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From Music City to The Masters to Miss USA, Cup drivers stay busy

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
For an off-weekend, there's a lot of racing on the FOX family of networks. Stay tuned.
Last week I wrote in this column about all of the bizarre happenings that have piled up thus far during the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season.

Truth is I forgot one. And it is perhaps the strangest occurrence of them all.

Two weekends off in the first eight weeks of the season?

"Isn't that weird?" says , one of the favorites when Nextel Cup returns to action at Martinsville on April 18. "This time of year, we are chomping at the bit to race and we have two weekends off. When we get to the fall and have that long stretch of races, we'll be wishing one of these free weekends was on the schedule then."

The off-weekend at the end of February came thanks to the extra Leap Year weekend added to the 2004 calendar. This weekend's time of rest comes via bunny... as in the Easter Bunny. And racing on Easter Sunday has long been a NASCAR no-no.

"There's two days we do not race on," says The King, Richard Petty. "Easter and Mother's Day. And we have never raced on either because we are all scared of our moms. If we were off racing somewhere on Mother's Day, that would be just disrespectful. If we were off racing somewhere on Easter and not in church, then my mom would get after our tails."

So, what does a driver do during this weekend when he's not painting eggs? The list is as long and as varied as the men on it.

  • , , , and will be running Saturday night's NASCAR Busch Series race at the Nashville Superspeedway (FX, 3:30 p.m. ET). Biffle won the inaugural Nashville event in 2001. Gordon didn't plan on bringing his self-owned car to Music City, USA until he found himself sitting 5th in NBS points after six races. Now he's thinking he might run the entire schedule. "We decided that if we finished with a top five in Texas, we would go to Nashville," says the man who finished third last weekend. "If we stay in reach of a championship, I'm sure we will continue to race."
  • will also be racing, but turning left and right. The Prince is fielding a Porsche in Saturday's Grand Am Rolex Sports Car event at the Phoenix International Raceway (SPEED, 9 p.m. ET). "The difference between a Porsche and a stock car is that a stock car is like driving your family car," says the man who has quietly built a nice sports car resume, running seven Rolex events over the last three years. "You're out there and you're hammering around in your family car -- your family station wagon or family four-door. Then, all of sudden, your father tosses you the keys to his sports car and says,'Go take it around the block.' It's totally different. It's still got four wheels, still got a steering wheel and still got an engine, but it's a totally different feel."
  • Why isn't Busch Series stalwart going to Nashville? Front Row Joe will spend Easter hopping up and down the stairs, getting blankets and formula, thanks to the birth on Monday of his third child, Kennedy Grace. Truck Series ace will be behind the wheel of the number 87 Nemco Chevy.
  • It should be no surprise that will be racing in Nashville, but not in the Busch race. He'll be in Friday's ARCA race at Nashville (SPEED, 9 p.m. ET) and then head off to the dirt track he owns, the I-55 Speedway in Pevely, Mo., to race his late model. Where is his family during all of this? Riding along in the RV, of course.
  • will be standing among the azaleas of Augusta National all weekend, following the gallery at The Masters. Don't be surprised if you spot several other drivers as well, particularly , who ran a special Arnold Palmer 50th Masters paint scheme at the Atlanta Motor Speedway last month and even played a round with the "other" King in Florida.
  • will be teeing it up in the Hootie & The Blowfish After The Masters Celebrity Pro-Am at Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Monday, joining Dan Marino and Samuel L. Jackson, who will more than likely use his favorite cuss word from "Pulp Fiction" following any shanks or hooks.
  • will also be hanging with celebrities next Monday, including actor Mekhi Phifer, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss and "The Best Damn Sports Show Period's" John Salley. Why? Because they are all judges in Monday night's 53rd Annual Miss USA competition in L.A. "As they say," says Gordon. "It is a rough job. But as long as they ask me, I will do it." Funny, nobody asked me.

  • Ryan McGee is the managing editor of and on Fox Sports Net. He can be reached at his e-mail address: rmcgee@foxsports.com.
    NASCAR on FOX/FSN/FX/SPEED
    MONDAY - FRIDAY
  • 6 p.m. local: on Fox Sports Net

  • FRIDAY, APRIL 9
  • 4:30 p.m. ET: Busch Series Qualifying on SPEED
  • 9 p.m. ET: ARCA Series Race from Nashville on SPEED

  • SATURDAY, APRIL 10
  • 3:30 p.m. ET: Busch Series Race from Nashville on FX
  • 9 p.m. ET: Rolex Sports Car Series Race from Phoenix on SPEED
  • Busch Beat
    The coolest thing about winning at Nashville? The trophy is a specially-designed Gibson guitar. But a word of advice to all racers this weekend -- please know how to handle it when they give it you.

    "I had never held a guitar until I won last year's ARCA race," remembers , who will be in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Busch car this year.

    "The photographers told me to hold it like I was playing it, then said I was holding it wrong. I was like, 'How am I holding it wrong?' I still haven't figured out how to display it, though. It's just sitting in its case right now."

    Truck Stop
    In addition to Schrader and Reutimann, NCTS Rookie of the Year contender will also be racing in Nashville this weekend, across town at the old Nashville Fairgrounds track, now known as the Music City Motorplex.

    Hines will be behind the wheel of a USAC Sprint Car on Friday for the Twin 77's Shootout.

    The Why We Call Richard Petty "The King" Fact of the Week
    The King never raced on the four-year old Nashville Superspeedway, but when it came to the old half-mile fairgrounds track, he dominated.

    In 39 career Music City starts, Petty scored 31 top-10 finishes. That's 79 percent! He also landed nine wins, including five in a row and six out of eight from 1964 to 1971. That same streak included seven out of 10 poles.

    Totally NASCAR Next Week
    Weeknights at 6 p.m. local on Fox Sports Net, Totally NASCAR is your source for NASCAR news and highlights. Check out some of next week's highlights:
  • Monday: Sean Pragano reports from Nashville as he wraps up the NASCAR Busch Series race weekend, and Larry McReynolds breaks down the race.
  • Tuesday: Last fall's Martinsville truck winner Jon Wood stops by to talk about his attempt at two in a row at the paper-clip bull ring.
  • Wednesday: Jeff Hammond checks out of the Hollywood Hotel and into our Charlotte studio to preview Martinsville race weekend.
  • Thursday: Virginia native Hermie Sadler talks about racing in his home state.
  • NASCAR This Morning returns April 18
  • Ask the show: NASCAR This Morning returns to Fox Sports Net on Sunday, April 18, at 11 a.m. ET to get you ready for the Advance Auto Parts 500 on FOX at 1 p.m. ET. The show is planning on talking to several drivers, and you can submit a question to them or to our panel: drivers Chad Little and Kenny Wallace, crew chief Bill Ingle, host John Roberts and reporter Winston Kelley to possibly be asked on the show! PLEASE include your name and where you're from.
  • PLAY NOW: Fantasy Stock Car Challenge
  • PLAY NOW: Race The Pros
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