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FOX, NBC HEAVY HITTERS FOR 'CUP' RACES IN 2001

Twenty-seven of the 36 Winston Cup races in the 2001 season will air on either the Fox or NBC networks, NASCAR announced as it released next year's schedule for its top series.

Fox will air the season-opening Bud Shootout at Daytona on Feb. 11, then show the season's first 10 points races. Fox will carry 14 races, shifting only races at Richmond on May 5 and at Michigan on June 10 to its cable partner, FX. The Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte, scheduled for May 19, will also air on FX.

Fox will present live coverage of the two 125-mile qualifying races at Daytona on Feb. 15 on Fox Sports Net. CBS has been taping those races on Thursday and delaying broadcast until Saturday.

NBC's schedule will begin with the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on July 7. NBC will carry 13 of the 20 races in a 20-week stretch that ends with the Nov. 18 season-finale at Atlanta. Its cable partner, TBS, will carry seven races, including the Southern 500 at Darlington on Sept. 3.

Two of NBC's telecasts will be new races at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., on July 15 and at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 30.

"If being on the networks means more people get to see us, then it's tough to argue with that," driver Johnny Benson said. "Hopefully this will attract a lot of new fans. I think it's great that everyone is finally going to get to see the qualifying races at Daytona live. Those qualifying races are important and it's great they are finally getting televised live."

Eleven of this season's 34 races are on network television.

Though the 2001 schedule is just now being officially released, teams have known for weeks it would grow by two races and leave them with just three weekends off -- Easter, Mother's Day and June 30-July 1 -- in a 41-week span beginning Feb. 11 at Daytona.

While most people in the sport understand why NASCAR feels it's important to expand into major markets such as Chicago and Kansas City, the added workload will force some changes.

"It's going to put everybody to the test," said Sterling Marlin, driver of the No. 40 Chevrolets. "There's two more weeks, two more cars to prepare, two more weekends to race and two more races to run.

"The thing is, a race weekend doesn't just affect one weekend. It affects a whole lot of what you are doing throughout the season, and especially around that single time period. Even the guys in the shop who don't travel are going to have to be going harder and harder because cars have got to be finished. Not just one car but at least one backup, and maybe two."

Drivers won't be the ones bearing the brunt of the extra load, however. That falls to the crews.

"I work every day anyhow, so it doesn't matter to me," said Tony Furr, crew chief for Jerry Nadeau's No. 25 Chevrolets. "But we need to work it out to get our guys off here and there so we don't wear them out. We're going to have to hire more people and redo our schedule in the shop."

2001 WINSTON CUP SCHEDULE
DateSite
Feb. 18 Daytona Beach
Feb. 25 Rockingham, N.C.
Mar. 4 Las Vegas
Mar. 11 Hampton, Ga.
Mar. 18 Darlington, S.C.
Mar. 25 Bristol, Tenn.
Apr. 1 Fort Worth, Texas
Apr. 8 Martinsville, Va.
Apr. 22 Talladega, Ala.
Apr. 29 Fontana, Calif.
May 5 Richmond, Va.
May 27 Concord, N.C.
June 3 Dover, Del.
June 10 Brooklyn, Mich.
June 17 Long Pond, Pa.
June 24 Sonoma, Calif.
July 7 Daytona Beach
July 15 Joliet, Ill.
July 22 Loudon, N.H.
July 29 Long Pond, Pa.
Aug. 5 Indianapolis
Aug. 12 Watkins Glen
Aug. 19 Brooklyn, Mich.
Aug. 25 Bristol, Tenn.
Sept. 2 Darlington, S.C.
Sept. 8 Richmond, Va.
Sept. 16 Loudon, N.H.
Sept. 23 Dover, Del.
Sept. 30 Kansas City, Kan.
Oct. 7 Concord, N.C.
Oct. 14Martinsville, Va.
Oct. 21 Talladega, Ala.
Oct. 28 Avondale, Ariz.
Nov. 4 Rockingham, N.C.
Nov. 11 Homestead, Fla.
Nov. 18 Hampton, Ga.

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