Drivers already testing self-policing policy

By Brant James, Times Staff Writer
Published February 9, 2008

DAYTONA BEACH - Drivers Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch put NASCAR's declared new willingness to allow drivers to self-police to its first test in practice Friday for an exhibition race.

Busch may have found the new limit when he retaliated for an apparent wrecking by banging into Stewart's car on pit road after a caution had been issued in the final Bud Shootout practice of the day. Stewart may have found it by blocking Busch's entrance to the garage area as crew men approached, potentially creating a safety issue that could ultimately result in penalties, NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said.

"It's going to be difficult. Professional race drivers need to control their emotions when they're in the race car," Hunter said, "and I think we've shown in the past we are willing to do ... and after (today), we'll see where we are."

Both drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler - fans on a garage observation deck implored Stewart to "get him" - and will return this morning, Hunter said. He added that neither driver felt they were at fault in a meeting with Sprint Cup series director John Darby, and neither spoke with the media. Busch was kept longer.

Stewart appeared to ram and spin Busch's No. 2 Dodge late in practice, sending him into the wall. Busch and Stewart wrecked during the Daytona 500 last year, and Busch was fined $100,000 and docked 100 points for a retaliatory bump of Stewart's car on pit road at Dover as a crew assessed Stewart's damage.

Just six minutes into the eventful session, Clint Bowyer, attempting to move low, tapped Ryan Newman, whose No. 12 Dodge lurched back up the track, colliding with Jimmie Johnson, who was plowed by Jeff Gordon. Bill Elliott was also involved.

Teams bring three cars to the track, with their Shootout car serving as the feature backup. Replacements were being shipped Friday night.

WORKING ON IT: Though Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said talks to reunite his series with the Indy Racing League were not as advanced as reported at Speedtv.com, IRL officials remain confident a deal will eventually be finalized.

IRL chief executive officer Tony George was scheduled to fly to Japan today to discuss the movement of the Motegi race (April 19) to accommodate the absorption of the Champ Car Long Beach Grand Prix.

Adding that race is an apparent dealmaker for Kalkhoven, according to published reports. The settling of contracts and commitments to 14 existing Champ Car venues and how added dates would affect the IRL schedule remains a major issue.

"Gosh, if what I read is true, it sure would be great, wouldn't it?" said NASCAR/IRL team owner Chip Ganassi, whose IRL teams have claimed one IRL and four Champ Car titles. "... I don't think it fixes everything, but I think it goes a long way toward unifying the goals."

One of the goals is finding a way to compete with ever-popular NASCAR for ever-diminishing sponsorship dollars.

As of Friday, IRL officials had heard of no scenario in which the April 6 date of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg would be affected.

TEAM A NO-GO: Zephyrhills' David Reutimann doesn't aspire to team ownership. Not even if it's for cousin, Wayne Jr. Not even in the ARCA series, where expenses can still quickly overrun the budget of a second-year Sprint Cup driver.

Reutimann had planned to field a car for his cousin, a successful Silver Crown driver, for today's ARCA race before withdrawing to focus on later dates.

"We knew we only had a certain amount of races to make an impact on the ARCA side," Reutimann said, "and knew I wasn't going to be able to come down here and do that the way were going to do it."

NHRA: Former Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Antron Brown raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead (4.495 seconds at 330.07 mph) in the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif. Scott Kalitta and Greg Anderson remained the qualifying leaders in their respective categories.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.