French driver eyes NASCAR

Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002

ATLANTA -- Alain Prost, the Frenchman who won four Form ula One championships, is making a study of NASCAR racing on behalf of some possible European sponsors.

Prost was one of many open-wheeled drivers at Home stead-Miami Speedway last week for the Winston Cup Series season finale, the Ford 400.

Prost started his own Formu la One team, but it ran out of money in 2002. Now he's looking into NASCAR.

''I wanted to see the ambience and to see a few people, to understand the business and to get some information about the series,'' he said. ''I cannot say more. I am trying to understand it, first. There is a huge interest for this series, even for sponsors, in Europe. I am more or less mandated by companies that asked me to see if it is interesting or not.''

Former CART champion Jim my Vasser is testing Dodges for Chip Gan assi Racing with hopes of landing a permanent job. CART driver Max Papis also was working the garage area looking for work.

OFF-SEASON SHAKEUPS: A ma jor shakeup proved beneficial for Jack Roush last season, so another car owner is looking into turning his team upside-down.

Roush flip-flopped crew chiefs and crew members from Mark Martin's team and Kurt Busch's. Martin responded by finishing second in the Winston Cup Series points standings, while Busch was third.

Now Richard Childress is wondering what it will take to turn around his three teams.

''We've had meetings for three weeks to try to understand where our performance has gone,'' said Bobby Hutchens, general manager at Richard Childress Racing. ''We've looked at cars, we've looked at motors, we've looked at (car) bodies, we've looked at tires; we've looked at ourselves. We're trying to uncover every rock. We have to figure out what we're missing. I don't know. Maybe we're trying too hard."

Childress swapped crew chiefs and crew between Kevin Harvick's team and Robby Gordon's. It didn't prove the kind of spark he hoped. Jeff Green was the best of the three, finishing 17th in the final standings. Gordon was 20th, and Har vick was 21st.

RATINGS GAME: Television ratings for the season-finale Nov. 17 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway were the highest against the National Football League in NASCAR's history.

The Ford 400 delivered a 5.2 national racing, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That race helped NBC and TNT combine for an average rating of 4.3, an increase of 13 percent over the 2001 season and a 59 percent increase over ratings from before the $2.6 billion television contract was signed in 2000.

PIT STOPS: Todd Bodine had successful endoscopic back surgery to repair a ruptured disc suffered in a NASCAR Busch Series crash during qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speed way. He is expected to be fully recovered in time for the 2003 season ... Bodine's car owners, Carl Haas and Travis Carter, said Bodine will drive their Ford next season if they can find a sponsor ... Ken Schrader was selected as the new driver for the Andy Petree Racing's No. 55 Chevrolet.

Petree also is looking for sponsorship ... Dodge and Ford were granted a special two-day test starting on Dec. 9 at the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to go over the new rules for restrictor plate cars.

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