Bonnett is planning comeback next year


PHOENIX -- When Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace continue their battle for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway, Neil Bonnett will be a member of the TNN team describing the action.

Next season, Bonnett intends to be on the other end of the cameras in at least six races.

The Charlotte Observer learned yesterday that Bonnett is planning a comeback, running a limited schedule of major events including the season-opening Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Bonnett will drive Chevrolets owned by Floridian James Finch. The Grand National crew of Earnhardt, Bonnett's best friend, will pit the cars under the leadership of Tony Eury.

Bonnett, winner of 18 races at NASCAR's top level, was a regular on the circuit until he suffered a head injury in a multicar crash during the TranSouth 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 1990. The injury left him with amnesia for several weeks.

Medical clearance to drive again finally came this summer, and Bonnett drove a Chevrolet in the DieHard 500 at Talladega in a Richard Childress Racing car.

Contact from another car sent him flipping into the front-stretch fence in a horrifying accident.

Some guessed that crash would convince Bonnett to hang up his helmet for good. They guessed wrong.

"The more I'm around the cars, the stronger the urge comes to drive again," he said last weekend at North Carolina Motor Speedway prior to working TNN's telecast of the AC Delco 500. (( "For someone who never has done it, I guess it's hard to understand.

"For me, it's impossible to get the thrill of the competition out of my system."

Bonnett's comeback is to be made official tomorrow at Phoenix International Raceway, where qualifying for the Slick 50 500 begins Friday.

Meanwhile, Buddy Baker, a partner of Bonnett's on the TNN race telecast team, confirmed last week's report that he also has a comeback opportunity.

Baker, who announced his retirement in August, has been offered an 11-race deal for 1994 by Dick Moroso Motorsports of Mooresville.

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