The controversy over a second Winston Cup race for Texas Motor Speedway just won't go away.

NASCAR released a tersely worded statement Friday in response to a motion filed earlier in the week by Speedway Motorsports Inc. in a lawsuit brought by one of its shareholders.

Francis Ferko of Plano, Tex., sued NASCAR in February for failing to deliver a promised second event for the track owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Ferko also made claims of alleged antitrust violations.

The lawsuit listed NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports as defendants, requiring both to respond.

In its filing Wednesday, SMI said the track was built "after assurances from NASCAR that a new Winston cup date would be created." The motion also said NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. "promised" the track a second Winston Cup race "no later than 1999."

NASCAR said it never assured the track of a second date and has asked the court to dismiss Ferko's lawsuit.

"SMI doesn't seek to better the sport but only to enrich itself at the expense of the sport and its fans," the statement said. "In contrast, NASCAR's strategic approach to expanding racing locations has fostered strong, sustained growth and greatly enhanced competition throughout motorsports."

Musical Chiefs

Michael McSwain, crew chief for Ricky Rudd and Robert Yates Racing, interviewed with Joe Gibbs Racing and could be in line to become Bobby Labonte's new crew chief.

Current crew chief Jimmy Makar will move into a management role with the team next season.

"I can't deny that he's one of the guys we talked to," Makar said. "There's five guys we've talked to, all qualified and all potentially good candidates. We're excited there's that many people with an interest in our team."

Makar would not identify the others he had interviewed. He said a couple of them, including McSwain, were under contract for next season with their current teams. All the final candidates would come from outside of Joe Gibbs Racing, Makar said.

McSwain declined to comment, but Yates said he expects him to stay.

"That's what we're signed up to do," Yates said. "It's nice to have people after you, it means you're doing something right. But I think we can put that [rumor] to bed."

Welcome Back

Derrike Cope, out of action since September after he broke his right shoulder blade and the fibula in his left leg in a crash in Richmond, got back behind the wheel for the first time. He will start Sunday's NAPA 500 from the 41st spot on the grid in Atlanta.

"Getting out in the car during practice and getting bounced around a little bit, I'm a little sore," Cope said. "But I can't wait for the race. I'm ready to go."

Buckshot Jones was to make his first start since being fired by Petty Enterprises in April, driving a car owned by Michael Waltrip. But with qualifying canceled by rain, Jones did not make the field.

Also missing the race were Geoffrey Bodine, Frank Kimmel and Busch Series regulars Greg Biffle, Scott Wimmer, Kerry Earnhardt, Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday.