Sunday, June 22, 2003

Gordon fits with Formula One

NASCAR notebook: Montoya, team impressed with NASCAR star's run

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - Jeff Gordon made a strong impression on the Formula One crowd with his recent exhibition drive in a BMW Williams car.

Gordon drove Juan Pablo Montoya's 2002 race car and Montoya drove Gordon's Chevrolet Monte Carlo around the Formula One circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week. Montoya still was talking excitedly about the swap during last week's Canadian Grand Prix.

"He did pretty good," Montoya said.

"He did a lot better than a lot of young kids coming up who are in single-seaters all the time. All the team was very impressed with his performance, and the team took it quite seriously."

Team owner Frank Williams was not in Indianapolis for the car swap but was impressed by what he heard about Gordon's performance.

"The reports I have received from those present were that he is a really, really good driver, and that he was unafraid of the car," Williams said.

Would Williams consider giving the 31-year-old Gordon - three years younger than current points leader and five-time champion Michael Schumacher - a proper F1 test?

"We were truly ... very, very impressed," Williams said. "The good news is he is very, very quick; the bad news is we can't afford him. He is a winning NASCAR driver and his earnings, I am told, are out of sight."

Gordon reportedly makes about $12 million a year for driving his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

MARTIN BACK IN BUSCH: For years, Mark Martin was the winningest of the Winston Cup drivers who made frequent visits to the Busch Series, beating the series regulars on a consistent basis. Martin, who holds the Busch all-time record of 45 victories, decided to retire from the series after the 2000 season to concentrate on his main job - driving Jack Roush's No. 6 Ford in Winston Cup.

Now he has decided to drive a limited Busch schedule next season.

"When I left the series, I never said I'd never do it again," Martin said. "I certainly wouldn't do it on the same scale as when I was doing 15 races a year. I actually really wanted to do five races this year, but we didn't get the sponsorship stuff together."

Martin is happy to be back on the Busch circuit, but he's feeling some pressure.

"Why? Expectations are very high. It's got to be 10 times harder for me to come back and run like I ran when I left, because we're totally out of touch with what's fast now and what's working now," he said.

TRUCK SERIES: Ted Musgrave raced close to the lead, then shoved his way past Jon Wood with 14 laps remaining to win the Craftsman Truck Series race at Millington, Tenn.

Driving a Dodge, Musgrave surrendered the lead to the polesitter on the 145th lap around Memphis Motorsports Park's three-quarter-mile oval. He was content to let Wood set the pace in his Ford.

But Musgrave caught Wood at the line to begin lap 187 and looked for passing room both high and low - moves the leader blocked entering the first turn. The trucks touched briefly and slid sideways before Musgrave recovered to take the advantage in Turn 2.

Winston Cup

Race: Dodge/Save Mart 350, Sonoma, Calif.

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m./Ch. 19, 45.

Track: Infineon Raceway (permanent road course, 1.99 miles, 10 turns).

Race distance: 219 miles, 110 laps.

On the pole: Boris Said (filling in for Jerry Nadeau).

Next race: Pepsi 400, July 5, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Points standings:

1. M. Kenseth 2,275
2. Earnhardt Jr. 2,090
3. J. Gordon 2,052
4. B. Labonte 1,998
5. K. Busch 1,933
6. M. Waltrip 1,900
7. J. Johnson 1,853
8. R. Wallace 1,798
9. S. Marlin 1,783
10. M. Martin 1,740
11. K. Harvick 1,736
12. T. Stewart 1,722
13. R. Craven 1,697
14. J. Burton 1,688
15. T. Labonte 1,662

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