The NASCAR penalty box wasn't nearly as busy as usual this week, as the only announced penalty was assessed against Keith Koppenal, crew chief for Larry Foyt's #4 AJ Foyt Racing Dodge in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

Koppenal was fined $1000 for an oversized fuel container found during pre-race inspection last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Foyt finished thirtieth, six laps down from leader Elliott Sadler's #38 M&M's Ford.

The NASCAR West Grand National Series, formerly known as the Winston West Series, is perhaps the most internationalised of all the NASCAR Touring Series this year. For the 2004 season, there is a decidedly international flavour to the rookie championship, with no fewer than three drivers running from Mexico City - Tava Hellmund, Jose Luis Ramirez and Alfredo Tame - a father-son CASCAR championship-winning duo from Canada - Carl and Daryl Harr - and a Japanese driver - Takuma Koga - who lives in Nagoya and has been racing selected races in the West Series for the past three years.

Hellmund has raced selected West races since 2001, winning his debut race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the road course, His background includes races in Texas. Ramirez has raced in Trans-Am, the Mexican Ford Mustang series, Formula Reynard and a Mexican truck series. Tame comes from a wide variety of racing series including karts, Formula 3000, touring cars and prototypes in Mexico, France, Germany and other European countries, as well as NASCAR Southwest Series.

They are among the nine drivers competing in the 2004 Auto Meter Rookie Championship.

NASCAR overachiever Ken Schrader is filling his spare time with wide variety of races. He will race in no less than 85 events this year, and that number could increase by the end of the year. Schrader has an off-weekend with Nextel Cup, so he will race in, not one, but two short track races this Easter weekend. He races Friday night in the ARCA RE/MAX Series at Nashville Superspeedway and then Saturday night at his own I-55 Speedway dirt track. Hey, what's the fun of owning a track if you can't race on it?

Schrader will race next weekend at Martinsville, where he will do double duty, racing in both Nextel Cup and Craftsman Trucks, after several days of Colorado skiing with friends and family. His first and only victory in the Truck Series was nine years ago at the old and long-departed Saugus Speedway - a really short track, which was only 0.333-miles long. It was and still is the flattest short track I've ever seen. That night was also memorable to me because James Garner was the grand marshal. You know Garner had to be a die-hard race fan and enthusiast when he showed up at the little, undistinguished venue hidden away in the mountains in the Grapevine, between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Schrader says he continues to enjoy racing in Nextel Cup, but is considering retiring from that Series in a couple of years. Then, he said, he could go short track racing full time.


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