The NASCAR Winston Cup Series is learning what the rest of the country already knows: Corporate America is in trouble.
The season started with Kmart filing for bankruptcy a move that put one race team out of business and forced another one off the circuit for two months. Two more teams are facing the same problem.
Conseco, which sponsors A.J. Foyt's Pontiacs and driver Mike Wallace, and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., which sponsors driver Casey Atwood and Ultra/ Evern ham Motorsports, both warned they soon might have to seek bankruptcy protection.
Conseco, a company that deals in insurance and finance, said it probably can't satisfy a $300 bond issue due Oct. 15. The company wouldn't comment on its pending problems, but Foyt remains confident it won't affect his team's reported $5 million a year sponsorship.
Sirius, which denied it has financial problems, said it listed bankruptcy on a 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Com mission, as required by a startup company if it isn't able to generate as much as $600 million in funding to keep the company afloat for the next two years.
In addition to funding a race team, the satellite radio company also sponsors races at Michi gan International Speed way and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) Interna tional.
DRIVER SHUFFLE: The on-again, off-again deal between Ricky Rudd and Chip Ganassi Racing is on hold again.
An announcement by Tex acoHavoline was cancelled after the sponsor and Ganassi were unable to get Rudd to sign a final contract.
Rudd, who will leave Robert Yates Racing at the end of the season, has been close enough to signing with Ganassi on two occasions close enough for Gan assi and the sponsor to schedule a formal announcement.
The apparent sticking point is salary. Rudd wants more money than he made with Yates, but that prompted Sterling Marlin, who works for Ganassi and leads the Winston Cup Series point standings, to demand a pay raise as well.
While Rudd and Ganassi haggle over money, other race teams, including one being head ed by Dallas Cowboys own er Jerry Jones, have made pushes to secure Rudd's services.
Yates isn't waiting any long er. He will formally announce Friday at Michigan Interna tional Speedway that Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 27 M&M Mars Ford in 2003.
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