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Wednesday, April 9, 2003
A look at the weekend in racing

Associated Press

Here's a breakdown of this weekend's action in the world of motorsports. (All times ET)

Winston Cup
FAST FACTS
Event Virginia 500
Site Martinsville
Schedule Friday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 3 p.m.); Sunday, race (Fox, 12:30 p.m.).
Track Martinsville Speedway (oval, 0.526 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns).
Distance 263 miles, 500 laps.

Last race: Dale Earnhardt Jr. started at the rear of the field because of an engine change but rallied and took a controversial lead with three laps to go in winning the Aaron's 499, his fourth straight win at Talladega Speedway. Earnhardt appeared to drive below the ``out of bounds'' line in passing Matt Kenseth, but NASCAR ruled it was legal because he was forced out.

Drivers to Watch
Check out a short list of drivers to keep an eye on this weekend at Martinsville.

Last year: Bobby Labonte took the lead with seven laps to go and won the Virginia 500 under caution for his 19th career victory. Kenseth finished second after a late-race battle with Dale Jarrett.

Fast facts: Last week's race featured a 27-car wreck on the fourth lap that knocked out more than half of the 43-car field. ... Earnhardt's win vaulted him into second place in the standings, 129 points behind Kenseth. ... There have been seven different winners in the last seven years of the event. ... Ten of the 47 races at Martinsville have been won from the pole. ... Jarrett's victory in 2001 was his first in 30 career starts in Martinsville. ... The 1999 fall race at Martinsville was the first time there had been only one pit road. ... Four drivers _ Jarrett, Mike Skinner, Stacy Compton and Mike Bliss _ made Winston Cup debuts in Martinsville. ... Lee Petty won the 1959 race from the 24th starting position. ... ... Rusty Wallace won five of the seven races at Martinsville from 1994-96.

Next race: Auto Club 500, April 27, Fontana, Calif.

Busch
FAST FACTS
Event Pepsi 300
Site Gladeville, Tenn.
Schedule Friday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 4:30 p.m.); Saturday, race (FX, 4 p.m.).
Track Nashville Superspeedway (tri-oval 1.33 miles, 14 degrees banking in turns).
Distance 300 miles, 225 laps.

Last race: Dale Earnhardt Jr. had just enough gas to wiggle across the finish line and win the Aaron's 312 at Talladega Superspeedway. A caution with two laps to go allowed him to slow enough to conserve fuel by pulling down on the apron and moving his car back and forth to move the gas around.

Drivers to Watch
Check out a short list of drivers to keep an eye on this weekend at Nashville.

Last year: Scott Riggs led only once for the final 47 laps and recorded his first Busch Series victory in just his seventh start on the circuit at the Pepsi 300, tying the record for the quickest victory by a rookie. Johnny Rumley also won in his seventh start, in 1993.

Fast facts: Earnhardt has won both of his Busch starts in 2003, including the season-opening event in Daytona. ... Shane Hmiel placed third for the second straight week at Talladega and has three straight top-10 finishes. ... Todd Bodine holds a 39-point lead over Jamie McMurray for first place in the standings. ... Greg Biffle recorded his first Busch Series victory in the 2001 race. ... The track replaced Nashville Speedway, where a Busch event has been held since 1984.

Next race: Auto Club 300, April 26, Fontana, Calif.

CART
FAST FACTS
Event Toyota Grand Prix
Site Long Beach, Calif.
Schedule Friday, qualifying, 5:50 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 4:30 p.m.); Sunday, race (Speed Channel, 4 p.m.).
Track Long Beach Street Circuit (temporary road course, 1.968 miles, 11 turns).
Distance 177.120 miles, 90 laps.

Last race: Paul Tracy became the first CART driver in 21 years to win the opening two races of the season after taking the Grand Prix of Monterrey on March 23. Mexico native Michel Jourdain Jr. finished second for the second straight week.

Last year: Americans finished 1-2 in a CART event for the first time since 1996 when Michael Andretti edged out Jimmy Vasser to win the Toyota Grand Prix.

Fast facts: No CART driver has ever won the first three races of the season. ... Tracy made his CART debut in the 1991 race and recorded his first career victory in the 1993 event. ... Helio Castroneves won from the pole in 2001, the first driver to do so at Long Beach since Al Unser Jr. in 1990. ... Mario and Michael Andretti combined to win the first four events at Long Beach from 1984 to 87, with Mario taking three of them. ... Al Unser Jr. won this race four straight years from 1988-91 and a record six overall. ... The winner of this race has gone on to win the season championship five times.

Next event: Brands Hatch, May 5, Kent, England.

