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Auto racing briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 8, 2000


NASCAR may take Kenseth's win away

CONCORD, N.C. -- Matt Kenseth won the Busch Grand National All Pro Bumper to Bumper 300 on Saturday, but NASCAR confiscated his engine because of a possible rules violation.

The engine in Kenseth's Chevrolet might have been too big, so NASCAR officials impounded it late Saturday and plan to test it today at an independent location, said Kevin Triplett, NASCAR operations director.

NASCAR also called runner-up Mark Martin back to the track at Lowe's Motor Speedway so officials could test the engine from his Ford. There was no indication his engine was illegal, so the test could just be a precautionary measure. Martin could be declared the winner if NASCAR finds any violations with Kenseth's motor. Dave Blaney was third, and Jeff Green was fourth.

Kenseth, who started from the pole, possibly earned consecutive Busch series victories when leader Joe Nemechek ran out of gas with two laps to go. A Winston Cup rookie, Kenseth said he hoped to make it a sweep at Lowe's Motor Speedway by winning today's UAW-GM Quality 500. He won the Coca-Cola 600 at the track in the spring for his first Winston Cup victory.

The race had one scary moment when Jimmie Johnson overshot his pit during a stop. Though he didn't know it, his gas man already had put the gas can into the tank when Johnson backed up, causing the can to break off and erupt into flames.

Crewman Brian Smith was treated for minor burns to his arms and face. Another crewman, Dave Rang, had to be transported to University Hospital for treatment for inhalation of chemicals from the fire extinguisher. Three others were treated at the track for smoke inhalation. All were in good condition after the race.

JAPANESE GRAND PRIX: Michael Schumacher will be on the pole at Suzuka. He knows, however, bigger victories await.

"There is no point to celebrate this pole position," Schumacher said. "It's nice, but it doesn't mean the end results. We have to fight very hard for that. But we are ready to do it."

Today, Schumacher will try to win Ferrari's first driving championship since Jody Scheckter in 1979. He also is looking to win the championship for the first time since 1995 with Benetton.

Schumacher earned the 31st pole of his career and his eighth this season by edging Mika Hakkinen by .009 seconds. "If we're leading in the first corner we will have a very good opportunity, but the race won't be over, either," Schumacher said.

Hakkinen, seeking his third straight title for McLaren-Mercedes, trails Schumacher by eight points. Hakkinen won this race each of the last two years, both times clinching the season title with the victory. But his quest for a third in a row got off to a bad start when Schumacher ended a seesaw affair by grabbing the pole.

AUTOZONE NATIONALS: Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher claimed the No. 1 qualifying position at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park, but he was injured later in a crash.

Schumacher recorded a track record 4.552-second pass during the first of two qualifying runs to lead the 16-car field. On his final qualifying attempt, his dragster went out of control and crashed. The 30-year-old driver was extracted from his car and taken to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis. His injuries were not believed to be life threatening. He must be cleared to race today.

John Force (Funny Car), Scott Geoffrion (Pro Stock) and Greg Stanfield (Pro Stock Truck) also qualified No. 1.

WINSTON 500: The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company announced it will drop sponsorship of the Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway after this year's race on Oct. 15, ending the longest-standing sponsorship in the Winston Cup series. R.J. Reynolds took over the race in 1971. NASCAR has not announced a new sponsor.

Today on TV

SCCA, Runoffs (Day 3), 1:30, Speedvision; F1, Grand Prix from Japan (taped), 3, Fox Sports Net.

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