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Sunday, July 11, 2004
NYC area Cup race on agenda, France says

Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill. -- Start spreading the news, NASCAR could be in New York soon.

NASCAR chairman Brian France said Sunday he hopes to have an announcement "in the next month or so'' for a track in the New York City area. NASCAR has looked at several sites in the area, with Staten Island discussed more than any other.

"There's a lot of momentum in that market,'' France said. "What I know is they're a lot closer than they were just six months ago. And I think you'll see some positive announcements come, it would be my hope, in the next month or so.''

Though it still has many tracks where it was born, in the Southeast, NASCAR has been on an aggressive expansion program over the last decade to increase its fan base and popularity. The series has added 10 races at new tracks in the Northeast, Midwest and West since 1994, including two in the Los Angeles area and one outside Chicago.

In addition to a track in New York, NASCAR has said it is looking for a site in the Pacific Northwest -- most likely Washington or Oregon. And France said Sunday that the Chicagoland Speedway, site of Sunday's Tropicana 400, could get a second race.

"You can't leave your core fan base on your way to another one, that wouldn't make any sense. There are plenty of races in the Southeast, there are always going to be,'' France said. "We do have to take the sport, from time to time, where we can impact a bigger audience.''

A second race at Chicagoland Speedway, about 45 miles southwest of downtown, would help increase NASCAR's visibility. NASCAR makes only a handful of stops in the Midwest, with Indianapolis and Michigan the closest tracks to Chicago.

The Tropicana 400 has sold out all four years, and France said Chicago is NASCAR's eighth-largest television market.

"It certainly is a candidate for realignment because it's the third-largest market in the country,'' France said of Chicago's overall TV standing. "It has some constraints because of the weather issues, what time of year you can come. But it would be a candidate to be considered.''

With 36 races already on its schedule, though, NASCAR is at or near its limit. To put a second race in Chicago -- or have races in New York or the Pacific Northwest -- NASCAR would have to take a race from somewhere else.

When the track in Fontana, Calif., got a second race last year, NASCAR simply moved one from Darlington, S.C.

But before fans become outraged at the possibility of losing their favorite race, France said NASCAR will be sensitive when the time does come for realignment.

"We are not going to just unilaterally start pulling dates and putting them here and there or anywhere we feel like it,'' France said. "Tracks have historical dates, they're our business partners. They can't be looking over their shoulders wondering when we're going to pull a date, like some other motorsports divisions have done in recent years. That's a failed policy and we won't do that.''

Jarrett has places to be
Overcoming a flat tire that left him nearly two laps down, Dale Jarrett finished strong to take third Sunday in the Tropicana 400.

Then he was ready to make a quick exit and head to Minnesota to watch a competition featuring another member of his family. His daughter, Karsyn, is participating in a national AAU basketball tournament.

"She had 24 points and 11 rebounds and eight steals today, so that's pretty good,'' Jarrett said.

All about the Chase
NASCAR won't give any kind of award to the driver who wins the points race during the "regular'' season.

NASCAR changed the way its Cup championship was decided this year. Instead of a season-long points race, NASCAR will now reset the field with 10 races to go. All drivers in the top 10 -- and any others within 400 points of the leader -- will run for the championship.

"What it's all about is winning it all,'' NASCAR chairman Brian France said. "We don't want to recognize anything less than that.''

Jimmie Johnson, who finished second Sunday, is the current points leader.

The Chicagoland Speedway gave Kyle Petty a check for $50,000 for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, proceeds from the first "Racin' the Bases'' softball game. ... Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman and former Chicago Bulls center Will Perdue were among the fans at the race.