Crew chief Miller joins Burton; Hamlin reassigned
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jeff Burton was going to have a new crew chief next season. He's got him three races early.
Scott Miller took over as the crew chief for Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet this weekend for the Dickies 500. Miller, who had been the crew chief for Dave Blaney in the No. 07 car, will remain with Burton for the rest of this season and into 2006.
Blaney is going into his final three races for owner Richard Childress before being replaced next season by Clint Bowyer, a Busch rookie who is second in points in that series. Blaney qualified 13th for Sunday's race, and Burton was 32nd.
Burton's previous crew chief, Kevin Hamlin, moved this weekend to the No. 07 Chevrolet and will be assisted the rest of this season by Gil Martin, who will move with Bowyer from Busch to Cup. Hamlin has been offered another position in Childress' organization.
"We're making these moves to get a head start on 2006," Childress said.
Martin remains the crew chief for Bowyer's No. 2 car in the Busch Series. Bowyer trails Martin Truex Jr. by 100 points going into the O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Racing for the USA
Jeff Gordon is getting another chance to go to Paris for an all-star race.
The four-time NASCAR Nextel Cup champion was supposed to drive for Team USA last year at the Race of Champions Nations Cup, but had to withdraw because of a severe case of the flu.
"I was really bummed out about that," Gordon said Friday. "I said, 'I'll be there next year.'"
And Gordon will.
He will team up with Travis Pastrana, a five-time X-Games gold medalist in motocross, in Paris for this year's Nation's Cup on Dec. 3, the day after the NASCAR awards ceremony in New York. Drivers from 10 countries and several types of racing will compete on a challenging one-kilometer, figure-eight parallel course designed and built especially for the Race of Champions.
"I was pumped when they came to me," Gordon said. "I'm really happy to have Travis Pastrana, I'm a huge fan of his, and the guy is fearless. He has been doing a lot of rally races as well."
Gordon was part of the winning Team USA in 2002, along with Jimmie Johnson and Colin Edwards. That race was in the Canary Islands.
Staying at Homestead
Ford will remain the title sponsor for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series finales through 2014.
The 10-year extension announced Friday with Homestead-Miami Speedway is Ford's largest-ever motorsports agreement. Ford will have the "official car" and "official truck" on race weekends, and entitlement rights to all three races in NASCAR's season-ending weekend. This year's finales are in two weeks.
Let the people decide
So, where is the best place to tailgate in the South?
On a college campus on a fall Saturday afternoon, at the Kentucky Derby, or the infield at Talladega?
Which is the better sports rivalry: Alabama vs. Auburn in football, Duke vs. North Carolina in men's basketball, or Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. Jeff Gordon in NASCAR?
Those are among the 13 categories -- and varied list of nominees in each -- for the inaugural Southern Sports Awards that will be presented Nov. 30 in Atlanta. Fans will determine the winners in each category in online voting (www.southernsportsawards.com).
NASCAR is well-represented, even with nominees for "Coach of the Year." Along with Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and others are Greg Zipadelli, the crew chief for Tony Stewart, and Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson.
Roush Racing, which has all five of its drivers in NASCAR's 10-car championship chase, is a nominee for "Best Management." The night race at Bristol and the Daytona 500 are among 11 choices in "Best Sports Experience," along with The Masters golf tournament and the Kentucky Derby.
Richard Petty, NASCAR's winningest driver, will be honored at the awards ceremony for lifetime achievement, as will former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith and Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden.
Robbie Reiser, the Nextel Cup crew chief for Matt Kenseth, wasn't in Texas on Friday. He was in Wisconsin with his ailing father. Since this isn't an impound race, Nextel Cup drivers will get two 45-minute practice sessions Saturday morning. Mike Bliss had the top practice speed Friday at 190.921 mph, then qualified sixth at 191.333 mph in the Geek Squad Chevrolet. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe and his three sons attended qualifying Friday. Bledsoe took part in a driving school at the track earlier this year, but this was the first time for him to see the NASCAR drivers doing their thing in person. Even though the Cowboys have a bye week, he won't be able to attend Sunday's race. He's traveling to see family.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press