A NASCAR expedition force, including seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, is in Japan this weekend, paving the way for a full-fledged stock car invasion in November.

Earnhardt, runner-up to 1995 champion Jeff Gordon, will take laps in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo around the Suzuka Circuitland track both Saturday and Sunday as part of the Suzuka's ``Thanks to Motorsports Fans Day.''

He and the rest of the Richard Childress Racing team also will take part in pit-stop demonstrations.

Also making the trip to Japan this week are Mike Helton, NASCAR's vice president for competition; Ken Clapp, NASCAR's vice president for western operations; team owner Richard Childress; and crew members Danny Meyers, Charles Crook, Curt Richey, James Robinette and Robert Scott.

The Morgan-McClure team, which fields Chevrolets for two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin, also will take part, sending Mike Hagler and Mike McCarthy to exhibit the team's show car.

NASCAR announced Nov. 30 a three-year agreement to run demonstration races in Japan, beginning Nov. 24, 1996. That first race will be an invitational featuring about 30 Winston Cup and Winston West race cars, driven primarily by participants from those two divisions.

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POINT GETTER: Earnhardt, known to most of his competitors as The Intimidator, deserves his reputation as a hard-nosed competitor.

Besides those seven Winston Cup titles, matching stock car king Richard Petty, Earnhardt has won 53 races and more than $22.7 million, far and away the most in the sport.

He also has been the most prolific point producer for Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup manufacturers standings.

Manufacturer points are awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis, with only the highest-finishing driver for each make receiving points. That system began in 1986 and only Earnhardt has scored for the same manufacturer in each of those 10 seasons.

While Chevrolet has won eight of those 10 manufacturers championships, Earnhardt has scored 749 of Chevy's 1,982 points during that period. The next five Chevy drivers combined have totaled just 29 more points than Earnhardt since 1986. Darrell Waltrip is second to Earnhardt among Chevy drivers with 274 points.

Bill Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup champion, is the leading Ford point-getter during those 10 years, earning 377, although he failed to score a point in 1995. The top two Ford point men, Elliott and Mark Martin (335), have combined for 37 fewer point than Earnhardt in the last 10 seasons.

Currently, only Chevrolet, Ford and Pontiac field cars for NASCAR's top division.

Earnhardt has totaled 100 or more points for Chevrolet in a season four times. He has also scored more than 50 percent of Chevy's points three times in 10 seasons and has led Chevy drivers in points in five of the 10 years.

Chevy has won eight titles in the last decade with 22 drivers accounting for 1,982 points _ a 198.2 yearly average. A total of 23 Ford drivers have earned 1,881 points _ 188.1 a year _ in the same span.

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STILL SEARCHING: Longtime Winston Cup team owner Bud Moore continues to keep his garage doors open despite a so-far fruitless search for a primary sponsor.

But Moore remains optimistic enough to have hired former Winston Cup regular Wally Dallenbach Jr. as test driver for the Ford tests this month at Daytona International Speedway.

Greg Moore, Bud's son and the team manager, said, ``We think a lot of Wally and we know there is a lot of talent there. We think it would make for a very good package if we can get everything worked out.''

``This is a great opportunity to drive for Bud Moore,'' Dallenbach said. ``I sure hope it turns into a full-time deal.''

Still, finding a sponsor remains a key to any deal.

``We know we have to get ready to go racing, and with that thought in mind, we have been talking with Wally,'' Greg Moore said. ``We actually are in great shape car-wise and engine-wise, depending on what NASCAR does with the rules. We just need to know what color to paint these cars and what (sponsor) name to put on them.''

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PENSKE TRUCKIN' Kenny Wallace, a younger brother of Penske Racing South driver Rusty Wallace, will be the team's SuperTruck driver in 1996.

The younger Wallace, who also will compete with his brothers Rusty and Mike in NASCAR's Winston Cup series in a FILMAR Racing Ford, will drive 14 SuperTruck events in Roger Penske's Ford F-150.

The busy young man also will take part in a dozen races in NASCAR's Grand National division.

``We expect to be a competitive factor at every race we run this season, whether it's with the Red Dog Grand National Ford Thunderbird in a race at Daytona or in the Red Dog F-150 SuperTruck in a race at Monroe, Wash.''

Don Miller, president and general manager of the Penske team, said, ``Kenny ran a few SuperTruck races at the end of last season, utilizing a truck owned by Earl Barban and with some assistance from our team. That brief introduction really has us excited about our prospects for success during the 1996 season.''

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ELI'S COMING: Eli Gold, who is leaving NASCAR's Motor Racing Network after 20 years to join TNN Motorsports, will be host to the network's first live, weekly call-in motorsports talk program.

The new show, called ``Saturday Night With Eli Gold,'' debuts Saturday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. EST and repeats at 2 a.m. on Feb. 11. The one-hour show will be broadcast live from NASCAR tracks and other locations across the United States, featuring on-set interviews with audience and viewer participation.

Gold will continue to host ``NASCAR Live,'' a weekly, nationally syndicated radio show heard on 290 stations, as well as staying on as the radio voice of University of Alabama football and basketball.

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