Two months after unveiling their 10-year series sponsorship deal with Nextel Communications Inc., NASCAR officials yesterday announced a 10-year agreement that will make Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. the exclusive supplier of racing fuel for stock-car racing's top three divisions.
Sunoco replaces ConocoPhillips' Unocal "76" brand, which has fueled NASCAR's gas-guzzling engines (roughly six miles per gallon) for more than 40 years. The makers of Unocal 76 decided earlier this year to bow out as NASCAR's fuel supplier at season's end because their marketing strategy shifted after Phillips Petroleum Company merged with Conoco Inc.
Racing fuel plays an integral role in NASCAR's weekly competition, and it is not easy to come by. Winston Cup cars run on 110 octane leaded gas, which is not available commercially. And the fuel is tightly controlled. To ensure that no team gains an unfair advantage by doctoring its fuel, all race teams must use gas pumped from the same trackside tanks.
Sunoco currently manufactures fuel for more than 30 racing series, including NASCAR's Dodge weekly series. Starting in 2004, it will supply fuel for the Winston Cup, Grand National and Craftsman truck series.
"When you put this deal alongside the Nextel deal, for another 10 years, we are looking at long-term, predictable stability," NASCAR chief operating officer George Pyne said.
B. Labonte Wins Pole
There is something about Michigan International Speedway that brings out the best in Bobby Labonte.
He picked up his second straight Michigan pole, topping qualifying yesterday for the GFS Marketplace 400 and earning his fourth pole at the track in Brooklyn.
The 2000 Winston Cup champion turned a lap of 190.240 mph, just shy of the 190.365 that earned him the pole on the two-mile, high-banked Michigan oval in June.
Labonte, who has been mired in a slump during which he has finished no better than 14th in his last five starts and fallen from fourth to seventh in the points, became the first driver to sweep the Michigan poles since Bill Elliott in 1988.
Racing there also could get him back in stride, considering Labonte has won three times and finished in the top five 14 times in 22 starts.
"I just like coming here," Labonte said. "It just falls into the category of a good track.''
Ryan Newman, who leads the series with five poles this season, was second. He went out ninth and ran a lap of 189.929.
-- Associated Press