Fadden Eyeing Busch North Return at T-Road

SpeedReading

By DAVE MOODY

Barre/Montpelier (VT) Times-Argus

It’s been two years since Stub Fadden took the green flag at the wheel of a racecar. But on Saturday, September 1, that streak could come to an abrupt end. The North Haverhill, NH veteran said last week that he is seriously considering a one-race return to the NASCAR Busch North Series, when the circuit returns to Barre’s Thunder Road for the “True Value 150.”

“I took a few laps in (grandson Mike Olsen’s) backup car,” said Fadden last Thursday, wearing a driver’s suit emblazoned with his former sponsor’s logo. “At first, I just wanted to go out there and ride around a little. But the longer I went, the racier I felt. By the end, I think I was getting around pretty good.”

Pretty good, indeed. In fact, the 1978 and 1979 Thunder Road champion turned the Barre oval in a consistent 13 seconds; about as fast as his grandson, and fast enough to have earned him the Bud Pole for the 1999 edition of the event. More important, he did so without experiencing the fatigue that plagued a similar test run earlier this season.

“I tried this a couple of months ago, but after 10 or 15 laps, I was finished,” said Fadden, who has spent the last year battling cancer. “But today, I feel pretty good. Actually, I’m surprised at just how good I feel.

“Forty years ago - in 1961 - I raced at Thunder Road for the first time. It’s always been my favorite track, my home track, and I can’t stop thinking about getting out there and trying to qualify just one more time on September 1. I think it would be a neat way to finish up.”

His grandson clearly agrees.

“If he wants it, the car is his,” said Olsen, the current Busch North series point leader. “He’s got some history in this car, it’s the one he won his last Busch North race in at Lee, New Hampshire. So all he has to do is say the word, and we’ll have it ready to go.”

With car counts on the Busch North Series at an all-time low, Fadden’s chances to make the “True Value 150” field might not be that long, a prospect that brings a smile to the face of any longtime Thunder Road fan.

Has “The Racing Great-Grandfather” got one more run left in him? Stay tuned.

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If a poll were to be taken at any NASCAR Winston Cup race, country music would likely rank as the fans’ favorite, closely followed by classic rock. Around Tony Stewart’s pit, however, it’s all punk rock these days.

In recent weeks, Stewart and his traveling mosh pit of bodyguards have roughed up a pair of reporters, and made more enemies than Marilyn Manson at a polka festival. Stewart’s latest brush with the Third Estate came in the aftermath of last weekend’s Brickyard 400, when a brusque, two-word response (“bad day”) to questions about his 17th-place finish resulted in an inevitable - and expected -- round of follow-up questions. One of Stewart’s bodyguards apparently took umbrage to any further questioning, however, grabbing a local television reporter from behind and pushing him, before lacing the reporter with an obscenity-filled tirade.

Now, let me get this straight. Tony Stewart takes what may have been the fastest car on the race track, runs it into a wall with just a handful of laps remaining, then gets PO’ed at the media? Psychologists call that kind of thing “transference.” The rest of us call it “a tantrum.”

Crewchief Greg Zipadelli, who spends more time cleaning up P.R. disasters lately than turning wrenches on racecars, blamed the incident on Stewart’s intense desire to win in front of his home-state crowd. Perhaps he didn’t notice the chorus of home state boo’s that enveloped his driver during pre-race ceremonies.

Interestingly, just days before the Brickyard 400, Stewart claimed to have learned his lesson about boorish post-race behavior. He claimed to have changed his ways, realizing that whining, stamping his feet, and venting his emotions on unsuspecting reporters might eventually affect his popularity on the Winston Cup circuit, not to mention his financial bottom line. He claimed to have learned how to shut his mouth when times got tough.

Unfortunately, all he seems to have learned is how to farm-out the abuse to an employee.

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Last week, we gave you the early scoop on some surprise changes to the 2002 Busch and Busch North Series schedules, including a pair of moves at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon. Now, our sources say the Busch Series schedule will expand to 34 races in 2002, with a second Daytona event the day before the annual NASCAR Winston Cup Series Pepsi 400 in July.

While Daytona may be ready to increase its Busch schedule, it appears Watkins Glen will be dropped from the 2002 slate, as will Milwaukee and Indianapolis Raceway Park. A move away from IRP could open the door for a Busch event across town at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Brickyard 400. NASCAR officials are reportedly pushing IMS President Tony George for such as race next season, but George is balking.

”It really hasn't been discussed,” said George this week. “IRP has stepped up and made a lot of improvements, and (NASCAR) has got 20 years out there. You don't just pick up and move that quick.”

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Short (Track) Subjects…

 

…Flying Tiger driver Skip Liberty is on the mend, two weeks after suffering severe injuries in a crash at Plattsburgh’s Airborne Raceway.

“My femur is broken in three places, my pelvis is broken in three places, and I’ve got 50-odd fractures in my left hip,” said Liberty this week. “The doctors patched me together as best they could, and they seem to think that in time, I‘ll be good to go.”

