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Get ready for a long weekend of wheels

Motorcycles and race cars will be displayed at separate events next weekend and Pinellas Park plans Country in the Park.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Next weekend in Pinellas Park will be a motorhead's dream come true as motorcycles and NASCAR race cars highlight other city festivities.

On Friday, motorcycles will be a feature during 2001, A Chili Odyssey, the firefighters' annual competition to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That night, Jim's Harley-Davidson will sponsor a motorcycle show.

The next day is the granddaddy of Pinellas Park galas: Country in the Park. The event will be at the England Brothers Band Shell in the park immediately to the north of City Hall, 5141 78th Ave. N.

"It's the biggest day we have in the city," Mayor Bill Mischler said Thursday.

And with Country in the Park come three NASCAR racing cars, including one driven by Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt died last month in a crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500.

On display will be the No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Bass Pro Shop car that he drove in the 1998 Winston Select in Charlotte, N.C.

Also at Country in the Park will be the No. 31 Lowe's Army car driven by Mike Skinner at the Coca-Cola 600 last year. The paint job was part of an annual salute to the armed forces during the Memorial Day weekend. Last year was the first time that tribute continued into the race with five cars painted for each of the service branches.

Up until last week, a second Dale Earnhardt car was scheduled to be displayed at Country in the Park. But a scheduling conflict changed that. Instead, Richard Childress Racing, which owns the cars and sponsored Earnhardt, is sending the No. 29 GM Goodwrench car driven by Kevin Harvick.

That's really special because this will be the first time that the car has been seen off the track, Pinellas Park City Clerk Kathy Witherington said. Witherington is in charge of bringing the race cars to Country in the Park.

Harvick has been "absolutely running the wheels off of that car," Witherington said.

Also special at Country in the Park is the 3 p.m. memorial to Earnhardt. The council capped off the city's admiration for Earnhardt by unanimously changing the name of 80th Terrace N to Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in honor of the racing great. The name change will be temporary, though, lasting only through Saturday.

If Friday and Saturday fail to slake fans' thirst for a close glimpse of powerful engines, ParkSide mall will have its own NASCAR display from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

That three-car display will include the No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Bass Pro Shop car and the No. 31 Lowe's Army car that will be on display at Country in the Park.

But instead of the Harvick car, the mall will have a second Earnhardt car. The No. 3 Dale Earnhardt Peter Max car. Earnhardt drove the car in last May's Winston Select.

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