IRL driver considers NASCAR

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

BRISTOL, Tenn. Two-time defending IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish told Panther Racing he won't be back next year. Where he ends up, however, remains a mystery.

Hornish said he would talk about his plans later this month, but he's dropped a few hints that he'd like to follow Tony Stewart's career path to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

''I don't know if I'm going to be successful in NASCAR,'' Hornish said. ''You go to different tracks and you see different things. You go to short tracks, superspeedways, you go to drafting tracks and you go to road courses. Who knows if you can be successful at any of those tracks? If that is what I wanted to do, there is only one way to find out and that is to get in a seat and see what you can do.''

If he ends up in NASCAR as expected, Hornish said he has one demand: permission to drive in the Indianapolis 500.

GAS MILEAGE: Ryan Newman won last Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway by stretching his gas mileage in his Dodge. Robby Gordon won the road course race a week earlier at Watkins Glen, N.Y., with a pit strategy that gave him just enough gas to finish the race.

In fact, every race in the past two months has been affected by teams either calculating their gas mileage to the last drop or saving time on pit road by not changing tires.

Tony Stewart, like many, wonders whether the sport will ever get back to racing.

''If we're going to keep fuel-mileage racing, we might as well build solar cars and let the sun decide who wins,'' he said in preparation for Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

PIT STOPS: Bass Pro Shops and MBNA America teamed up to sign a four-year deal to sponsor the fall race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Starting with this year's race Oct. 26, the race will be known as the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500. The pilot who died when his helicopter crashed near Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2002 while landing to pick up NASCAR car owner Joe Gibbs was legally drunk. The Volusia County medical examiner's report stated that Michael Hugh McNellis, 56, had a blood-alcohol level of .11 percent. Legal intoxication in Florida is a .08 blood-alcohol level. McNellis and a passenger, Robin A. Leedom, were landing to pick up Gibbs for a speaking engagement in Orlando. Leedom also died in the crash.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.



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