NASCAR vows to come down hard on guilty parties
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR was threatening very heavy penalties Sunday after tempers ran hot during the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said after the race that penalties against several drivers involved in incidents Sunday would be announced by Tuesday, at the latest.
"We're going to do whatever we need to do, whether it's to park a guy for a week or park a guy for nine weeks," Hunter said. "We're going to do whatever we need to do to prevent retaliation on the racetrack, particularly under the caution [flag], because under the caution they're endangering other people.
"There are safety vehicles riding around and they don't have rollcages and all the things these drivers have around them, so we'll do whatever we need to do."
The race was marred by 10 caution flags, many of them brought out by collisions that sent one or more cars into the wall.
On lap 165 of the 300-lap race, rookie Kyle Busch bumped Kasey Kahne, last year's top rookie, sending him hard into the wall. Kahne restarted his battered car and drove it slowly along the bottom of the track until Busch came by in turn one. Kahne then shot up the track, hitting Busch in the left front.
"There are times when things happen and you end up crashing and hitting other cars, but we just got taken out," Kahne said. "If people are going to run over you for no reason and think they're going to get away with it, you just go out there and ruin their day, too. That's the way I feel."
NASCAR parked Kahne for the rest of the day and summoned the driver and team owner Ray Evernham to its hauler following the race.
Joe Nemechek and Mike Bliss collided on lap 191, sending Bliss into the wall on turn one. Seconds later, after the yellow flag was displayed, Michael Waltrip hit Robby Gordon, sending Gordon into the wall and spinning out Sterling Marlin.
Gordon, his car smashed on both ends, waited until Waltrip came past again and tried to back into him, missing Waltrip and nearly hitting points leader Tony Stewart, who had to stop to avoid Gordon. Gordon then got out of his car, waited for Waltrip, feigned as if he was going to walk in front of the No. 15 and threw his helmet at the car, hitting it just below the driver's window.
In a TV interview, Gordon said, "You know, everybody thinks Michael is a good guy. He's not a good guy. The caution was out and he wrecked me."
Gordon then called Waltrip a name, which will likely cost Gordon a fine and points.
Waltrip said he was just defending his position.
"I just stood my ground and he just kept coming and turned himself into the wall," he said.
Told about Gordon's comments, Waltrip said, "Probably just heat of the moment stuff. I've never had a problem with Robby. I don't have any idea what he said or why he said it, but I know I didn't do anything wrong."
Gordon and Waltrip were also brought to the NASCAR hauler following the race.
The last melee left so much debris on the track that NASCAR put out a red flag, stopping the race for 9 minutes while the track was cleaned. That also gave the drivers a chance to cool down and there was only one caution flag the rest of the way.
At the end of Sunday's race, as Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart were battling for the victory, Roush Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle were putting on the same kind of show in a duel for third.
Kenseth, who drove his way into the 10-man Chase for the Nextel Cup after struggling much of the season, held on for third.
"If it would've been any other time in the race, he would have gone right by me," Kenseth said. "But, right there, you've got to race all you can for position. And the way the leaders were going at it, I thought maybe it could've been for the win."
Biffle remained second in the Chase standings heading into next week's race at Dover, Del., trailing Stewart by 20 points. Kenseth moved from a tie for eighth to fifth, 50 points behind Stewart.
"I love the Chase," Biffle said. "It make us drive our butts off out here every week. We were running just as hard as we could run there."
It was a good day for most of the Roush team, which has five of the 10 drivers in the Chase. Mark Martin finished seventh and Carl Edwards 19th. The other Roush driver, reigning champion Kurt Busch, crashed early in the race and wound up 35th.
The crowd, estimated at 101,000, gave the track 22 sellouts in as many Cup races. Among the celebrities on hand Sunday were New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch and U.S. Sen. John Kerry. Newman's victory was his second at NHIS in eight races. He also won in September 2002. The victory was the 57th in NASCAR for team owner Roger Penske, who also owns more than 100 victories in open-wheel racing. Rusty Wallace, who was sixth in the race, has been running at the finish of a series-high 40 consecutive races.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press