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INDY DUE FOR REAL THRILLS; NASCAR BRINGS COMPETITION, BIG PRIZE MONEY.

Byline: BILL SCHLOTTER Motor Sports

It will be stock cars racing on the first of August, not open-wheel Indy cars running at the end of May.

But the track for this week's NASCAR Winston Cup stop in Indiana is still the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And the prize money will be the richest on the Winston Cup circuit.

That is more than enough to make Saturday's Brickyard 400 one of the premier auto racing events of the season.

In fact, with the Indianapolis 500 now the property of the struggling Indy Racing League and Championship Auto Racing drivers like Al Unser Jr., Michael Andretti and Alex Zanardi boycotting the event, many say Saturday's Brickyard will be the best race in Indiana this year.

``This is one of those big dances,'' said Kodak Chevrolet driver Bobby Hamilton. ``Everybody brings their best stuff. . . . You can be in one-millionth place in the points and never have finished better than last all season, but win the Brickyard 400 and you've had a pretty successful year.''

Driver Jeremy Mayfield of the Kranefuss-Penske team agrees.

``It's a lot of money, a ton of prestige and more people than we race in front of anywhere else,'' Mayfield said. ``Man, it's Indianapolis. That alone says something.''

Prize money totals $5,385,081. Five drivers will have a chance at the winners share of that purse plus an additional $1 million as part of the No Bull 5 program.

Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett are each eligible for the bonus based on their first-through-fifth finishes at May's Coca-Cola 600.

Shame, shame: NASCAR was not pleased by the fighting initiated by driver Jeff Purvis following a crash with Mark Green at Saturday's Busch Grand National race in Virginia.

Purvis has been suspended for four races and fined $10,000.

Green's crew chief, Kenneth Campbell, was put on probation and fined $2,500 for his role.

Waltrip to pilot hot (sauce) car: Darrell Waltrip was finding himself changing cars so often in 1998, one might have thought the three-time Winston Cup champion had suddenly been transformed into Morgan Shepherd.

After beginning the season in his No. 17 Chevy, Waltrip sold his team to investor Tim Beverly and began filling in for injured Steve Park in the No. 1 Chevy owned by Dale Earnhardt.

With Park ready to drive again at this week's Brickyard 400, Waltrip was to return to Beverly's No. 17 car this week.

But in the meantime, Beverly bought an interest in the struggling Team Tabasco. And Waltrip on Saturday will drive the No. 35 Team Tabasco Pontiac - driven by Todd Bodine up until his release three weeks ago.

The move promises a return to stability for Waltrip. He signed a deal to drive the car through 1999.

Tight race: Kevin Harvick's victory Sunday at the Kidde Safety 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway vaulted him past Sean Woodside back into the NASCAR Winston West points lead.

Harvick led 168 of the 200 laps and took the checkered flag with a 6.8-second lead over runner-up Austin Cameron. It was his fourth victory of the year.

Valencia's Woodside finished fourth and saw his four-point lead become a 16-point deficit to Harvick.

Four races remain on the 1998 calendar: Aug. 15 in Monroe, Wash.; Oct. 11 at Sears Point in Sonoma; Oct. 17 at Bakersfield's Mesa Marin Raceway; and Nov. 7 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

To the rescue: TNN Motorsports has stepped in to broadcast the NASCAR Winston Cup Pepsi 400, postponed from July 4 to Oct. 17 by Florida wildfires earlier this month.

The broadcast rights were given up by CBS because of conflicts with other planned events.

TNN's live coverage of the prime-time event, Daytona Motor Speedway's first major race under the lights, will begin at 5 p.m. Pacific time.

IROC finale: The fourth and final International Race of Champions event of the season will be held today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mark Martin, series winner in three of the past four seasons, leads in points with 62. Only Jeff Burton (54) and Jeff Gordon (45) have a real chance to catch him.

Nuts and bolts: Dale Earnhardt started the season in grand fashion, breaking a 59-race winless streak with his first Daytona 500 title. But he hasn't won since. The Daytona triumph is his only one since winning in Atlanta in 1996, a span of 77 races. . . CART defending champion and current points leader Alex Zanardi said he will decide by mid-August whether to stay with Ganassi Racing or to accept one of several reported offers to return to Formula One. . . Eddie Irvine will return for a fourth year with Ferrari's Formula One team in 1999. Ferrari recently also signed its top driver, Michael Schumacher, to a three-year deal. . . For the fifth straight year, Jeff Gordon - who turns 27 Tuesday - will be the youngest driver in the Brickyard 400.

COMING UP

NASCAR WINSTON CUP

Saturday - Brickyard 400, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis.

NASCAR BUSCH GRAND NATIONAL

Today - Kroger NASCAR 200, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Clermont, Ind.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK

Sunday - Pennzoil-VIP Discount Auto 200, New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

FEDEX CART CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

This week - Off.

INDY RACING LEAGUE

This week - Off.

FORMULA ONE

Sunday - German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring course, Hockenheim, Germany.

NHRA

Sunday - Northwest Nationals, Seattle International Raceway, Kent, Wash.

LOCAL

Glen Helen Raceway (San Bernardino) - Sunday: District 37 viewfinders motocross.

Mesa Marin Raceway (Bakersfield) - This week: Off.

Perris Auto Speedway - Saturday: SCRA sprint cars.

Ventura Raceway - Saturday: IMCA sprint cars, IMCA modifieds, VRA pony stocks. Wednesday: VRA street stocks, VRA pony stocks, CDCRA dwarf cars, demolition derby. (County Fair night). Thursday: IMCA modifieds, VRA I-4, USAC TQ midgets, demolition derby (County Fair night).

Victorville Speedway - Saturday: Street stocks, hobby stocks, mini stocks, late models.

Willow Springs Raceway (Rosamond) - This week: Off.

CAPTION(S):

Box

BOX: COMING UP (see text)
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Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 31, 1998
Words:983
Previous Article:PHOENIX VS. SPARKS.
Next Article:TENNIS NOTEBOOK: STOLLE CRASHES PARTY : HE'S IN QUARTERS AS NON-QUALIFIER.


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