tampabay.com

Worry wasn't part of plan

By BRANT JAMES
Published July 18, 2006


Biding your time in the final laps of a race is one thing. Biding it while in the lead, worrying about not spinning your tires or letting the wolfpack behind you get too good a run, is another. Doing it while wondering if you have enough fuel to drive the car like you want is just too much to think about.

So Kyle Busch, a 21-year-old who once would've been gnawed by such de-tails, tried to clear his mind as much as possible when separate incidents involving Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip in the final laps at Loudon, N.H., on Sunday sent the scheduled 300-lap race to 308. The green-white-checkered finish sent the leaders beyond the comfortable margins of their fuel windows.

"Really, you just keep digging along," said Busch, who won for the first time this year, third of his Nextel Cup career, while Denny Hamlin's and Elliott Sadler's top-five cars ran dry behind him. "We didn't quite know if we had enough fuel or not to make it to the end but we figured so.

"I think once you get your first and second win out of the way, it comes to you a little bit easier as far as taking some pressure off because you know that if you do it, great; if not, it's like, you know, what did I screw up on?"

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS: It is no understatement to suggest Robert Yates Racing is in severe trouble if Sad-ler opts out of his contract within the next few weeks, as expected, and leaves, presumably to drive the No. 19 Dodge at Evernham Motorsports. Sadler would re-place Jeremy Mayfield, who has been offered the third seat at Waltrip's Toyota team for 2007.

Former champion Dale Jarrett leaving RYR for Waltrip was a blow, though he has won once in his past 161 races. He took with him a powerful sponsor in UPS.

Sadler has not performed markedly better. He earned a Chase for the Championship berth in 2004, then imploded, falling from sixth to ninth in a span of 10 weeks with seven finishes of 20th or worse. But he, too, could take a monied benefactor in M&Ms.

Jarrett and Sadler are no longer winners - in fairness, Sadler was eighth at Sonoma and sixth at Daytona - but they are known commodities and recognizable faces. Yates might be forced to use promising but unproven 19-year-old Stephen Leicht, whose experience in NASCAR's top three series consists of 10 Busch Series starts over the past two seasons.

NEW MODEL: Nextel Cup series director John Darby told the Roanoke (Va.) Times the Toyota Camry is in the final stages of being approved for use in its inaugural season in 2007.

NEW MODEL, PART DEUX: Marco's house would have been very popular had this happened five years ago. Indy Racing League team owner Michael Andretti announced he will wed model/actress Jodi Ann Paterson on Oct. 7. Paterson, Playboy's 2000 Playmate of the Year, appeared in Dude, Where's My Car? and television shows on E! and VH1.