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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By BRANT JAMES, SHAWN A. AKERS
Published February 18, 2005
DAYTONA BEACH - Sebastien Bourdais has a plan. Call it an open-wheel alliance.
The Champ Car driver champion drew the pole for his first-ever IROC race today at Daytona International Speedway's draft-sensitive expanse, and he suspects the stock car boys will stack up alongside him and try to leave him in their wake.
"Everybody on the inside row has pretty much agreed to stay in line and see how it goes for a few laps," Bourdais, who turns 26 on Feb.28, said Thursday.
Bourdais, who will move into a new St. Petersburg home on May 1, has a non-NASCAR contingent of Max Papis (Grand Am), Buddy Rice (Indy Racing League), Scott Pruett (Grand Am) and Danny Lasoski (World of Outlaws) behind him, followed by Mark Martin , a Nextel Cup veteran who told Bourdais he was a big fan during the post draw.
The outside row goes only two deep in NASCAR, former champion Kurt Busch and Martin Truex , before reaching the IRL's Helio Castroneves .
"If we stand together, maybe we have a shot. Sure, why not?" Bourdais said. "There probably will be one who will break away, but not too early. It would be good to stay there awhile."
TIRE RECALL: Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. pulled a significant number of tires from its inventory for Nextel Cup series teams at the speedway.
Stu Grant , general manager of global race tires for Goodyear, said many teams experienced problems with a specific group throughout Speedweeks, prompting the company to send some tires back to its headquarters in Akron, Ohio, to be analyzed Wednesday night.
"There was a slightly lower level of adhesion between the tread and the top fabric ply on the tires that experienced problems," Grant said.
Grant said the problems experienced by the teams weren't specifically caused by the defective tires, but that a "tread delamination" had occurred in a small number of tires within a group of 900.
Grant said the condition of the race car at times - loose or tight - would aggravate the problem.
"It is chassis sensitive and heat sensitive and so on and so forth," Grant said. "But since we do know there is a slightly lower level of adhesion in that grouping, we want to do everything we can to provide the best product we can."
Grant said the company would continue to monitor the situation throughout the weekend. There were no tire issues during Thursday's 150-mile qualifying races.
GRUDEN A RACE FANATIC: Bucs coach Jon Gruden was the honorary starter for the first 150-mile qualifier. Gruden said he has been a longtime race fan and that it was a thrill for him to be at Daytona.
"I love it," Gruden said. "Obviously speed and precision are things that turn me on, and this is incredible. Once you see it live, you can't really help but get excited about it. I just got bit by the bug several years ago and I haven't been able to get over it."
Gruden said he enjoys watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson , but that his favorite is Sterling Marlin , driver of the No.40 Dodge.
SKINNER A CONTENDER: Looking for a darkhorse candidate for Sunday's 500? Mike Skinner might be your man.
Given an opportunity to drive the No.23 Dodge, Skinner almost pulled off a victory in the first qualifier. Had it not been for the teamwork of DEI's Michael Waltrip and Earnhardt, it might very well have been Skinner pulling into Victory Lane.
"Our main goal was just to make the Daytona 500, and we got 'er done," said Skinner, a former qualifying race winner. "We've got a great race car, and I've really got to thank (car owner) Bill Davis for this opportunity. I'm an old man, so I'm excited about this."
A regular in the Craftsman Truck series, Skinner led nine laps Thursday, but was passed on the final lap by Waltrip and Earnhardt. It's the first legitimate chance for Skinner to win the 500 since he drove the No.31 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing.
MARTIN REELING: Mark Martin , who is retiring from the Nextel Cup series after this season, will take his last shot Sunday at winning the 500. After the qualifiers, he isn't optimistic about making it to Victory Lane.
Martin's was one of six cars involved in a multicar wreck on Lap 36 of the second race, and that will put him toward the rear of the field in a backup car Sunday.
"No, we've got no chance to win on Sunday at all unless we get this car fixed," said Martin, who is 0-for-20 in the Daytona 500. "(Crew chief) Pat ( Tryson ) says he's going to fix the car, and we can win coming from the back with that thing. But we can't win with another car."
SPARK PLUGS: Brian Vickers retired 30 laps into the second qualifier with a broken pinion, the same thing that knocked him out of Saturday's Bud Shootout. ... Hermie Sadler 's attempt to qualify for his first 500 ended early when he was taken out on a Lap 4 crash in the first twin race. "It's pretty devastating, obviously," the older brother of Elliott Sadler said. "We put ourselves in a bad spot. Once the race starts you not only have to worry about what you do, but what other people do. Your destiny is in too many people's hands." ... Kerry Earnhardt claimed the pole Thursday night for the season-opening Truck series race. The son of Dale Earnhardt and the half-brother of Dale Jr., did it in his first truck race, with a fast lap of 182.478 mph.