AUTO RACING : Seven Regular Drivers Switch Teams for '94

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Seven Winston Cup regulars made their final starts for their current teams in the season-ending Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Ricky Rudd, who finished second, will leave Rick Hendrick's team to start his own Rudd Performance Motorsports.

Ted Musgrave moves from D.K. Ulrich's team to become Mark Martin's teammate at Roush Racing.

Wally Dallenbach Jr. moves from Roush to Petty Enterprises, where he replaces Rick Wilson, who finds himself out of a job, at least for the moment.

Terry Labonte, who has driven 333 races--with one series championship--in two stints with Billy Hagan--moves to the Hendrick ride Rudd vacated.

Hut Stricklin will drive for the new team of Travis Carter, while Jimmy Spencer, who has been racing for Bobby Allison Motorsports, will replace Stricklin as Bill Elliott's teammate with Junior Johnson & Associates.

Allison continues to look for both a driver and a new sponsor.

Even with all the changing, there are going to be more teams than ever trying to run the full 31-race series in 1994. That means more well-sponsored cars will fail to qualify for some races.

At the big tracks, you generally have 42 starters, meaning plenty of room for the full-time teams as well as some of the occasional entries. But, at the tracks shorter than one mile, starting lineups range from 32 to 36 cars.

In 1993, 27 teams made each of the 30 races, six others had 20 or more starts and five others were there for 10 or more races. Add to those the teams that show up at their local tracks and you have a lot of people going home without racing, often for lack of a tenth of a second or less in qualifying.

"That can be really tough on you and the sponsor," said Dave Marcis, one of the few remaining independent owner-drivers. "Every year, the fields get more competitive. Nowadays, there's usually less than a second from the front to the back of the field. Just a twitch coming off a turn can keep you out of the lineup."

NINETY-FIVE DRIVERS ran at least one of the 30 Winston Cup events this season, with 25 of them showing up in every field.

Three others, Brett Bodine, Ted Musgrave and Rick Wilson, missed one race each because of injury. Phil Parsons and Dick Trickle, both of whom ran for several teams, drove 26 races apiece.

Twenty-seven drivers ran in just one race.

DANNY (CHOCOLATE) MYERS, gasman for Dale Earnhardt, was as excited as anyone about the latest of the team's five Winston Cup titles, dating to 1986.

Earnhardt, whose first of six titles came with Rod Osterlund's team in 1980, beat Rusty Wallace and his Penske Racing South team by just 80 points in a tough late-season duel that went to the final race.

"This championship is just as good as the first one," said Myers, who comes from a racing family. "I can't say enough about the guys who we're racing (against). We're all professionals. The people who aren't here every day just don't ralize how much it means to a team to win this.

"You dedicate your life to this sport. The guys that are here every day know, and it just means so much to you to be able to do this. "I love winning it; hate losing it, but also I think about the guys who did lose it because they worked just as hard as we have. They just checked up a little bit short."

ESPN WILL SHOW a special live edition of its Speedweek program from New York Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. EST, followed by NASCAR Year in Review at 8:30 p.m. and live coverage of the NASCAR Winston Cup awards banquet, beginning 30 minutes later.

ONE THING THAT went almost unnoticed in the excitment of the final weekend of the Winston Cup season at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the dedication of the new five-lane Richard Petty Boulevard outside the Hampton, Ga., track.

Petty, who retired as a driver following the 1992 season and is now a full-time team owner, climbed back into this famed No. 43 Pontiac to drive from one end of the new street to the other--a distance of about one mile.

"That wasn't too tough," Petty said with a grin.

INDY CAR PPG CUP champion Nigel Mansell, a resident of Clearwater, Fla., has been chosen by the mayors of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa as Tampa Bay's Honorary Ambassador.

It is the first time the three neighboring cities have jointly appointed anyone to represent the area.

Mansell, in turn, agreed "to promote the goodwill of the combined communities of Tampa Bay, long recognized for the compassiona of its people and the lifestyle qualities that make it a desireable place to live, work and enjoy."

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