Craftsman Trucks
FAST FACTS
Event Advance Auto Parts 250
Site Martinsville, Va.
Schedule Friday, qualifying, 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, race (Speed Channel, 1 p.m.).
Track Martinsville Speedway (oval, 0.526 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns).
Distance 131.50 miles, 250 laps.

Last event: Dennis Setzer won the Lucas Oil 250 in Bakersfield, Calif., on March 23, and tied a Craftsman record by recording at least one victory in six straight seasons. Jack Sprague set the original mark in 2001.

Last year: Setzer, who started 33rd, avoided double-digit cautions to win the Advance Auto Parts 250. Setzer initially qualified fifth but was relegated to his starting position after an illegal left-front spring was found after qualifying.

Fast facts: The track is one of the two facilities on the schedule since 1995 not to have a repeat winner. The other is Milwaukee, which has had eight winners in as many races. ... Rookie Tina Gordon recorded a top-10 finish in her Busch Series debut last weekend at Talladega after finishing 10th at Bakersfield the week before. Her 318 points leads all rookies and places her 16th in the overall standings. ... Four of the eight Martinsville winners have started from the front row, but only Rich Bickle did it from the pole. ... No series winner has won at Martinsville. ... Three-time Winston Cup champion Darrell Waltrip came back from his 17-month retirement to compete in last year's race. ... Setzer made his Winston Cup debut at Martinsville in 1998. ... Martinsville is one of four tracks to host more than one truck race in a season.

Next event: Hardee's 200, May 16, Concord, N.C.

IRL
FAST FACTS
Event Indy Japan 300
Site Motegi, Japan.
Schedule Saturday, qualifying, midnight; Saturday, race, 11:30 p.m. (Sunday, ABC, 1 p.m., tape.).
Track Twin Ring Motegi (oval, 1.5 miles, 10 degrees banking in turns).
Distance 300 miles, 200 laps.

Last race: Polesitter Tony Kanaan pulled away on a restart with three laps remaining and won the Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix on March 23 for his first career victory. Kanaan edged Helio Castroneves by .9328 seconds, the second time in as many races this season the margin of victory was less than one second.

Drivers to Watch
Check out a short list of drivers to keep an eye on this weekend in Japan.

Last year: Inaugural race.

Fast facts: This is the first IRL race that will take place outside of the United States. ... Dario Franchitti suffered a slight fracture of the vertebra following a motorcycle accident last week and won't race this weekend. He will be replaced by Dan Wheldon. ... Gil de Ferran has not been cleared to race after suffering a back injury March 23 at Phoenix and will be replaced by Alex Barron. ... Twin Ring Motegi opened in 1997 and features three types of racing courses. In addition to the oval, there is a 2.849-mile road course and a .634-mile short course. ... Michael Andretti (2000) and Kenny Brack (2001) both won CART events at Twin Ring Motegi.

Next race: Indianapolis 500, May 25.

NHRA
FAST FACTS
Event O'Reilly Nationals
Site Houston
Schedule Friday, qualifying, 4:15 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 11 a.m. (ESPN2, 10 p.m., tape); Sunday, eliminations, noon (ESPN2, 5 p.m., tape).
Track Houston Raceway

Last event: Larry Dixon earned his second victory of the season and third-straight at Las Vegas by winning the Top Fuel division at the NHRA Summit Racing Nationals. Tony Pedregon moved into the Funny Car points lead with his win while Greg Anderson picked up his second straight Pro Stock victory.

Last year: John Force became the third driver in auto racing history to reach 100 victories by winning the Funny Car event at the O'Reilly Nationals, beating Tommy Johnson Jr. with a speed of 310.20 mph. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Jim Yates (Pro Stock) also won in Houston.

Fast facts: Dixon's victory last week was the 27th of his career, moving him into fourth place on the all-time Top Fuel list. ... Whit Bazemore advanced to the Funny Car final last week but was disqualified after fouling at the start. ... Brandon Bernstein reached the Top Fuel final in each of the last three events, winning at Phoenix and Gainesville, Fla., before losing to Dixon last week. ... Records were set in four of the five professional classes at the 1999 event, including the sport's first 4.4 second run by Dixon. ... Top Fuel driver Doug Herbert became the first NHRA driver to win the $100,000 sponsor bonus at the event in 1999.

Next event: Mac Tools Nationals, April 27, Bristol, Tenn.

Formula One
Last race: Finland's Kimi Raikkonen won the rain-shortened Brazilian Grand Prix after the race on the wet track was stopped because of spinouts and crashes that knocked out five-time champion Michael Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya. Raikkonen has won two straight races, including the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 23.

Next event: San Marino Grand Prix, April 20, Imola, Italy.