Sunday, June 09, 2002

GROESCHEN: Cup drivers to highlight Busch race

Nemechek, Compton plan 'double,' starting in Sparta

        There will be a Winston Cup flavor at the NASCAR Busch race Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

        Winston Cup regulars Joe Nemechek and Stacy Compton will drive in the race, officially “The Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo.” The two drivers also will participate the following day in the Winston Cup race at Michigan, as they attempt the weekend double.

        Kevin Harvick, who won last year's Busch race at Kentucky, will return to Sparta as grand marshal. Harvick, who did the weekend double at Kentucky Speedway and Pocono on the corresponding June weekend in 2001, now drives only in Winston Cup.

        Last year, Harvick and Kenny Wallace attempted double duty at Kentucky and Pocono, but Wallace did not qualify for the Cup race.

        Compton has driven several times at Kentucky, helping Dodge develop its engine plan for Winston Cup.

        “The track is as smooth as glass,” Compton said, noting Kentucky recently was repaved. “It'll be a busy weekend for us, but we're looking forward to it.”

        WHO'S COMING: Aside from Nemechek and Compton, most stars from Busch will be at Kentucky next weekend.

        Jack Sprague, Scott Riggs and Jason Keller have been atop the standings much of the year. Former Winston Cup regular Wallace, former Busch champion Randy LaJoie and several famous offspring are expected to drive, including Larry Foyt (son of A.J.) and Ricky Hendrick (son of Winston Cup owner Rick).

        Blue Ash native Jeff Fultz, a 1987 Sycamore graduate, also is planning to drive in the Busch race.

        Fultz, 33, is a regular on the NASCAR Hills Brothers All-Pro Series, which will stage a race Friday at Kentucky as part of Busch pole night. Fultz hopes to drive in both the All-Pro and Busch events. He is driving in six Busch races this season.

        BIG BRASS: NASCAR president Mike Helton and his director of operations, Kevin Triplett, are scheduled to attend the Busch race. Helton attended the 2001 Busch race.

        The speedway is bidding for a Winston Cup race in 2003, and speedway chairman Jerry Carroll hopes to spend some time with Helton.

        Helton will not publicly discuss future schedules, but NASCAR reportedly does not plan major changes for its 2003 Winston Cup tour. If that's true, Kentucky hopes to be considered for The Winston, the annual all-star race that could leave its longtime home in Charlotte, N.C.

        SELLOUT EXPECTED: At last glance, Kentucky Speedway said it was on track for a capacity crowd of 66,000 for the Busch race.

        Ticket sales were pushing 60,000 by midweek, but it is unclear whether the final crowd will approach last year's 70,338. Mark Cassis, speedway general manager, said the track's operations/security staffs were overworked last year, with more than 4,000 people having standing-room-only tickets.

        NHRA IN OHIO: The 38th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals are scheduled for this weekend at National Trail Raceway near Columbus.

        All the top NHRA stars are expected, including Top Fuel legend Kenny Bernstein and Funny Car great John Force.


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