NASCAR, drivers make arrangements in case fighting starts

Planning for war

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Eddie Jones made two sets of reservations for his race team's trip to the Texas Motor Speedway. One involves the use of private and commercial airplanes; the other involves a couple of modified passenger vans.

Either way, Jones said his 1-800-CALL ATT Dodge race team would be at the March 30 race.

Like many other general managers on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, Jones made a contingency plan several weeks ago after it became apparent war with Iraq was likely.

If there are no restrictions on flying, he will put about 20 BAM Racing crewmen and driver Ken Schrader on an airplane late Thursday afternoon before the race. If the team has to drive, they will leave a day earlier in a pair of vans that have been outfitted with extra-large gas tanks.

''It's not going to be a good situation whatever it is,'' Jones said. ''The logistics, the turnaround time between races, makes travel very difficult under the best circumstances in this sport. When something like this happens, it forces us to be a little more creative.

''But I think NASCAR has made one thing clear: the show will go on.''

NASCAR president Mike Helton said late Tuesday a day before President Bush's final deadline for Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq this Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway will continue as planned. In fact, he said racing could be a necessary distraction from the war.

''We believe there is a special bond between our troops and our sport,'' he said. ''Every branch of the American military is represented in NASCAR racing and our chairman, Bill France, has always described NASCAR fans as 'the kind of people who go to war and win wars for America.' Many of those fans are currently deployed throughout the world are doing just that.''

NASCAR has several contingency plans to deal with the war, according to vice president Jim Hunter.

Included in some of the discussions was the possible creation of a national carpool system to reduce traffic and save gasoline, the reduction of practice time at the racetrack and possible re duction of racing. For example, some 500-mile events may be shortened to 400 miles.

''We have to be prepared, and we will be prepared,'' Hunter said. ''We've listed just about all the what-ifs we know, but the one thing we'll certainly do is keep the schedule going. One thing Americans need is entertainment. People need a diversion at times like these.''

This week's race at Bristol isn't a problem for the sport since the raceway is about three hours from the Charlotte, N.C., area the home base of the majority of race teams. Next week's race at Texas and the April 27 race at Fontana, Calif., present a greater challenge.

Jones said he started making a second set of arrangements several weeks ago when it became apparent war was imminent. That included renting a couple of vans and making hotel reservations for the 48-hour drive to southern California.

Fox Sports also has a contingency plan, Hunter said. If the network needs to concentrate on the war on its flagship network, Fox, races may be moved to FX, much like CBS' plan to move NCAA basketball tournament games to ESPN.

No matter what happens, Hunter said stock car racing is prepared to support the president and the troops.

''We will contribute to the war effort,'' he said. ''We are firmly behind the president and Congress and whatever they chose to do. We will make the necessary adjustments.''

For now, that only means making two sets of reservations.



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