It seems fitting that Joe Nemechek would make his NASCAR Winston Cup debut at a track that's making its series debut as well.
Nemechek, the rising star from Lakeland who drives on the Busch Series, announced he will drive in his first Winston Cup race July 11 at the new New Hampshire 300.
Nemechek, the reigning Busch Series champion, has been rumored to be headed to the Winston Cup Series. His owned-and-operated NEMCO Racing team already has built a Winston Cup car and tested it at North Wilkesboro earlier this month.
He clocked an unofficial lap of 19.5 seconds at the .625-mile track, just .36 seconds off Rusty Wallace's pole-qualifying record.
"I wanted to see what it was like, and I had a good time," Nemechek said after the test session. "The car really felt good. The two main differences (between his Busch car and the Winston Cup car) were more horsepower _ the car was wanting to spin the wheels off the turns _ and the more weight _ it seemed a little sluggish. It'll just take some seat time."
Nemechek hopes to drive in more Winston Cup races but has no definite plans to do so this season.
Mixing it up in Michigan: Winston Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin collided Saturday during a practice session for today's Miller Genuine Draft 400 on the 2-mile, high-banked Michigan International Speedway oval, badly damaging Martin's Ford Thunderbird.
"If anybody has questions, they need to be asking the man in black," Martin said angrily as his crew banged out the crumpled right side of his car.
Earnhardt, who leads defending Miller 400 winner Davey Allison by 225 points in the Winston Cup standings, came away with only minor damage to his Chevrolet Lumina.
"The 83 (Lake Speed) came out of the pits and up on the back straightaway," Earnhardt said. "I was behind him and Mark was on the outside of me. We went into the corner and my car got loose. Everybody makes mistakes. It wasn't intentional."
Goodwrench 200: Jeff Purvis passed Bob Schacht three laps from the end and went on to win the ARCA event Saturday at MIS.
Rookie battle: With Jeff Gordon's 28th finish at Pocono last Sunday, Bobby Labonte and Kenny Wallace, who are tied for second, closed on him in the rookie of the year standings. Gordon leads 174-137.
You've got to figure Labonte's car owner, Bill Davis, would do almost anything so his driver could beat Gordon for rookie honors. Gordon surprisingly left Davis' team to drive for Rick Hendrick.
Silly season under way: Every year about this time, rumors fly about the next NASCAR Winston Cup season. One of the juicy ones going around is that Bill Elliott, mired in an awful slump, will leave team owner Junior Johnson and replace Brett Bodine in the Kenny Bernstein-owned car. Elliott is under contract through next season.
Closer to the truth is that Hendrick has approached driver Jimmy Spencer about replacing Ricky Rudd, who's starting his own team next year. Tide, which currently sponsors Rudd's ride, will move to the new team.
Hendrick reportedly also has talked to Terry Labonte, whose contract with Billy Hagan Racing is up this season.
Ted Musgrave, whose contract with RaDiUs Motorsports ends this season, had driven surprisingly well this season and is considered likely to be leaving that team for a better-financed one in 1994.
Join the club: IMSA driver P.J. Jones tried stock-car racing earlier this year and apparently liked it. The co-winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona this year is trying to land a full-time ride in Winston Cup for next season.
Jones, son of IndyCar great Parnelli Jones, is scheduled to drive most of the remaining Winston Cup races in a Melling Racing-owned Ford Thunderbird. That would put him in the chase for rookie of the year.
Quote of the week: This one from Gordon, who talked about the importance of winning the race at Michigan this Father's Day weekend for his stepfather, who moved the Gordon family from California to Indiana so Jeff could pursue his racing career:
"For somebody to put the effort that he put into my career is just incredible. He's not only a father to me, he's a good friend. I think our relationship is a lot stronger than a lot of fathers have with their real sons."
NASCAR Winston Cup leaders
Driver Pts Sts Wins Top 5 Top 10 Money
1. Dale Earnhardt 2031 13 3 7 9 $987,990
2. Davey Allison 1806 13 1 5 7 432,150
3. Dale Jarrett 1784 13 1 7 8 603,720
4. Kyle Petty 1750 13 1 6 8 357,000
5. Rusty Wallace 1733 13 4 7 8 519,375
6. Morgan Shepherd 1719 13 1 1 8 323,040
7. Ken Schrader 1692 13 0 6 7 489,305
8. Geoff Bodine 1676 13 1 2 7 444,835
9. Jimmy Spencer 1637 13 0 3 6 296,815
10. Jeff Gordon 1570 13 0 3 5 324,425
Race: Miller Genuine Draft 400.
Track: 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.
Green flag: 1 p.m.
Distance: 200 laps (400 miles).
Defending champion: Davey Allison.
Pole sitter: Brett Bodine.
TV/Radio: Live on CBS, WFNS-910.
Notes: This is the last race before the midway point in the 30-race season. Teams have a week off before returning to Daytona International Speedway for the Pepsi 400 on July 4. Ken Schrader's four consecutive top-five finishes have given Chevy its largest lead this season (10 points) in the manufacturers' standings. Bill Elliott, in a slump this season, has won seven races at MIS, third-most in the speedway's history.
Fry's pick: Geoff Bodine.