have been working hard and they deserved some time off. I'm just happy to get back racing. We're ready to go."

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