HAMPTON, Ga. Joe Nemechek, Brian Vickers, Scott Wimmer and Ward Burton all will report to their new teams this week at the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Their teams decided to make the switch now instead of waiting for the beginning of the 2004 season. That way each will have a chance to create a line of communication and get used to their new crews during the final four races.
Nemechek will drive the No. 01 U.S. Army Pontiac for MB2 Motorsports; Vickers will drive Nemechek's old car, the No. 25 UAW Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports; Burton will drive the No. 0 NetZero Pontiac for CNC Haas Racing; and Wimmer will drive Burton's old car, the No. 22 Caterpiller Dodge for Bill Davis Racing.
Mike Skinner, who was driving the No. 01 car, has accepted a new job on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for next season, and Jason Leffler, who was driving the No. 0 car, will move down to the Busch Series next year.
ELLIOTT'S FUTURE: Bill Elliott reportedly will retire from racing a full schedule at the end of this season and make five selected appearances in 2004.
The one-time series champion from Dawsonville, Ga., could make the formal announcement this weekend at his home track, the Atlanta Motor Speedway, sources close to the team said.
NASCAR RULES: Teams that get a free pass back to the lead lap under NASCAR's new rules that prohibit racing back to the flag stand during a caution period will be limited to a single pit stop, starting with this Sunday's race at Atlanta. The highest-running team one lap down is promoted to the lead lap as a compromise to keep cars from racing through an accident site. Ryan Newman took advantage of that rule last month at Dover, Del., by making several pit stops for gasoline.
PIT STOPS: Ricky Rudd will become the fourth driver in NASCAR history to make 800 starts at the Winston Cup Series level this week. Richard Petty leads all drivers in starts with 1,177; Davis Marcis has 881 and Darrell Waltrip has 809. Al Unser Jr., a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was released from an Albuquerque, N.M., hospital after he broke his pelvis while riding an all-terrain vehicle near his home. If Matt Kenseth finishes no worse than 12th in each of the final four races, he will clinch his first Winston Cup Series championship for car owner Jack Roush.
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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