Pennzoil announces sponsorship deal for Park
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) _ Although he won’t be behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt, will field a yellow race car next year on the Winston Cup circuit.
Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Pennzoil Products Co. announced a three-year sponsorship agreement Saturday for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo to be driven by Steve Park. The association will begin with the opening race next year, the Daytona 500.
``We think associating our company with DEI and someone with a future as bright as Steve Park’s represents an opportunity to field a winning NASCAR team that is too good to pass up,″ Tom Floyd, Pennzoil’s chief marketing officer, said.
Park now is driving a car owned by Earnhardt’s wife, Teresa, on the Busch Grand National circuit.
Pennzoil also will honor the final ear of its contact with Bahari Racing, which fields Pontiacs for Johnny Benson. The contract expires after next season.
A spokesman said no plans have been made concerning the future sponsorship of Benson’s car, although it is unlikely the car will carry the Pennzoil colors. More than likely, the car will carry the colors of Pennzoil’s associated companies.
TIGER BURTON: Ward Burton could make just as many friends as enemies this weekend at Darlington Raceway.
Burton, who holds the track record at 173.797 mph, appeared for Southern 500 qualifying with a large orange tiger paw on his hood of his Pontiac _ a Clemson Tiger paw.
Burton’s MBNA Pontiac will start 13th in Sunday’s race.
While that might annoy some South Carolina Gamecocks in attendance, the insignia is part of an agreement with Clemson’s motorsports program where students can study the workings at Burton’s race shop.
Two Clemson graduate students, Jon Lampert and Brad Eichenlaub, are guests of car-owner Bill Davis and will observe the team in the garage and the pits at Darlington.
Burton just hopes it brings his team a little luck. ``I guess you could say we’ve got a tiger in our tank,″ he said.
MARTIN’S MONEY: Mark Martin, the Winston Cup points leader, can earn an extra $30,000 if he wins Sunday’s Southern 500. Martin trailed Jeff Gordon by 99 points going into the race at Bristol, Tenn., last week. But his second-place finish at the Goody’s 500 and Gordon’s 35th place position put Martin up by 13 points heading to Darlington.
The Winston Leader Bonus goes to any winning driver who also is leading the points standings.
Martin will start fourth for the Southern 500, which he won in 1993.
Gordon, who is trying for the Winston Million bonus this week, has won the leader award four times this season and nine times in his career. Gordon has earned $425,120 of the $510,000 available since the bonus began.
This season, Gordon has taken $170,000 in bonus money. Dale Jarrett is the only other driver to cash in with $30,000.
EARNHARDT’S MARK: Dale Earnhardt, among Darlington’s all-time leading drivers, holds the track’s speed record and has nine wins overall, one behind David Pearson’s mark.
When Earnhardt won the 1994 TranSouth 400, it looked like Pearson’s record would soon fall. But while Earnhardt has come close, his chances seem to be slipping away.
Earnhardt has three seconds in the five races since his last win here, and now he’s in the midst of a terrible slump. This week could be his 50th straight Winston Cup start without a victory.
He was only 15th at this year’s TranSouth at Darlington and will have to deal _ like everyone else _ with a flipped-flopped track because of the changed start-finish line.
Earnhardt’s last win was at Atlanta, March 10, 1996. He will start 36th in Sunday’s race.
Earnhardt holds the track’s speed record of 139.958 mph, set at the 1993 TranSouth.
PIT STOPS: Jeff Burton has been consistent the past four months, with 10 top-10 finishes in 14 events. ... On the other hand, Ricky Rudd has struggled since winning the Brickyard 400 this month, finishing 40th, 29th and 19th the past three races. ... While Bill Elliott is the only driver to win the Winston Million bonus, two drivers, LeeRoy Yarbrough and David Pearson, won three of NASCAR’s four major races before Winston put up the money. ... Jeff Gordon can become the first driver to win three straight Southern 500s. The other five racers who had a chance _ Herb Thomas, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson and Dale Earnhardt _ all were knocked out with a wreck or mechanical problems. ... Derrike Cope, who lost his Winston Cup ride to Ernie Irvan this week, said he would return to the Busch series with sponsorship from Kraft.