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Migraine brings down Stewart

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published September 28, 2003

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Tony Stewart was forced to sleep through practice Saturday while recovering from a severe migraine, but crew chief Greg Zipadelli expects the Winston Cup champion to race today at Talladega Superspeedway.

"He's had them before. This seems to be worse than normal in that it didn't pass with regular medication," Zipadelli said.

Kyle Petty, who failed to qualify, drove the car in the morning practice session, and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Bobby Labonte turned six laps in it after completing practice in his car.

GOLDEN RULES: Yellow is a primary color today, as in yellow flag and yellow line. This is the second race since NASCAR forbid racing back to the line during cautions, which seemingly would increase safety on a track renowed for large wrecks. The first car not on the lead lap is moved to the back of it under the new rule, but determing that car could be tricky, driver Kevin Harvick said.

"I don't know how they will score 43 cars going three-wide and decide who is inside of whom," he said. "They told us this will be a work in progress, and I guess it depends on us playing fair ... but that doesn't happen very often."

Talladega, like Daytona International Speedway, uses a yellow out-of-bounds line at the bottom of the track, and drivers who go below it are subject to a stop-and-go penalty. Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed below the line late in winning the Aaron's 499 at Talladega this spring but was judged to have been forced low and was not penalized.

FAST: What has been the result of the larger restrictor plates and spoilers mandated for this race? Talladega is still plenty fast. Harvick predicted Happy Hour would "check everybody's blood pressure at NASCAR," and Johnny Benson posted a 195.872 mph lap to lead the session. All 43 cars were faster than 190. Larger restrictor plates should allow more power for passing, while larger spoilers should increase drag but could enhance the draft, according to some drivers. Those factors and the space for four-wide racing could make for more blood pressure moments.

SON RISES: Jason Jarrett, son of NASCAR veteran Dale, will make his Winston Cup debut in the No.98 Ford for Robert Yates Racing. Jason, 27, qualified 25th.

The younger Jarrett, second in ARCA points standings, has to marry caution with learning at a much higher level.

"My biggest concern, and I'm sure all rookies say this, is I don't want to be the one to cause a big wreck," he said. "But at the same time, for me to get better and for the team to get better, we need to be in there with people messing it up."

The Jarretts raced each other in a 1998 Busch series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

FOOD WORLD SPEEDWAY 300: Paul Menard held the lead for the final 52 laps, holding off three challengers to win the ARCA event. Menard, the 23-year-old son of Indy-car owner John Menard, took the lead on Lap 62 of the crash-marred race. He beat Billy Venturini by 0.151 seconds, about 11/2 car lengths.

PLUGS: Michael Waltrip is the only driver to use the optional roof escape hatch, allowed for the first time. The 24-inch square hatch is controlled by steel pull cords that open or remove it. "And then it's just as simple as shooting up out the hole," Waltrip said. ... Jimmie Johnson, who is third, is the only driver to have remained in the top 10 in the points standings the entire season. Waltrip had done the same but fell to 11th after Dover.

- BRANT JAMES, Times Wires

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