Kenny Irwin and Mike Bliss have new rides for 2000.
Irwin, the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, has signed a multiyear contract with Sabco Racing, replacing Joe Nemechek, who will leave the No. 42 Chevrolet after today's NAPA 500 to drive for Andy Petree.
Bliss, who has been racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, will drive for the new team being put together by A.J. Foyt.
Irwin, who has been driving the No. 28 car for Robert Yates for two seasons, said he jumped at the chance to work with Sabco team manager Tony Glover, who will also act as his crew chief next season.
"When I first talked to Tony, he said, 'I guarantee you this team is better than what they've showed,' " Irwin said. "A couple of weeks later, Joe went out and won in New Hampshire, so I knew Tony was right.
"I know I'm going into a situation now with a crew chief that's going to have a little more experience than the ones I've worked with before."
Felix Sabates, who owns Sabco Racing, said: "I've been following Kenny's career since he was in the truck series. We had no second choice. Kenny was our first, second and third choice."
The 30-year-old Irwin is 20th in the season standings. He has not won a race, but has three poles and three top-10 finishes in 69 career starts.
Bliss, who has finished in the top 10 in points and won at least one race in each of his five seasons in the truck series, will drive the No. 14 Pontiac for Foyt, who also owns an Indy Racing League team.
"We have put together a first-class team," Foyt said. "I watched Mike in some of the truck races and he ran strong. I thought, 'He could be kind of a dark horse out there.' And I think he'll take people by surprise next year."
Bliss, 34, said: "A.J. knows that when I get in a race car, I want to win. I'm very excited about working with A.J. He's a true racer and a legend. He's someone I've always looked up to and he's focused on building a winning team."
Big Money Dale Jarrett has already wrapped up the 1999 Winston Cup title and the $1 million prize that goes with it. But the new champ will have a chance in today's season finale to add $140,000 to his winnings.
That's the amount of the current Winston Cup leader bonus, which builds at $10,000 a race until the driver leading in points wins a race. Jarrett, who has led in points since May, won a bonus of $30,000 in August when he took the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, his fourth victory of the season.
If Jarrett does not win today, the $140,000 will be divided among the top 10 finishers in the final standings.
Vermont Pride First-time Winston Cup pole winner Kevin Lepage isn't the least bit nervous about starting the NAPA 500 from the front of the 43-car field.
"I think it will be a relief," Lepage said yesterday after practicing on the 1.54-mile oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "I mean, how many guys come into this series that is so competitive and never get a pole?
"We've gotten it in 60-some starts, so it's happened pretty early in my career. I think what's going to be in the back of my mind taking the green [flag] will be my pride for the state of Vermont, being the first Vermonter to sit on the pole and the last guy in the century to be on a pole.
"That's a lot of history going on with that one lap. It will be with us forever and ever and ever."
Ownership Change Brett Bodine, who will stay on as the driver of the No. 11 Ford, has sold the team to Ralph's Grocery Co.
"It looks like the best thing to do is get out of the ownership role," Bodine said. "This gives the team a great future. I'm looking forward to getting back to driving."
Richard Hilton, the new team owner, said, "We can rebuild this thing and get Brett back to where he belongs." Bodine is currently 35th in the points with no top-10 finishes.
With Bodine and Ricky Rudd leaving the ranks of owner-driver after this season, only Bill Elliott and Dave Marcis will have that dual role next year in Winston Cup.
Ticket to Ride The nine big winners of the Coca-Cola Family Reunion promotion got the most exciting part of their prize Thursday night on the Atlanta Motor Speedway track.
With family and friends looking on, each of the winners got a 150-mph ride from one of the drivers sponsored by Coke.
"This is the greatest experience anyone could have ever dreamed of," said Sherri Crow of Festus, Mo., who won the chance to ride with Jeff Burton when she discovered a winning bottle cap during her anniversary celebration with her husband.
"Getting to ride in a Winston Cup car was an unbelievable experience . . . awesome, but a little scary, especially when you see how close the drivers get to the walls."
Pit Stops Jeff Gordon, who was 16th in Friday's qualifying, is the only Winston Cup driver who has qualified for all 34 races this season in the first round. Gordon, who is the defending race winner, also won here in March and has a chance to become the first driver to sweep both Atlanta Motor Speedway races since Bill Elliott in 1992. . . .
Jarrett, who qualified 10th, is only the fourth driver since 1972 to win the championship without winning a pole. The others were Benny Parsons in 1973, Dale Earnhardt in 1980 and 1991, and Bobby Allison in 1983.
Upcoming event: NAPA 500, Hampton, Ga., Today
1. Dale Jarrett * 5,087
2. Bobby Labonte 4,876
3. Mark Martin 4,778
4. Tony Stewart 4,651
5. Jeff Burton 4,573
6. Jeff Gordon 4,571
7. Dale Earnhardt 4,354
8. Rusty Wallace 4,031
9. Ward Burton 3,927
10. Mike Skinner 3,861
1. Jeff Gordon $5,222,011
2. Jeff Burton $5,141,301
3. Dale Jarrett $3,514,429
4. Bobby Labonte $3,376,041
5. Mark Martin $2,707,446
6. Dale Earnhardt $2,657,539
7. Tony Stewart $2,559,411
8. Terry Labonte $2,254,696
9. Mike Skinner $2,165,196
10. Rusty Wallace $2,113,479
-- Through Pennzoil 400, Nov. 14
Busch Grand National
Upcoming event: Season over
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. * 4,647
2. Jeff Green 4,367
3. Matt Kenseth 4,327
4. Todd Bodine 4,029
5. Elton Sawyer 3,891
6. Jeff Purvis 3,658
7. Dave Blaney 3,582
8. Jason Keller 3,537
9. Mike McLaughlin 3,478
10. Randy LaJoie 3,379
-- Through Miami 300, Nov. 13
* Points champion