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Rule change irks non-GM camps

©Associated Press
August 18, 2002

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- When NASCAR decided to give aerodynamic aid to Chevrolets and Pontiacs, the sanctioning body promised to re-evaluate the decision after today's Pepsi 400.

But some are complaining about the sanctioning body's decision last weekend to allow the GM teams to move their front-air dams forward for the race at Michigan International Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led a Chevrolet sweep of the top five in qualifying, posting 189.668 mph Friday and raising the ire of Dodge and Ford camps.

"We clearly don't have a level playing field for all manufacturers," said Jim Julow, vice president of Dodge Motorsports. "But we've showed that we know how to run on the flat tracks this season and proved we know how to win at Michigan, so we'll just have to work twice as hard."

The Chevys were permitted to move the dams below the front bumpers forward an inch. Pontiacs got a half-inch, and Bobby Labonte qualified 11th in the fastest Grand Prix.

Bill Elliott, driving the No. 9 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports, has won two of the past three races. He qualified sixth, the first non-Chevy in the field, and teammate Jeremy Mayfield, in No. 19, seventh.

Kevin Harvick starts second, followed by Earnhardt's teammates, Michael Waltrip and Steve Park. Robby Gordon, Harvick's teammate, starts from fifth in the 43-car field.

None noticed much of a difference in qualifying. Waltrip started second and finished fourth here in June. Earnhardt was third on the grid for that race.

"We've qualified great here every time, so I don't think it's had a huge effect on us," Earnhardt said. "Sunday is going to be a different day."

Practice speeds Saturday seemed to validate Earnhardt's argument. Ryan Newman ran the fastest overall lap in a Ford, and Tony Stewart's Pontiac led the second of two sessions. Earnhardt was 10th in the final practice and Waltrip eighth.

In 22 races, Chevrolet has five victories, including two by rookie Jimmie Johnson. His teammate, Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon, is fifth in the standings despite a 30-race losing streak.

Does he need help? Perhaps, but Jack Roush, who fields four Fords, is not sure one of his cars would get the same assistance from NASCAR.

"It looks like NASCAR is really quick to look at any situation where it looks like a Chevrolet can't win and fix it," he said.

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