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Unhappy fans trash the track

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 7, 2002

DAYTONA BEACH -- As it came around for the final lap, the field -- or what remained of it -- was greeted by a shower of trash coming from the stands in Turn 2.

Apparently unhappy with NASCAR's decision not to red flag the race after a three-car accident with three laps to go, fans threw beer cans, programs and the seat cushions they received as part of a ticket promotion. The debris covered the exit of Turn 2 and brought back memories of a NASCAR of long ago.

"I think it's pretty pitiful," Kyle Petty said. "Pay your money, come watch a sporting event. You're a spectator, not a participant. Once they start throwing stuff on the racetrack then they become a participant and they create a danger for drivers and for safety workers. I understand their anger because of the inconsistencies of stopping some races and not others, but it's not my fault. Don't throw stuff at me."

Petty remembers watching his father, Richard Petty, battle Bobby Allison while enduring the same kind of dangers.

"When the King and Bobby used to race back in the 70s and 80s it was nothing to catch a beer can through the windshield. And they were glass," Petty said. "But it's been 30 years. I thought we outgrew that."

JUST A MATTER OF TIME: The big wreck that has become a trademark of restrictor-plate races surfaced again. This time it came on Lap 136 and involved 14 cars.

"It's restrictor-plate racing," Mark Martin said. "The fans love it. Restrictor-plate races are miserable, they really are."

I'D RATHER WALK: Dale Jarrett waited and waited and waited for an ambulance or track worker or somebody to pick him up after his wreck. Finally, he was fed up and started walking back to the garage.

When an ambulance pulled up after he was halfway back to pit road, Jarrett declined the ride.

"I told him it was a good thing I wasn't hurt," Jarrett said. "If they can't get there sooner than that then the hell with them."

NOW, WAS THAT NECESSARY?: In a planned move, NASCAR threw a caution flag on Lap 26 to give teams a chance to fine-tune their cars because they were unable to practice with race setups because of heavy rain Friday.

That flag came despite the fact there were three cautions in the first 18 laps with all the drivers pitting at least once.

THAT'S NOT NICE: The fact Kurt Busch was assessed a one-lap penalty for passing under the second caution flag was bad enough. The fact that everybody at the track has a scanner and can hear drivers' communications was even worse.

After Busch displayed what NASCAR described as unsportsmanlike conduct over his radio, he was brought back in and stopped in his pit. Total penalty: four laps.

He finished 31st, seven laps down.

INJURY REPORT: Johnny Benson fractured two ribs during a crash in Turn 1. He was taken to Halifax Regional Medical Center for further evaluation. ... William Curwood, rear tire changer for Todd Bodine, had his right knee and lower leg X-rayed after an incident in the pits. ... Brett Bodine suffered a bruised chest. ... Joe Nemechek suffered a bruised left foot.

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