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Pruett experiences major turnaround

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


The last time Scott Pruett raced at Richmond International Raceway, he finished 27th, was 42nd in the standings and seriously considered quitting his new job as a Winston Cup driver.

Four months later, the rookie returns for Saturday's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 with a completely different mind-set.

"Experience, racing miles under my belt, the team coming together, better race cars, better preparation, everything," Pruett said. "Everything is coming together."

Since the Pontiac Excitement 400 in May, his season of discontent has improved with three top-10 qualifying efforts and three top-20 finishes.

He qualified seventh for the Southern 500 on Sunday at Darlington Raceway after failing to qualify for the spring race.

Pruett, who had a top-15 car until he was caught up in a wreck, finished 24th.

"To think we couldn't even make this race earlier on and to come back here and run in the top 10, top 12, I think that says a lot for this team and where it's going," said Pruett, 36th in the standings.

A CHAMPION'S MIND-SET: Bobby Labonte's 111-point lead over Dale Jarrett in the Winston Cup standings is far from safe with 10 races remaining.

If Jarrett wins at Richmond, he could take the points lead if Labonte finishes 32nd or worse and doesn't lead a lap.

"We're really not going into races looking at dodging bullets necessarily," said Jimmy Makar, Labonte's crew chief. "We're going into the races thinking the same way that we have all along, to try to go in there, qualify well and have a competitive car that gives us a chance to win a race.

"That's the way we go into every racetrack we look at. This weekend is no different. We go into Richmond completely forgetting about the last race -- the last 24 races, actually."

IMPACTED: Indianapolis will have held the equivalent of three Super Bowls by the end of this month, according to an economic impact study released Wednesday.

The Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and inaugural U.S. Grand Prix are expected to add $727-million to the Central Indiana economy.

The Indianapolis 500 generates $336.6-million each year, the Brickyard 400 $219.5-million and the United States Grand Prix is expected to generate $170.8-million.

CLOSING IN: Paul Tracy's victory in the Molson Indy Vancouver Sunday, combined with Michael Andretti's 12th-place finish, pulled Tracy to within six points of the CART leader. With five events remaining, Tracy has won races at four of the tracks, including Laguna Seca Raceway, where the series stops this weekend for the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday.

TRIPLE THREAT: Elliott Sadler plans to drive in three races at Richmond.

The 25-year-old will compete in the Kroger 200 Craftsman Truck event today, the Autolite Fram 250 Busch Grand National race Friday and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 Saturday.

PIT NOTES: Ten years ago Friday, Jeff Green competed in his first Busch Grand National race. The Owensboro, Ky., native has a commanding 604-point lead in the standings going into the Autolite Platinum 250 at Richmond. ... Tony Schumacher, Jim Epler, Jeg Coughlin, Antron Brown and Bob Panella raced to their first U.S. Nationals wins at Indianapolis Raceway Park. ... Labonte, Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth are all eligible for the Winston $1-million bonus if they win the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 on Saturday. Each finished in the top five of the Coca-Cola 600 in May. ... Earnhardt Jr., who won the spring race at Richmond, has three wins and five top-10 finishes in six races there (Busch Grand National and Winston Cup).

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

@0987$temp$

$STPT ID: +

Paper: Date: 9/07/00 +

Page: 8C Section: SPORTS +

Byline: Compiled from Times staff and wire reports

Headline: Position by position+

Notes: +

TAMPA -- USF coach Jim Leavitt said practices this week have gone well, but that ultimately he believes Saturday's game will hinge on how every player responds at his specific position

"Each player has got to get themselves ready individually," Leavitt said. "It's individual matchups and how we do man by man out there."

Leavitt said for the second day in a row there was nothing spectacular about practice, but that he felt the team was preparing well for Saturday.

"They worked hard," Leavitt said. "We got everything in. I was trying to do a little bit of punt returns and we didn't really get that, but that's really all we missed. So it was a decent practice. Everybody looks really healthy. It's going to be a good opportunity for us to go up and play a team of this caliber and see how we stand."

JACKSON UPDATE: Senior receiver Charlie Jackson said Tuesday that he was expecting results from his voluntary drug test today, but Wednesday afternoon Leavitt said he did not know whether the results were available.

By law, USF officials cannot comment on the outcome of the test without Jackson's approval.

Jackson was arrested early Sunday on charges of trespassing after warning and possession of marijuana. Marijuana was discovered on the floor of the squad car, Jackson said, after he and a former teammate were placed in the car.

Jackson, who has maintained his innocence, did not return phone calls to his home Wednesday evening. "I really don't know," Leavitt said when asked if the test results were back. "I've been out here at practice and nobody's told me."

INJURIES: Leavitt said he's not sure whether offensive lineman Jimmy Fitts will start Saturday's game, but the senior will play.

Fitts has been hampered by cramps during preseason practices and Saturday night's game against Jacksonville State.

"I don't know if (offensive line coach) Scott Bruning is going to start him or not," Leavitt said. "I don't make that decision; I let the position coach decide who he wants to start."

Leavitt said the Bulls essentially have seven starters who can alternate positions on the line and "help each other out." He listed them as guard Sean Cassese, Joey Sipp (center), Fitts (right guard), Anthony McKenzie (guard, center) and Ken Dawson, Kenyatta Jones and Mike Snellgrove at tackle.

"That's our starters," Leavitt said. "That's how we look at it."

ANTONYA ENGLISH

Rattlers address mistakes

TALLAHASSEE -- For the second straight day, FAMU has focused on eliminating penalties, which plagued the Rattlers in their 49-21 win at Delaware State last week, and coach Billy Joe says his team is making progress.

"We had an official out there to check, so we could be right on top of it," Joe said after the Rattlers' rainy practice. "For the most part, I thought the guys did really well. There's room for improvement, but they're certainly better than yesterday."

At least three starters will watch Saturday's home opener against Morgan State (0-0) from the bench. FB Kelsie Lordeus, DT Leon Scott and RT Shedrick Moten are injured. Moten and Scott likely will be ready for the Sept. 16 game against South Carolina State. But whether Lordeus, who has a separated shoulder, will be healthy by then has not been determined.

"I didn't really know I was doing that well," Lordeus said about his three-touchdown performance against Delaware State. "Everyone kept telling me how great I was doing, but I was just doing my job. Just when it was starting to get fun and I was getting the feel of it, it ended."

The Rattlers will take the field Saturday with a new look. They will have a new helmet design, which has not been revealed to FAMU fans or players. Quarterback Quinn Gray said he thinks the helmets will be decorated with the coiled rattler logo that appears on the sleeves of new jerseys.

"It is a logo that has been on other team's uniforms," he said.

JABARI RITCHIE

Rain may help 'Canes

CORAL GABLES -- Stormy weather brought an early end to practice as the Miami continued preparations for its game with Washington on Saturday in Seattle.

"We were able to get about 85 percent of the practice in before we had to take it inside," coach Butch Davis said. "The rain may have helped because we ended up getting some significant work done in the rain, and we're told we may get some rain Saturday in Washington."

-- TIMES WIRES

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