In the months leading to the 500, Montoya, Vasser and Ganassi joined IRL drivers and owners in downplaying the head-to-head meeting, both sides saying they weren't interested in carrying a sanctioning body's flag onto the track. For the most part the two sides made nice at Indy. Ganassi even sold one of his cars to IRL driver Jimmy Kite after the 24-year-old wrecked his in qualifying. But when defending IRL champ Greg Ray knocked Montoya off the pole before qualifying ended, IRL team mechanics were high-fiving up and down pit road.
"I'm sick of it," says Kite of the intercircuit bickering. "There is room for both series, but they're going in totally different directions. It's the biggest race in the world. I wish all the teams were here."
Buying a Ride to Say Goodbye
When Darrell Waltrip didn't qualify for the Coca-Cola 600, the three-time Winston Cup champion bought his way onto the track. Waltrip, 53, is in his final season of Winston Cup racing, a campaign he's dubbed Victory Tour 2000—though he hasn't finished higher than 24th. So when Waltrip's car number 66 didn't make the field for his last 600, his team owner, Travis Carter, asked Carl Long to sell him his ride, even though it was the first time Long would start in a Winston Cup race.
"I was overwhelmed to qualify for the Show," says Long, who would have started 35th. "But to have Darrell Waltrip in my car on his Victory Tour is something I can tell my grandkids about."
Kmart, Waltrip's sponsor, paid Long's cash-strapped team for the sponsorship money it missed out on, covered the team's tire bill, offered a small percentage of the car number 66 merchandise sold and promised to provide Long with additional support down the road. Waltrip's crew then dropped a Robert Yates engine into the car, repainted it, retooled it and had his crew scrambling to pass inspection an hour before the race.
Because he didn't qualify, though, Waltrip had to start from the rear of the field. When the race was red-flagged after 254 laps because of rain, Waltrip was in 40th, eight laps down. That's when he made his best move of the week, stepping aside to let Long finish the race.
Long moved the car up four spots in the final 146 laps but finished well behind rookie Matt Kenseth, who won the 600. After the race Long sat in Waltrip's trailer, accepting congratulations from Kmart crew members. As the last one left the trailer, he turned to Long, looked both ways and whispered, "You know, Carl, you pulled 'er in the pits better than Darrell did."
Naming Rights Gone Bad
Lowe's Can't Catch a Break
It's what people in the business call a public relations nightmare. In the 16 months since Lowe's home improvement chain shelled out $35 million for the naming rights to Charlotte Motor Speedway through 2009, the company has been associated with several accidents and tragedies that have taken place at the track.