Notes: No injuries, some arrrests at Talledga
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Talladega Superspeedway officials said no injuries were reported from the postrace beer-can barrage. Less than 10 people were detained, but hundreds of cans littered the track.
NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter and Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch released statements three hours after the Aaron's 499, which Jeff Gordon won to earn his 77th career victory and pass Dale Earnhardt on the all-time list.
"We warned our fans about throwing debris on the racetrack and the consequences of such actions," Lynch said in the statement. "Additional security was brought in for the grandstands. We had a plan in place.
"I was in the grandstands at the conclusion of the race, and as promised, we enforced our policies and took appropriate action on individuals we were able to accurately identify."
"We aren't going to let less than one percent of out fans spoil a record-setting weekend," Lynch added in the statement.
Hunter's statement echoed Lynch's comments.
"It's very unfortunate a few unruly fans can ruin things for a lot of people," Hunter said in the statement. "The track put a lot of effort into preventing this type of behavior. Our fans are passionate, but this type of behavior doesn't represent the majority of our fans."
Rick Hendrick, Gordon's team owner, was appalled at the actions of the fans.
"You would hate to see somebody get hurt," he said. "People in the front row could get hit in the back of the head with beer cans. I don't know what you do to stop it. Maybe not letting them bring cans in the stands and have them drink out of paper cups."
Take a wild guess which driver benefited the most from a debris caution Sunday?
None other than Tony Stewart, the man who said some debris cautions were bogus five days earlier.
Stewart was a lap down after NASCAR gave him a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road early in the race. Stewart admitted he was guilty.
But he got his lap back on the first caution of the day when debris was visible in Turn 1.
"There's just no talent there I guess," Stewart said of Gilliland. "The guy lucked into his Cup ride."
-- Terry Blount
Cool it, Smoke
Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs was surprised that driver Stewart compared NASCAR with professional wrestling, and added that the JGR brass will "have a good, long conversation with him."
"He knows where we are -- he impacts Joe Gibbs Racing, Home Depot [and] this sport more than he realizes at times," Gibbs said. "We have 420 families at Joe Gibbs Racing that we need to be healthy. Us being healthy is part of him conducting himself in the right way."
Gibbs said sponsor Home Depot was understanding, and that "the reality is we've been through some hard times with them -- a lot harder than this."
NASCAR fined Stewart $10,000 and placed him on probation for the remainder of the year for failing to fulfill postrace media obligations last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Stewart was not penalized for comments he made during his satellite radio show Tuesday, during which he questioned the validity of debris caution periods and compared the sport to choreographed professional wrestling.
"I appreciate the way Jim [Hunter, NASCAR vice president for communications], after that race, said 'Hey, we understand Tony. He has a temper. We understand his personality,' " Gibbs said. "Then to have Tony come out after that and say that [about the sport], I felt bad for NASCAR.
"This is a sport we've been a part of for 16 years and want to be a part of for 100 more. That's not good for any of us. I was surprised."
"We love the fact that you don't have to guess what he's thinking," Gibbs said. "But sometimes we want to guess."
Stewart was making a run for the victory in Sunday's Aaron's 499 before he crashed as the caution flag that ended the race flew. His unofficial finish was 28th.
-- Marty Smith
Getting wrecked by your teammate and best friend was the last thing Casey Mears expected on a day when he was enjoying his best race of the season.
Mears had a chance at his first top-10 finish of the year before Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson tapped him from behind and caused Mears to wreck with 63 laps to go.
Mears was about to go down pit road when Johnson's bump caused Mears to spin and make vicious contact with the inside retaining wall. Johnson and his crew didn't know Mears was pitting.
"I didn't see him wave," Johnson told crew chief Chad Knaus on the radio. "I'm so sorry I dumped those guys."
"They never told me a thing," Knaus said. "I would have told you."
Mears didn't understand the communication mix-up.
"I thought we all were coming in," he said. "That's what I was told. I was waving and I thought it was clear I was coming in.
"I can't believe it went down like that. I know Jimmie didn't mean to do it. He's my best friend in the world. But now I have to qualify to get in the show at Richmond."
Mears was wrong about that. His No. 25 Chevy ranks 35th in the owners' points, the final guaranteed spot for Cup events.
NASCAR president Mike Helton issued a warning during the drivers' meeting Sunday morning. Helton said penalties would come from aggressive bump-drafting.
"We won't stand here and say you can't touch each other," Helton said. "That's not NASCAR racing. The only thing we can do is say is be conscious about it. If it gets out of hand, we're not going to argue about it or debate it; we're just going to do it."
The warning must have worked. No one was penalized for rough bump-drafting in Sunday's race.
That streak ended Sunday for all three men. Martin, who is running a partial schedule this season, did not come to the Talladega race. Waltrip and Schrader failed to qualify for the Aaron's 499.
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