Liberty is forbidden to put weight on his shattered leg for at least the next six weeks, and will undergo an intense regimen of physical therapy after that. He insists, however, that he will be back in a racecar in time for Opening Day, 2002.

“The way I see it, it was a freak accident,” said the Peru, NY, driver. “If I’d gotten hit four inches further forward or four inches further back, I’d have walked away with nothing but a couple of bruises. The car was as safe as it could possibly be, and there’s not a thing I could have done to avoid what happened. It was just bad luck, that’s all.”

…The Cracker Barrel restaurant chain is out as sponsor of Atlanta Motor Speedway's spring Winston Cup race, apparently the latest casualty of NASCAR’s new television package. Julie Davis, spokesperson for Cracker Barrel, said last week that the Tennessee-based company’s name was mentioned only four times during this year’s telecast on Fox, while last year’s race -- on ABC -- produced 60 sponsor mentions. With a sponsorship tab of some $1.4 million, “We didn't get what we paid for,” said Davis.

As a provision of NASCAR's new television contract with Fox/FX and NBC/TNT, event sponsors now receive just one mention per hour, unless they pay an additional sponsorship fee to the networks.

"The TV partners have a contract with NASCAR, at a significant rights fee. That contract requires us to mention the race sponsor’s name once an hour,” said Lou D’Ermilio, Vice President of Communications for Fox Sports Networks. “We would like to work with race sponsors to buy additional commercial units on Fox."

…Patrick Donahue has stepped down as crewchief for Casey Atwood’s Winston Cup Dodges, reportedly to pursue opportunities in NASCAR's Busch Series. The Maine native began his racing career as a youngster, turning wrenches for former Don MacTavish Award winner Gardiner Leavitt on the American-Canadian Tour in the 1980s. He subsequently served as a crewman on Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR Winston Cup championship-winning team under crewchief Ray Evernham, and headed up Gordon’s Busch Series team before being hired by Evernham to run the Atwood operation this season.

…Look for the Joe Nemecek’s #33 Andy Petree Racing Chevrolet to inherit the Cingular Wireless sponsorship in 2002, replacing the departing Oakwood Homes. Cingular currently sponsors Jason Leffler’s #01 Dodge.

…Mike Skinner should know his future within the next two weeks. The embattled driver’s future with the Richard Childress Racing/Lowe’s Chevrolet team was in doubt even before having to sit out the last few races with a broken leg, and Childress is expected to announce his plans for 2002 in the very near future. Our sources say Skinner’s current sponsor, Lowe’s Home Improvement Centers, will opt-out of the final year of their contract with RCR, in order to join 2002 rookie contender Jimmie Johnson’s new entry at Hendrick Motorsports. Childress, meanwhile, may look to fill the void with a unique new sponsorship agreement with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

…If Skinner leaves RCR, Stacy Compton could be set to take his place. Compton is reportedly under consideration by Richard Childress for the Lowes Chevrolet ride, or perhaps one of Childress’ two Busch Series entries. The former Truck Series star currently drives Mark Melling’s Kodiak Dodge on the Winston Cup Series, but that team is without sponsorship for next year, and Melling has reportedly agreed not to exercise the option year on Compton’s contract.

…Tonight at Thunder Road, Calkins Portable Toilets and Windshield World team up to present a 50-lap Street Stock “Tri-State Challenge Series” event, along with racing for the Late Models and Flying Tigers, with a post time of 7 p.m. Just two Thursday night races remain on the 2001 T-Road slate, so if you’ve been waiting to make your annual pilgrimage to the Barre highbanks, tonight could be your night.

Tomorrow night, Canaan (NH) Speedway presents a 40-lap, $750-to-win main event for the 358 Modifieds, with the winner earning a guaranteed starting spot in Lebanon Valley (N.Y.) Speedway's 100-lap “Race Of Kings.” The Mods will be joined by the Bear Ridge Sportsman Coupes, making their second appearance of the season at Canaan, Pro-Streets, Late Models and Fast Fours. Racing begins at 7 p.m.

Saturday, it’s the Plattsburgh Housing Outlet Flying Tiger 50 at Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, NY, with ACT Late Models, Street Stocks and Renegades also on the 7:00 card. Riverside Speedway in Groveton, NH, presents its biggest show of the 2001 season Saturday; the ACT Dodge Tour “Subway Shops 100.” Riverside’s Cyclone, Strictly Stock and Dwarf Car division are also scheduled to compete, with the Sportsman (Flying Tiger) drivers getting the night off to travel to Airborne’s FT 50 Series race. Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford is also back in action Saturday, when Interstate Batteries of Newmont sponsors a full four-division card, plus a show-closing 60-lap eight-cylinder Enduro. Qualifying begins at 6:30. And finally, White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, NH, rolls out “Currier Family Dealership Night,” with all weekly divisions in action beginning at 6 p.m.