Rain pushes back practice, qualifying

Updated: August 6, 2005, 3:11 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rain washed out all track activity Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, disrupting race preparations for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Saturday is now a full day, with two early-morning practices followed by an afternoon qualifying session, which is scheduled to start at 4:10 p.m. ET. NASCAR will then impound the cars and not allow them to be worked on before Sunday's race.

Few drivers seemed bothered by the change.

"We're going to get plenty of practice in tomorrow, so it's fine," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. "So all it does is give us plenty of rest."

Asked what he did to pass his time all day Friday, Earnhardt didn't hesitate: "EA Sports came out with NCAA 2006," he said, adding that he played the football video game all day.

But he and the 52 other drivers trying to make the field could have used the track time on the famed 2.5-mile oval. The track has been repaved since the last time NASCAR raced here, and many teams used one of their allotted test sessions here last month to feel out the surface.

Still feuding
The feud between Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth has still not been resolved three weeks after their accident in New Hampshire.

McMurray believes Kenseth intentionally wrecked him during the race July 17, and refused to call him back when Kenseth phoned the next day to discuss it. McMurray said he hoped to clear the air between the two of them this weekend.

"It's gotten out of hand," he said. "I need to go find Matt this weekend. Maybe tonight will be the night to go and discuss it with him and get it all worked out. It doesn't do any good to let it go on."

McMurray took partial blame for the situation lasting this long, saying it would be over if he had talked to Kenseth the first time. The two are scheduled to be teammates in 2007 when McMurray leaves Chip Ganassi Racing to drive for Roush Racing, so McMurray said he wants to move on.

"Matt in my opinion is one of the best drivers in our sport," he said. "I grew up racing late models against him and he was always good at everything he did. He would be a very valuable teammate.

"I certainly don't want to have any problems."

Ford driver search
Ford Motor Co. has launched a driver development program aimed at finding the next Danica Patrick.

Since Patrick's impressive showing here in the Indianapolis 500 in May, the push has been on in all forms of motorsports to find a promising female driver. Dodge has Erin Crocker, Richard Childress Racing has Sarah Fisher and Allison Duncan, and the Champ Car series is grooming Katherine Legge.

Not wanting to be left out, Ford has teamed with sponsor Clorox and racing team ST Motorsports to start a program. Ford plans to work with 16-year-old Canadian Alison MacLeod and Destiney Hays of California.

"It is Ford's intent that when the first women wins a NASCAR Nextel Cup race and drives into Victory Lane, she will be driving a Ford," said Dan Davis, director of Ford Racing Technology.

The women will be working with chassis builder and USAC team owner Bob East. Two weeks ago, MacLeod scored her first career victory in the USAC Ford Focus Midget series.

Ford has had young talent under contract before, only to see some drivers move on and achieve most of their success elsewhere. Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne all started with Ford, and Crocker once had a development deal with them.

Patrick even received support from Ford earlier in her career.

These days, Ford is working with Busch Series driver Michel Jourdain Jr. and Bobby East, scheduled to make his NASCAR debut Friday evening at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the Craftsman Truck Series race.

Mr. Indiana
The pressure is always on Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman when they race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They grew up in Indiana, and the track is considered their home turf.

Only Gordon has been successful here, with four Brickyard wins.

Stewart desperately wants one, and Newman would like one as well. Only he's just a little tired talking about it.

"Everybody thinks because you're home, it's supposed to be something special," he said. "I look at it as a coincidence that I was born and raised in Indiana."

Newman, who was born in South Bend and has an engineering degree from Purdue, also took a jab at Gordon's Hoosier roots. Gordon was actually born in California and his family moved to Indiana when he was a child so he could pursue a racing career.

"Gordon is not a Hoosier," Newman said. "He's just not proud of being from San Francisco."

Over the hill
Jimmie Johnson's trailer was decorated with a bouquet of balloons Friday and his crew members spent the day snacking on a cupcakes and cake all in celebration of crew chief Chad Knaus' 34th birthday.

Still one of the youngest crew chiefs in the business, Knaus wasn't feeling it: He got his first job in NASCAR when he was 19.

"I remember coming into the series and being the good young prospect," he said. "Now I've gone through that phase and it's weird to see all the new young guys coming up. But the sport is a lot better now and I've seen a lot of change in the 15 years I've been here."

Considered one of the top crew chiefs in the business, Knaus has directed Johnson to 16 career victories in three-plus seasons, and the duo has sat on top of the points standings for much of the past two years.

But Knaus admitted he's not sure how long he'll be in this role.

"I want to be done as a crew chief by the time I am 40, or 42," he said. "You never know what is going to happen. Maybe I will go into management or ownership or maybe I will go to the beach. I might take all my life savings to Tahiti and be a scuba instructor."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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