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A tearful farewell at Bristol
Published August 28, 2005
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Bristol Motor Speedway honored Rusty Wallace before the Sharpie 500, bringing tears to the driver's eyes at his favorite track.
Wallace, who is retiring at the end of the season, has always considered Bristol the best track on the NASCAR circuit. He got his first victory here, later won his 50th career race here and leads all active drivers with nine victories.
Track officials announced a 5,000-seat tower would be called the Rusty Wallace Tower beginning next season, then had the fans sitting there hold up cards that spelled "Thanks Rusty" as he passed by on a commemorative lap.
Wallace also was presented with a 150-pound replica of the speedway.
"I've been to a lot of race tracks and got some nice awards, but this just blows them all away," Wallace said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
HIRED: Scott Riggs was hired to drive a third car for Evernham Motorsports. Riggs is in his second Nextel Cup season, and his contract with MBV Motorsports is up at the end of the year. He has six top-10 finishes in 58 starts.
Riggs was on the short list of drivers Ray Evernham considered before he hired Kasey Kahne two seasons ago. Last month, Valvoline agreed to be part-owner of Evernham's new team - a move that ended its relationship as sponsor of Riggs' MBV team.
So Riggs became a natural fit.
"He and I have been talking about working together for some time now," Evernham said. "Scott has shown he can be a winner ... and we look forward to getting him to the winner's circle next season."
LEBRON'S FLAVA: NBA star LeBron James became the latest athlete to cross over into NASCAR when his likeness was painted on the hood of Bobby Labonte's car for Saturday night's race.
The paint scheme is a promotion of Powerade's new James-inspired drink, Flava23. James spent the day touring the track and soaking up the scene with Labonte. James later treated fans to a jump-shooting display, firing shots at a hoop erected at the top of Bristol's 36-degree banked corner.
Although his only previous experience with NASCAR was the numerous racing-themed video games he plays, James said he felt comfortable at the track.
"I can adapt to any atmosphere," he said. "The only thing here is I am very much taller than everybody else."
Labonte presented James with an authentic helmet, and James reciprocated by inviting the driver and his son to be his guests at a Cleveland Cavaliers game.
"We've got to support each other now," James said.