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NASCAR SJAPS: Niekro to Knuckle Down with BellSouth Team

1 September 1998

Daytona Beach, Fla. - August 31, 1998 - Hall of Fame pitcher and former Atlanta Brave Phil Niekro is scheduled to serve as an honorary pit crew member for Steven Christian's BellSouth racing team at Lanier National Speedway this Saturday night. And adding a crew member couldn't come at a better time. Christian is coming off of his first 1998 NASCAR Slim Jim All Pro Series win this past weekend at Louisville Motor Speedway. As the BellSouth team heads into their home track on a high there is one piece of unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.

The Jasper Engines & Transmissions Pit Stop Challenge is a victory that the BellSouth team sorely wants. Perhaps Niekro can help them achieve this objective. Standing between the BellSouth team and victory will be the Conyers, GA.-based Young Racing Team. In two previous pit stop contests Ron Young's Cofer Bros. Building Materials Chevrolet crew has soundly trounced the competition. Their record pit stop time now stands at 15.22 seconds for a refueling and a two-tire change. This time many teams have their air guns ready and have their sights set on dethroning the two-time defending champions.

It won't be easy to dethrone the Larry Rapp-led crew, as they attempt to register the three-peat. Rapp was the 1997 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Crew-Chief-of-the-Year and the team takes great pride in displaying their talents before the same fans that they used to race in front of each week when Young ran at Lanier full time.

Christian and Young will be just two of 30 teams that will be battling for the win in the Kroger 200. Freddie Query, the Mooresville (N.C.) Missile, picked up the victory in Lanier's Gerber Tender Harvest 200 which was run on July 1. Just a few weeks ago the 46-year-old Query held a commanding 170 point lead in the Slim Jim All Pro Series point standings. Entering this weekend's event Query has dropped to second place in the season-long points chase, now trailing two-time and defending Slim Jim All Pro Series Champion Hal Goodson by 26 points. There's little doubt that Query would like to return to victory lane at Lanier. Query's last win came at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa. on July 12. The Greased Lightning Cleaner Degreaser Chevrolet driver has six wins in 13 starts and could up his winning percentage to 50% if he could repeat at Lanier this weekend.

Bud Pole Qualifying for the $44,360 Kroger 200 presented by Oral B gets underway at 6:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m. the Jasper Engines & Transmissions Pit Stop Challenge will take place. From approximately 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Niekro will be available for autographs before he heads to the pit area to work with Christian's BellSouth team. The green flag will wave on the Kroger 200 at approximately 8:30 p.m. The race will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis on Fox Sports South on September 21 at 8:00 p.m. and The Sunshine Network on September 21 at 9:00 p.m., repeating on September 22 at 9:00 a.m. Air dates and times for Home Team Sports are still to be determined.