CONCORD, N.C. -- Ford unveiled its new cylinder head last Saturday night at Richmond, and now Ford teams are lining up for the new engine piece that's supposed to help them catch up to the Chevrolets and Dodges on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
Elliott Sadler had the new engine at Richmond and drove to a 12th-place finish. Doug Yates, who runs the engine shop for all Ford teams, was quiet about its debut.
"It's been a huge task just to get to the racetrack every week and I think that's gone pretty well," Yates said. "But now that the development on this new engine piece is coming along pretty good, and it's going to help our teams in the second half of the year."
NASCAR approved the new cylinder head last October, but it's taken Ford eight months to do the research and development. After months of testing, Yates decided last week it was time to see if it finally works outside his engine shop.
Five drivers Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Dale Jarrett, Mark Martin and Sadler will have the new engine part during this Saturday's Nextel All-Star Challenge at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. That race doesn't count toward the championship, so Yates said it's a good time to test it under fire.
HOW-TO SEMINAR FOR GEARHEADS: Every NASCAR fan has dreamed of working on a pit crew or with a race team. The spotter for Matt Kenseth's race team will share the secrets to getting into a career in motorsports next week.
Mike Calinoff will hold a "Get Into Racing" seminar on Friday, May 28 at the PPC Racing Shop in Mooresville, N.C. Calinoff and an expert panel of racing pros from pit crew members and mechanics to team owners and administrators will answer questions in the three-hour session beginning at 7 p.m.
Topics covered include the sacrifices involved in a career in motorsports, how to get started in racing, and resume and interview strategies.
The seminar is open to everyone and costs $99 in advance or $139 at the door. For more information, visit www.getintoracing.com.
THE ALL-STAR RACE: The field for Saturday night's Nextel All-Star Challenge has been set sort of.
Race winners from the last two seasons Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Craven, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Joe Nemechek, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Elliott Sadler and Rusty Wallace plus former all-star winners Geoffrey Bodine and Mark Martin have already earned their spot in the main event.
Two more drivers the winner of the Nextel Open and the winner of a week-long vote among the fans also will move into the finale. The Open is for anyone who has attempted to qualify for a Nextel Cup event in the last two years and will feature drivers like Ricky Rudd, Jeff Burton, Ward Burton, Jeff Green, Jeremy Mayfield, Ken Schrader and Jamie McMurray.
The Nextel All-Star Challenge doesn't count toward the series championship, but it's worth at least $1 million to the winner.
PAINTING THE TOWN YELLOW: Nextel Communications plans to make a big splash this weekend with the Nextel All-Star Challenge at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
The company which will sponsor the premier level of stock-car racing in NASCAR for the next 10 years, has kept a low profile in the first four months of the racing season as fans make the adjustment from Winston. This Saturday night's all-star race, however, will change all that.
Nextel plans to decorate the Charlotte area with more than 50,000 banners. Hotels will be given more than 2,000 shirts for their staffs to wear. The company also plans to give away 100,000 coasters and 7,000 glasses to fans.
Three city buses have been decorated in yellow Nextel's colors and there are eight billboards hailing their support of stock-car racing.
The Charlotte area is doing its part by spending millions to promote racing at the Lowe's Motor Speedway for the next two weeks, including the May 30 Coca-Cola 600, as well as the area's position as the Mecca of the sport. More than 90 percent of the teams on the Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series are located within 90 minutes of Charlotte.
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