Chairman doesn't see new fans

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Golden Corral 500

At Hampton, Ga.

Sunday, 11:30 a.m., Ch. 13

Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, the parent company of Atlanta Motor Speedway, said Thursday he salutes Bill Lester's efforts to become the first black driver in 20 years to race in Nextel Cup, but he doesn't expect black fans to flock to the track to watch him.

''I don't see it happening,'' Smith said. ''Look at your other sports, the NBA, NFL. Black people are playing, but they don't rush in and buy the tickets.''

Today, Lester will try to qualify for Sunday's Golden Corral 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Smith said he does see potential growth for NASCAR among Hispanics. ''They have a propensity to really love racing,'' he said. "They love it. They always have. If we had a couple of Mexican drivers, you would absolutely see a change.''

Harvick on the move

Kevin Harvick, the 2001 NASCAR Busch Series champion, seems well on his way to contending for a second series title.

In the series' first four races, he has yet to finish outside the top 10 and has three top-five finishes, including thirds at Mexico City and Las Vegas. He leads the points race by 42 over Denny Hamlin.

But it's not as easy as it seems. Harvick is driving his own No. 33 Chevrolet in four races this season and the remainder for Richard Childress Racing, owner of Harvick's Cup team.

Kevin Harvick Inc. transferred the owner points from its No. 33 to its No. 77 this season to assist rookie Burney Lamar.

That means the No. 33 must qualify on speed for the season's first five races to make the field. The last of the five is Saturday's Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

''It's been a little nerve-racking to say the least these first few weeks of the season,'' said Wally Rogers, crew chief for the No. 33.

Waltrip returns

The retirement that just keeps on giving will continue on July 22, as Darrell Waltrip plans to drive a Busch Series car owned by his brother, Michael, at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

Waltrip received ''permission'' to drive the No. 99 car from his wife, Stevie, Tuesday at a roast of the three-time Nextel Cup champion held to benefit the Boys' and Girls' Club of Tennessee. Waltrip retired from the Cup series in 2000.

Practical experience

The path to NASCAR success is experience, in the shop and on the race track.

Four students from Philadelphia's Urban Youth Racing School are gaining experience this week in Charlotte and Atlanta. Shawnna Stanton, Danny Colon, Kristopher Fuller and Nkosi Harmon are working in the race shops of Craftsman Truck Series teams.