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New rival?

NASCAR to have competition in stock-car racing

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Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2001 10:50 AM
Updated: Tuesday May 15, 2001 5:47 PM
  Michael Kranefuss, Jon Pritchett TRAC president Jon Pritchett (right) is president of Maxx Motorsports, a South Carolina-based company investing in the new circuit. AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Organizers of a new stock-car series say they don't want to use NASCAR drivers when the circuit begins in 2003.

Good thing, because it's unlikely that any of the top Winston Cup driver would be interested in competing on the Team Racing Auto Circuit.

"I'm not going to touch this other thing," veteran driver Mark Martin said Tuesday, hours after the founders of TRAC announced their plans. "I definitely do not want to see Winston Cup racing get torn and I don't think there's anyone looking to do that."

But that's not to say Martin is against a new series, especially if it can help young drivers break into the growing sport of auto racing.

Those are the drivers the TRAC series wants to pursue, organizers said Tuesday as they unveiled plans for their new league.

Marketed as a little sister to NASCAR, spokesman Cale Yarborough said the league would try to become a starting point for unknown drivers.

"This league is not going after NASCAR drivers," said Yarborough, a three-time Winston Cup champion. "There is a pool of talent throughout the United State and the world that hasn't even been tapped yet. We want to bring in those drivers."

Martin said he could support such a series. "I'm certainly open to giving some of these young kids an opportunity because I know if something doesn't change, they'll never get an opportunity to race NASCAR," Martin said, "That's a crime because some of them are too good to get shut out like that."

NASCAR spokeswoman Danielle Humphrey declined comment on the group's plans.

"I guess it's hard to see them welcoming us with open arms," Yarborough said of NASCAR. "But I would hope they understand and recognize there is room for this sport to grow."

Only 43 drivers compete in a NASCAR race. Any amount can try to qualify for a race, although less than 50 usually do. Normally, the top drivers make the field each week and the fledgling teams that lack heavy financial backing don't.

The founders of TRAC said their series would differ from that concept in that all the cars would be equal, thus creating more parity for those who don't have the money NASCAR drivers do.

"The equipment here is going to be equal, you aren't going to need $3 [million] or $4 million for testing," said Michael Kranefuss, a former Winston Cup car owner and one of the league's board members.

The new league is hoping to attract a national TV package and wants to run on at least some of the tracks where Winston Cup cars currently race.

Robert Wussler, a former executive with CBS and Turner Sports and now the senior member of the board of directors for TRAC, said he hoped to have details on a TV package secured in the next few months.

He also said the league, which would prefer to race on oval tracks, has already had discussions with some track owners and interest had been expressed.

"We think the tracks are in need of the content," Wussler said.

Humpy Wheeler, president of Lowe's Motor Speedway, said his track had not been in discussion with TRAC but would be willing to listen to more details.

"If it's entertainment and the fans like it, then certainly we would be interested," Wheeler said. "These tracks are monsters and have a hunger for action, a voracious appetite for it, in fact."

TRAC's format would be to have 8-12 two-car teams, but organizers don't know yet how extensive the schedule might be.

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