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Motorsports

McMurray still solid at The Rock

By Wire services
Published February 22, 2004

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - Jamie McMurray used the latest scrape between Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon to drive into the North Carolina Speedway record books.

McMurray won his fourth consecutive Busch series race at the track known as "The Rock" on Saturday, passing Harvick for the lead with 20 laps to go when Harvick got tied up with Gordon.

The victory in the Goody's Headache Powder 200 tied McMurray with Mark Martin, who swept the Busch races here in 1996 and '97.

"I remember watching Mark win here before I was even racing stock cars," McMurray said. "I am not big on milestones, but I'll take it."

McMurray held off Martin Truex over the final five laps; McMurray's Dodge beat Truex's Chevrolet by about two car lengths.

On a restart Harvick led, McMurray was second and Gordon, Harvick's Nextel Cup teammate at Richard Childress Racing, was a lap down.

Harvick tried to pass, Gordon tried to hold him off, and McMurray pounced, passing Harvick low for the lead. Harvick and Gordon have a history of feuding despite being teammates in NASCAR's top series (though not in Busch becaus Gordon owns his own team).

"That was a lapped-down car sliding into a leader," Harvick said. "You'll have to ask the guy holding the steering wheel. I haven't talked to him, it's a waste of air."

PENALTIES: NASCAR punished eight crew chiefs and two drivers for infractions found at Daytona last week. Crew chief Jimmy Fenning was hit hardest with a $20,000 fine for improperly attaching weight to the rear on Kurt Busch's No.97 Ford. Drivers Rusty Wallace and Kirk Shelmerdine were fined $500 each for using a head-and-neck restraint system on which the manufacturers date had expired.

NHRA: Rain postponed of the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., until next week. One qualifying session will be held Friday and two Saturday before eliminations on Feb. 29.

Drivers mull Rock's future

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. - The track known as "The Rock" is hugely popular with drivers because it has three distinct grooves and its rough pavement chews up tires, forcing drivers and crews to rely on skill and strategy rather than aerodynamics and horsepower.

But the track is in a hard place, having lost its fall race date. Heading into today's Nextel Cup Subway 400, many fear the February date, which often is accompanied by bitter weather, also could go by the wayside.

The campgrounds around the track seem to have more open space than in previous years.

"I don't know why people wouldn't want to come here, because it's a better race than anywhere else we go," Jamie McMurray said. "They always have duels here."

Last year, two of the circuit's best races were here. In February, Dale Jarrett and Kurt Busch swapped the lead several times in the closing laps before Jarrett won the Subway 400. In the fall, Bill Elliott outran teammate Jeremy Mayfield and Jimmie Johnson to win the Pop Secret 400 and Matt Kenseth clinched the championship by finishing fourth.

Ryan Newman, today's pole-sitter, said the Rock is simply in the wrong place - a relatively depressed part of eastern North Carolina.

"If they could take this racetrack ... and cut it out and re-implant it into a different market, I think that would be the ultimate," he said. "I really enjoy racing here. It's a great facility."

NASCAR officials haven't released the schedule for 2005 and beyond, but they've made it clear that they'd like to take the circuit to bigger markets such as New York.

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]


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