Lajoie fired from Busch ride

Posted: Thursday, July 03, 2003

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. This silly season isn't restricted only to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

The wheels were in motion this week in the Busch Series with former two-time champion Randy LaJoie getting the pink slip from Evans Motorsports. After finishing 11th in Sunday's race at Milwaukee, LaJoie now is unemployed as the junior circuit heads to the Daytona International Speedway for Friday night's Winn Dixie 250.

Greg Biffle, last year's Busch Series champion, and Joe Nemechek will work in relief of LaJoie. Both Biffle and Nemechek are full-time drivers on the Winston Cup Series.

''Randy has been a great asset to the Evans Motorsports program,'' said team owner Ed Evans. ''He is a proven champion and a great person. Unfortunately, our program has not performed to the level I expected. We're halfway through the season and we continue to struggle each week at the track. This is our third season together and we haven't been able to make a serious run at the championship.''

While LaJoie looks, Larry McClure thinks. The car owner at Morgan-McClure Motorsports still hasn't decided on a full-time replacement for Mike Skinner in his familiar No. 4 Pontiac on the Winston Cup Series circuit.

Busch Series regular Stacy Compton will drive for Morgan-McClure during Saturday's Pepsi 400 at Daytona. Nobody has been picked to drive a week later at Chicagoland Speedway.

Skinner and John Andretti continue to look for work after being fired from their driving jobs in Winston Cup. Skinner is looking at a possible return to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Andretti is willing to wait until the offseason to see what opens up for 2004.

HIGH-SPEED SALES PITCH: Jeff Burton hasn't won a race this year, but it hasn't kept him from being one of the busiest pitchmen on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Burton already has made 50 personal appearances on behalf of his sponsors at Roush Racing. At this pace, he will surpass his mark of 102 appearances of a year ago.

''NASCAR is not only about the fans, but it's about corporate America, and more specifically our sponsors,'' Burton said. ''That's one of the things that make the sport unique.

''It's the one sport where the sponsor's brand appears on any and everything. If it weren't for our sponsors, I wouldn't be able to do what I love to do.''

While most drivers bemoan their off-track responsibilities to sponsors, Burton seems happy with hawking ice cream bars, soft drinks and motor oil.

Since his team hasn't found a company to replace Citgo as the primary sponsor next year, Burton has no choice but to shake hands, sign autographs and look happy.

NEW TEAM: A new team owned by Donald Arnold soon will unveil its plans to make a handful of starts on the Winston Cup Series this year and run the entire 2004 season. The team is scheduled to announce its plans in two weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

By then, there won't be much news to announce. It's already known that Billy Bigley Jr. will be the driver and NASCAR champion Bobby Allison will be a consultant.

THUNDER ROAD FOR SALE: What was supposed to be a shrine to Bill Elliott's racing success has gone bust. Thunder Road, a massive museum and interactive attraction in Elliott's hometown of Dawsonville, Ga., is for sale. The attraction, which was supposed to draw 250,000 fans a year, is behind on its $9.8 million loan.

With only 48,000 visitors last year, Thunder Road was forced to cut its operating hours and trim its staff, including Dan Elliott. Hired as the marketing director, the younger brother of racing star Bill Elliott said he will go back to something more familiar working as a transmission and gearing expert in racing.

HORNISH IN HOT SEAT: Chevrolet's problems on the IRL Indy Car Series may push defending champion Sam Hornish to a new team or into a stock car on the Winston Cup Series circuit.

Chevrolet is woefully underpowered compared to Honda and Toyota on the open-wheeled series. In fact, the company's problems are so profound it's turned to its archrival Ford for help from its Cosworth division.

Hornish said he would decide in August if he will return to Panther Racing next season or drive somewhere else. Dale Earnhardt Inc. has been mentioned as a possibility since Hornish may have enough clout to keep Pennzoil from leaving the No. 1 Chevrolet.

PIT STOPS: Kurt Busch spent the final open weekend of the Winston Cup Series season attending the German Grand Prix. ... An estimated 40,000 fans attended the Dale Earnhardt Tribute Concert Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway. The concert benefited several of Earnhardt's favorite educational and wildlife charities. ... Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs Racing agreed to extend the driver's contract through the 2008 season.

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