The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Saturday, August 17, 1996             TAG: 9608170510
                                            LENGTH:   91 lines


WANTED: Race-car driver to drive Winston Cup car at Michigan International Speedway. Empty seat available immediately.

With the thousands of racers around the country dreaming of breaking into the Winston Cup series, it's hard to imagine that a Cup team would have trouble finding someone to drive its car.

But that's exactly what happened Friday after Kyle Petty, who was more badly injured in his wreck at Indianapolis than first thought, took his doctor's advice and decided to sit out the next two races.

For a time, the team had no one to practice in Petty's car. So Petty got back into the car and took a couple of laps. But it was not a pleasant experience for him. Finally, the team arranged with Jim Sauter, its fifth choice, to take over driving duties.

Sauter, who came to Michigan to help set up IROC cars, quickly found himself with a full weekend schedule. He qualified 26th-fastest for today's Busch race, replacing Chuck Bown, who broke his wrist in practice Thursday. And he was 27th-fastest in pole qualifying driving Petty's car.

``That was the third lap I've run today (in Petty's car), so that's not too bad,'' Sauter said in describing his qualifying run. ``It's quite a bit different from what I've been driving all week.''

Meanwhile, Petty said his doctors ``told me it would be best, and in my best interests, not to get in a race car for two or three weeks. I didn't want to get into a situation where I'd go out there and wreck and rupture my spleen, split my pancreas or my liver or something.''

It was first thought that Petty had escaped his savage crash in the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 3 with only severe bruises. But the pain wasn't lessening this week, so he paid another visit to the doctor on Wednesday.

There, Petty found out he had four broken ribs on his right side, one cracked rib on his left side, a bruised right shoulder blade, right lung problems and bruising throughout his abdominal area.

``It's hurt for a couple of weeks, but it's kind of leveled off to where it's just there all the time,'' he said. ``It hurts when you laugh. It hurts when you sneeze. It makes you short of breath a little bit. It's tough to sleep.

``I'm not going to get back in the car this week, and I probably won't get back in the car next week. The only reason I got in the car today - and there were no plans for me to drive this car - was that we didn't have anybody to go in the car.''

Before Sauter was tapped for Petty's car, the team tried several other drivers. But Grand National regulars Randy LaJoie and David Green couldn't help because their car owners were against it. Steve Grissom couldn't do it because it would break his contract with Winston Cup car owner Gary Bechtel. Jeff Purvis was unavailable. And the team did not extend an offer to Todd Bodine, who relieved Petty last week at Watkins Glen.

EXTENDED CONTRACT: Square D Co., an electrical manufacturer, has announced that it will become the primary sponsor of the Filmar Racing No. 81 Ford Thunderbird driven by Kenny Wallace. The agreement extends through the year 2000.

BUSCH RACE: Pole-sitter Ricky Craven will lead a 42-car field to the green flag today (noon, ESPN) in the Detroit Gasket 200 for Busch Grand National cars.

Provisional starting spots went to Mike Dillon, Jeff Fuller, Glenn Allen and Bobby Dotter, while Randy Porter and Ron Barfield failed to make the field.

Meanwhile, it was announced Friday that Chuck Bown had suffered a broken right wrist and multiple bruises in a crash in turn 3 during practice Thursday. Sauter, taking over the backup car, led the second round of qualifying with a lap of 173.666 mph in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

IROC RACE: The fourth and final IROC race of the 1996 season follows the final Winston Cup practice here this afternoon, with IndyCar driver Robby Gordon leading Al Unser Jr. by four points (42-38) for the title.

Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd practiced IROC cars Friday as possible replacements for the injured Dale Earnhardt, who doubts he'll run the race, and for Steve Kinser, who is racing his sprint car at Knoxville, Iowa, and may not be able to make it to Michigan in time.

NEW SON: After a miserable weekend at Watkins Glen, where he finished 36th, Ricky Craven went home to Charlotte for the birth of his second child.

Craven's wife, Cathleen, delivered their first son, Richard Everett, at 12:42 p.m. Monday at University Hospital. The baby weighed 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 21 inches long. The Cravens' daughter, Riley Diane, is 4.

A FAMILIAR RING: Call off the search: ``The ring'' has been recovered.

Joe Gibbs, owner of the Interstate Batteries Chevrolet driven by Bobby Labonte, received an unexpected package in the mail this week. It contained the 1992 Super Bowl ring he lost at an autograph session in Indianapolis during the weekend of the Brickyard 400.

``I'm very grateful to have the ring back,'' said Gibbs, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins. ``It's a one-of-a-kind deal. I thought it might be gone forever. I guess that shows there are a few honest people left in the world.''

A team spokesman said the ring apparently was picked up by a young child and was turned over to his parents who were unaware that it was Gibbs'. After learning who was the owner, the family sent it to Gibbs. by CNB