By KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 3, 2001
With NASCAR returning to Daytona International Speedway this week for the first time since Dale Earnhardt's death, the city's police department will operate under the usual procedure.
"We have no changes to policy as a result of last February's fatal crash at the speedway," Daytona Beach police spokesman Sgt. Al Tolley said Monday.
The department has been criticized for the handling of its investigation into Earnhardt's death on Feb. 18 in a crash during the Daytona 500.
Det. Robert Walker, who was assigned to the case, said in March a supervisor ordered him on the night of the crash not to attend the autopsy or inspect the car and that NASCAR never told him about the broken seat belt later blamed for Earnhardt's fatal head injury.
Walker has since been pulled off the ongoing investigation.
"Right now, we're just continuing to gather any information," Tolley said. "Sometimes it stalls for a couple of days. We don't do anything or hear anything. We're in no big rush to close it right now."
Meanwhile, Orange County firefighter Tommy Propst, one of the first rescuers to reach Earnhardt's crashed car on Feb. 18, will not work the Pepsi 400 on Saturday.
Propst told the Orlando Sentinel in April that he struggled to pull open the seat belt buckle before finally releasing it. That contradicted NASCAR's announcement five days after the crash that the left lap belt separated.
LOOK OUT BELOW: As long as Buddy Lazier keeps winning and Sam Hornish Jr. doesn't, the Indy Racing League standings will be worth watching.
The defending IRL champion is within 50 points of Hornish after leading 224 of 250 laps in winning Saturday's SunTrust 250 at Richmond International Raceway. Last year, Lazier took the points lead in July.
"This team is really picking up a lot of momentum as the dog days of the championship and of the summer roll in," said Lazier, who has won two straight races.
Hornish, who won the first two races of the season, has finished out of the top four just once.
"Somebody other than Buddy's got to win," he said. "He's getting too close there."
ONE TO GO: He isn't big on records, but Michael Schumacher is close to tying one of the most significant ones in Formula One.
The three-time world champion got his 50th career win in Sunday's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, and is one away from Alain Prost's mark for most wins. "Obviously I'm very delighted having now achieved win No. 50, but people seem to misunderstand my feeling about these statistics," Schumacher said. "I always said they were second priority, but they do mean something to me."
Schumacher's sixth win of the season extended his lead in the standings to 31 over McLaren's David Coulthard, who was assessed a costly stop-and-go penalty for speeding on pit road and finished fourth.
IRL SCHEDULE: The series confirmed Saturday it will replace CART at Michigan International Speedway and Nazareth Speedway next season.
The tracks make up two of 14 events scheduled for the series' seventh season. The April 21 event at Nazareth will be the last race before the Indianapolis 500 on May 26, and the inaugural race at Michigan is scheduled July 28. The season begins March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has hosted IRL races the past three seasons, was not included on the schedule.
ODDS AND ENDS: CART team owner Chip Ganassi has guaranteed Memo Gidley a start July 15 in Toronto. Gidley finished second and led 57 of 100 laps at Cleveland in his second race since joining Ganassi's team on a race-to-race basis. ... Kenny Wallace and Eel River Racing parted ways. Mike Bliss reportedly will drive the No. 27 Pontiac in the Pepsi 400.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.