Wallace’s chances are good today

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2005

How many of you still use the term &uot;Winston Cup?&uot; I do at times and I would be willing to bet that many of you do, too. After 33 years as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, Winston gave way to Nextel last year as the namesake. Well, guess what? It looks like there will be a new name for the series again next year.

Since signing the 10-year deal with NASCAR, Nextel has been acquired by Sprint and beginning next racing season, you better bet that the Sprint name will be somewhere as the title sponsor. I think Nextel has done a wonderful job and has brought many new fans to the sport and new technology to many fans. I hope they somehow find a way to incorporate both the Nextel and Sprint brands into the name of the cup series.

Twelve years ago Friday, we lost Alan Kulwicki to an airplane accident. The competition between Kulwicki and Davey Allison for the 1992 Cup Championship was one for the ages. Until the chase for the championship was implemented last year, Kulwicki was the champion that won by the smallest margin when he edged Allison in the last race of the year.

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Bristol Motor Speedway is host to the next stop on the series this weekend. All you have to do is mention this name to drivers and teams and you either get a huge smile or a look of horror. This place is a curse to some and a joy to others. This track is among the shortest on the circuit at just over a half mile, but its 36 degrees of banking is the highest of all the tracks. In fact, the corners at Bristol are five stories tall. Talk about racing in a fish bowl. When you combine all these factors and throw in 43 of the best drivers in the world, you get a fast, fender-grinding, get-your-feelings-hurt, entertaining race.

There is a reason that Bristol has consistently been one of hardest tickets for fans to get their hands on and garners high television ratings. These races are fun to watch and are always entertaining.

Other than Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s win at the August race last year, Kurt Busch had won four of the previous five races at Bristol. He will be a major contender again this week. Bristol is not a good place to come out of a slump and that is not good news for the no. 8 team. If Junior runs strong and finishes in the top five this week, he could go on a pretty good streak. If not, it is going to be a long year.

My pick to win the race this week is Rusty Wallace. On his farewell tour, Rusty has run good so far this season and has always performed well at Bristol. Rusty is a good short track racer and this week will be one of his best chances at victory in 2005. It would be really neat for him to win a race in his final season. Look for it this weekend.

The television coverage begins at 12:30 and the race begins a little after 1:00 on the FOX network. Don’t forget to turn your clocks forward one hour Saturday night or you will be late for the race.

Jeff Findley is publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald in Ahoskie, N.C. His racing column appears in several newspapers in the Southeast. He can be reached at jeff.findley@r-cnews.com.