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R. Gordon: Indy's time fine as is

BRANT JAMES
Published May 30, 2004

CONCORD, N.C. - If the Indy Racing League wants to enhance its product, Robby Gordon said, it should embrace NASCAR. So moving back the Indianapolis 500's traditional start time to 1:30 p.m. to compete with the late afternoon Coca-Cola 600 is a bad idea, he said.

"I think it would be a mistake on the IRL's side because then Tony Stewart or myself would never be able to come over to compete," said Gordon, who will race in both events today.

"TV is the one who is pushing the issue because of ratings.

"It would help ratings, (but) if they had drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr., their rating would probably go up as well."

DAY AND NIGHT: Drivers are thoroughly disgruntled with NASCAR's decision to conduct Saturday's practice sessions for today's Coca-Cola 600 during the morning.

Because the race begins at 5:40 p.m. and will run predominantly at night, the information gathered regarding setups and engine strategies was virtually useless. Track temperature changes conditions considerably. Drivers used Saturday's practice to run three or four laps and check for leaks and vibrations.

"The practices are absolutely ridiculous," Jeff Gordon said.

"We race at night for the All-Star event but we practice during the day. We're racing late in the day on Sunday, and we're practicing in the morning on Saturday.

"I definitely am in favor of trying to have practice sessions - especially for the races - at a much closer time to when we're going to race."

Earnhardt, who ran four laps total in both practices, had the top time in each session, his best 182.704 in Happy Hour.

Ward Burton's team had suggested it would not take the No. 0 Chevrolet out of the garage bay Saturday because Burton was attending his daughter's graduation.

Instead, they put Jason Leffler in the car and blew a motor three laps in, sending the No. 0, slated to start 17th, to the back of the pack.

BAD BOY: Stewart apparently won again. The temperamental former driver champion has gotten away with some normally penalized language, made lewd gestures at Rusty Wallace and had several on-track bumping incidents without NASCAR sanction. Saturday he ran in the Busch race in a car owned by Cup driver Kevin Harvick and sponsored by recording artist Kid Rock. The car hood bore an image of Kid Rock's bare back with a tattoo containing the words "American Bad A--." NASCAR officials taped over the logo on the rear deck lid on Friday (Stewart pulled it off) but allowed the hood logo to go uncensored.

GONE BACK: Rookie Brendan Gaughan, who qualified seventh, lost control during his second lap of the second practice session and crunched in the rear of his No. 77 Dodge, forcing him to use a backup car and start today's race at the back of the field.

SPARK PLUGS: According to a report in Saturday's Winston-Salem Journal, NASCAR is considering a move to change to unleaded fuel and aluminum engine blocks. The fuel alteration would be necessary for NASCAR to race in Canada, where leaded gasoline is banned. League officials are exploring the possibility of a truck race in Canada and a Busch series race in Mexico City.

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