Tony Stewart walked gingerly Thursday, careful not to strain his tender back. He could take no chances with a race at his favorite track looming.
"I'm pretty sore," Stewart said. "The doctor ordered rest, but there's not a lot of time for that."
Stewart, injured in a wreck Sunday at Darlington Raceway, plans to qualify his Pontiac today for the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, a physically demanding track he has always liked. After a few laps around the .533-mile bullring he might change his mind.
After the crash Stewart spent a night in the hospital because of lower back pain. He has been on painkillers this week but is weaning himself of them to be mentally sharp in the race.
"I'm just hoping the pain will go away a little more than it has by the weekend," he said. "Each day has been a little better, but I'm pretty stiff. This is a demanding track and you never get to relax here."
BODINE GETS SPONSOR: The restaurant chain Hooters has made it official: It will sponsor Brett Bodine's No. 11 Ford the rest of this season. And Bodine and Hooters owner Bob Brooks will work together to field a car for Kirk Shelmerdine to drive in five races.
RULES CHANGES: NASCAR teams no longer will be charged with using a provisional starting position if there are 43 or fewer entries. A team gets eight provisionals each year. Also, starting April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway, NASCAR will change the way the Chevrolet Monte Carlos are measured to fall in line with the way Dodge and Ford entries are measured.
IRL: The circuits are different; the track is the same. And that gives Team Penske's drivers an advantage heading into the inaugural Yamaha 500 at California Speedway in Fontana Sunday. Two-time CART champ Gil de Ferran and teammate Helio Castroneves have raced at the 2-mile oval each year since it opened in 1997. Team Penske left CART for the IRL at the end of 2001. "I won my first CART championship there in 2000 and set the world closed-course speed record (241.428 mph) during my qualifying run at the Marlboro 500 that same year," said de Ferran, a runner-up in both his races this season.
FORMULA ONE: British American Racing, a Honda team that hasn't won in 52 attempts, fired two of its top engineers. Chief designer Andy Green and engineering director Malcolm Oastler were fired by David Richards, who took charge in December. The team doesn't have a top-6 finish this season, and since being formed in 1999 BAR has two third-place finishes. Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 series champion, is the only BAR driver to finish a race this season. Michael Schumacher led the third day of a testing session in Barcelona, Spain. Schumacher was the fastest on the 2.94-mile circuit, completing his best lap in 1 minute, 18.413 seconds, .431 seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello.