Penske protege to run blended season in 2001


Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



CONCORD, N.C. (AP) _ Ryan Newman, the latest protege for car owner Roger Penske, will run a ``blended'' 23-race schedule in 2001 on three stock car circuits to prepare him for a move to full-time Winston Cup racing.

Penske, whose cars have been driven by the Unsers, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Rusty Wallace, said Wednesday that Newman will drive in 12 Busch Series races, seven Winston Cup races and four ARCA events next year.

The plan is for the 22-year-old Newman to move to Winston Cup fulltime in 2002. But he'll make his Winston Cup debut next month at Phoenix International Raceway.

``Ryan Newman is certainly one of the special young talents on the American racing scene today,'' Penske said. ``He's a proven winner who has successfully demonstrated his driving skills in both open wheel and stock cars arenas.''

Newman made his stock car debut with Penske Racing South on June 10th in the ARCA race at Michigan Speedway, where he started on the outside pole and finished seventh.

In his second start, he won the ARCA race at Pocono Raceway. Wallace, his new teammate, also won that same weekend.

Wallace said he's excited to take a young driver under his wing.

``Ryan's got a ton of talent, no doubt about that,'' Wallace said. ``He's been impressive every time out. What really impresses me most about Ryan is his dedication to being a team player. He knows that I'm always here to help out and I'm super proud to have him as my teammate.''

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MOVE OVER, MEN: ARCA driver Shawna Robinson is eyeing a move to Winston Cup racing next year, and if she succeeds she would be the first woman to race on NASCAR's top circuit in 11 years.

Michael Kranefuss, owner of Robinson's car, wants the 35-year-old mother of two to race in at least five Winston Cup races next season while still competing on the ARCA series.

The idea is for her to get enough experience to race a full Winston Cup season in 2002 while competing for Rookie of the Year.

``On the track, she and this team have the potential to be very successful,'' Kranefuss said. ``Everyone I have spoken with, whether they are affiliated directly with the team or not, feels Shawna Robinson and the team have the stuff it takes to make it in Winston Cup.''

If Robinson makes a Winston Cup race, she would be the first woman to do so since Patty Moise raced at Talladega in 1989. The stat isn't lost on Robinson, even though she wishes her gender wasn't an issue.

``I'm a racer that happens to be a woman,'' she said. ``I have just as much, if not more, seat time as many of the men drivers but I still sometimes have to work harder for people to give me a chance.

``But I look at it like as long as I am serious about it, people will take me seriously as a racer.''

Kranefuss, owner of Winston Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield's car, is still looking for sponsor for Robinson's car next season. But the team will try to move ahead with its plans whether or not they get one.

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PULLING OUT: Andy Petree Racing is considering pulling out of NASCAR's Grand National series in 2001 so it can focus on its two Winston Cup teams.

The team currently runs a limited Grand National series schedule with Cup-regular Mike Skinner as its driver.

It also fields the Winston Cup Chevrolet's currently driven by Joe Nemecheck and Kenny Wallace, although Wallace is being replaced by Bobby Hamilton at the end of the year.

``We really want to turn our focus to our Winston Cup program and get our teams running as well as we can,'' said team owner Andy Petree. ``We have worked diligently to develop a top Winston Cup program, and we don't want to detract from our efforts with those two teams.''

Petree said there is still a possibility that the team will field a Grand National team next season but won't decide until after it has planned for the Winston Cup teams. Another option is running a third Cup team on a limited basis.

``It would have to be under the best of circumstances,'' Petree said. ``We just want to consider all our options before making a decision.''