Precision Auto Care Needs Financial Tuneup

* The world's largest franchiser of auto care centers, Precision Auto Care Inc., of Leesburg, announced it is in need of a financial tuneup, possibly including a new owner at the wheel. "We are certainly not looking at bankruptcy," said Precision's chief executive, Charles L. Dunlap. Nevertheless, the company is facing deadlines on millions of dollars in debt and reported a loss of $17.6 million for fiscal 1999, compared with a $3 million loss the year before. Dunlap said he had negotiated an extension until Oct. 15 on $8.5 million in debt that was due last week and was seeking an additional extension to give the company more time to raise money. Company officials have also been in negotiations about selling all or part of the firm, Dunlap said. Last fall, Precision laid off 10 percent of its workers and delayed its debt payments. In February, a board member lent the company $5 million to keep it afloat. An aggressive acquisitions strategy--Precision bought seven companies during fiscal 1998--depleted the company's cash reserves. Dunlap said the sale of several of those acquisitions will be announced soon.

Friday

Tasty Tailgate for a Day at the Races

* With the Morven Park Race Meet and the International Gold Cup at Great Meadow in The Plains fast approaching, it's not too soon to start planning the perfect tailgate party menu. Martha Hendley--admit it, the name just sounds like someone who can whip up a succulent meal even when the food is doled out of the back of a 1977 Oldsmobile station wagon--shares her time-tested recipes for Scotch eggs, orange cake and sweet potato biscuits. As entertainment chairman of the Fairfax Hunt Steeplechase, Hendley knows her diners' desires. "If I didn't make my Scotch eggs and orange liquor cake, my guests wouldn't come," she said after the 42nd running of the steeplechase, held Sept. 25 at Belmont Plantation in Loudoun. Taste for yourself. The recipes ran last week in the Washington Post's Food section.

Thursday