Penske defends moving points

By Brant James, Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008

DAYTONA BEACH - Team owner Roger Penske isn't much of a blogger, but if he was, he would have an Re: for the cyberthrong that blames him for two-time Daytona 500 winners Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott getting squeezed out of Sunday's race.

Forget that former Indy Racing League champion and Sprint Cup rookie Sam Hornish switched owner points with teammate Kurt Busch to assure entry in the first five races of the season as a member of the top 35 in final 2007 points, Penske said. Hornish's performance in his 150-mile qualifying race would have earned him entry anyway.

Indeed, Hornish's ninth-place finish would have made him the second best of the non-top 35 in his heat, advancing him to his first Daytona 500 on Sunday.

"A couple of years ago (Michael) Waltrip bought the (No. 77 Dodge) points so they could get in the race, so this is nothing new," Penske said, referring to a 2006 transaction. "And quite honestly, Sam made the race on his own anyhow ...so it's not a point for me to be even concerned about."

BUYING TIME: While Indy Racing League owners Penske and Chip Ganassi expressed enough interest in a reunified national open-wheel series to support the purchase of equipment for Champ Car teams that would join the Indy Racing League, counterpart A.J. Foyt is opposed.

"I would throw a damned fit," said Foyt, the godfather of IRL chief executive officer Tony George, "and would want to damned near pack up my bags if that was all true. And I think a lot of people that have been loyal to them would do the same thing because it just wouldn't be right for people who had to buy and spend a lot of money."

Penske, however, so supports the idea he said he would provide incoming teams "an extra car or pieces in order to get them going."

TECH WORRIES: NASCAR inspectors found technical violations before qualifying in the Nationwide Series in two high-profile teams.

Inspectors impounded Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No.5 car Thursday after noticing an illegal modification to his rear spoiler. The team got its car back - minus the spoiler and rear deck lid - Friday morning.

Officials also confiscated the carburetor from the No.99 car of Zephyrhills' David Reutimann, who drives for Michael Waltrip Racing. The carburetor's venturis were too large, allowing more air to pass through, potentially boosting horsepower.

Five other cars were deemed illegal and their times disallowed: Cale Gale, Johnny Sauter, David Gilliland, David Stremme and Kertus Davis.

Tony Stewart earned the pole for today's Camping World 300 at 180.937 mph in a Toyota.

SPARK PLUGS: Reed Sorenson, who drives for Ganassi, led the afternoon Sprint Cup practice at 190.351 mph. Earnhardt Jr., winner of the Bud Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying race, was second-best (189.825).

Times wires contributed to this report.


Nationwide Series

Camping World 300, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach.