Thursday, April 17, 2003

All-star race gets prize boost


Winner of Winston to receive $1 million from event sponsor

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.C. - The winner of NASCAR's annual All-Star race May 17 will earn a record $1 million payout, an increase of $250,000 from last year.

R.J. Reynolds will pay the bulk of the $3.5 million total purse, which was announced Wednesday, even though the tobacco company recently cited financial losses in giving NASCAR permission to look for another series sponsor.

RJR spokesman Denny Darnell said the commitment to increase the purse for The Winston was made late last year, before the tobacco company began exploring leaving the sponsorship business after 32 years.

Should NASCAR quickly find a replacement for RJR - the current contract runs through 2007 - The Winston could change dramatically.

"We've said we've had discussions with (NASCAR) about the possibility of exploring a new sponsor," said Ned Leary, president of RJR's sports marketing division. "I don't have anything to say about that, other than to say while we're here there will be an all-star event."

The 90-lap race at Lowe's Motor Speedway still will follow the "Survival of the Fastest" format that was introduced last year. That format cuts cars from the field after the first two segments of 40 laps and 30 laps.

This year, 20 drivers will advance to the second segment and 14 will go to the final shootout.

CHILDRESS MUSEUM: The race shop where Richard Childress Racing worked on the cars that won six Winston Cup championships is being transformed into a museum.

A building now connects the shop to a small, existing museum at the RCR complex in Welcome, N.C., making it one big showcase for nearly 50 race cars driven by the late Dale Earnhardt - winner of those six titles - and Kevin Harvick, Mike Skinner, Childress and others.

The 47,000-square-foot museum, which will open May 16, will also have lots of trophies, photographs and banners.

"With all the history made within those walls, it wouldn't be right to just lease the building out to another company or to put another race team in it," Childress said. "I wanted to do something the Earnhardt family would be proud of and the race fans would be proud to come and see."

FAN TROUBLE: A NASCAR fan faces up to a year in prison for flooding Fox Entertainment with more than a half-million e-mails because he was angry the network aired a Boston Red Sox game instead of an auto race.

Michael Melo of Billerica, Mass., has agreed to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of damage to a protected computer system, his attorney said Wednesday.

The action forced the network to shut down part of its Web site. Melo designed a program that repeatedly sent the same six e-mails to Fox Entertainment Group Inc. in Los Angeles over a few days in late April and early May 2001.

IRL: Tony Kanaan was released from the hospital Wednesday after surgery on his broken left arm and could be back behind the wheel of his race car during the first week of practice for the Indianapolis 500. Kanaan was injured in a crash with Scott Dixon during the Indy Japan 300 on Sunday.




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