Friday, August 09, 2002

Gordon eyes road course as chance for first win

Fittipaldi to leave CART for NASCAR

The Associated Press

        WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Despite going 29 races without a victory, Jeff Gordon has a shot at a fifth Winston Cup title. He gets to drive this weekend on a track he has dominated.

        “I know this team is capable of putting a string of wins together, and a win at Watkins Glen could be the spark we need,” Gordon said. “If we can limit our mistakes and don't have mechanical problems, then we'll be a threat to win.”

        Gordon will try for his fifth win in the last six years on the picturesque road course in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Gordon isn't used to waiting this long between victories:

        He has 58 over his career and rarely has gone more than half a dozen events without winning.

        For all his disappointments this season, though, the 31-year-old Gordon is fourth in the Winston Cup standings, 125 points behind leader Sterling Martin with 15 races to go.

        Gordon has won a record seven times on NASCAR's road courses, and Marlin is winless on such layouts. That gives Gordon possibly his best chance to make a major move since June's road-course event at Infineon Raceway in California, where Gordon finished 37th after breaking a rear-end gear.

        “It used to be there were three or four guys who could win on the road courses,” Gordon said. “Now everyone realizes that you can't give away points during these two races and expect to win a championship, so everyone has stepped up their road-course programs.”

        Gordon sees Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Ricky Rudd, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Burton as contenders Sunday.

        ROAD RACERS: Tom Hubert and P.J. Jones have a chance to showcase their road-course skills this weekend as substitute drivers in the Winston Cup race at Watkins Glen. Hubert is replacing Hut Stricklin in Bill Davis Racing's No.23 Dodge, and Jones is taking Mike Wallace's spot in A.J. Foyt Racing's No.14 Pontiac.

        Hubert has diverse duties on Bill Davis' team, serving as a mechanic, test driver and tire changer on Ward Burton's Winston Cup car.

        “Tom is a great driver and an exceptional road-course racer,” Bill Davis said. “I'm real appreciative of Hut being gracious and stepping aside this weekend.”

        FITTIPALDI TO JOIN PETTY: Christian Fittipaldi will leave CART after this season and join Petty Enterprises in a combined Busch and Winston Cup program. The nephew of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi has been a regular in CART for eight years, all but the first with Newman-Haas Racing.

        “Christian will be another bright new star in our sport,” said Kyle Petty. “It's exciting for us to have landed him. He's got tremendous experience and he's been very successful in every series he's raced.”

        Petty said Fittipaldi will compete next year in the Busch Series as well as a handful of Winston Cup and ARCA events. If all goes as planned, the 31-year-old Brazilian would move to NASCAR's top stock-car series full-time in 2004. The Petty team's current Winston Cup drivers are Kyle Petty, John Andretti and recent addition Jerry Nadeau.

        Andretti's future with the team is uncertain.

        “He is still weighing his options to be honest with you,” Petty said. “We've told him ... that we want him. I talked to him and his father last weekend at Indianapolis, and he's still leaning our way.”


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