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Saturday, February 12, 2005
Gordon's No. 7 Chevy has illegal intake

By Jenna Fryer
Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Robby Gordon's bid to field his own team this year is off to an inauspicious start because of an illegal part NASCAR officials found on his car.

Gordon's No. 7 Chevrolet was fitted with an illegal intake manifold that NASCAR discovered during inspection late Friday night. The part was removed and put on display in the NASCAR hauler, and Gordon was scrambling to get the situation fixed.

His engines are built by Menard Engineering in Indianapolis. The only other manifold the team had at Daytona International Speedway did not fit Gordon's Chevrolet, so they were waiting for Menard to mail them a new one in time for Sunday's qualifying.

Menard builds engines for Indy cars, but this is its first year in NASCAR racing.

"Menard has never competed before at the Nextel Cup level and it's going to take some time for them to get on this level,'' Gordon said Saturday. "The series is so competitive and everybody is looking for an angle, and apparently the manifold supplier didn't give Menard a part that was up to NASCAR's specs.''

The gaffe will likely draw a substantial penalty from NASCAR, which has a precedence of handing out stiff fines and docking points for illegal engine parts at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway.

The money is the least of Gordon's problems right now.

Forced to practice Saturday with a manifold that didn't correctly fit, Gordon was at the bottom of the speed charts and almost a second slower than what the team projected it would be.

"Obviously this puts us in a tough situation,'' Gordon said. "But knowing we didn't have the right pieces today, we'll just wait for tomorrow. When we get the new manifold, we should be better.''

It's critical for Gordon to get his car fast because of new qualifying rules that will have 22 drivers battling for eight starting positions in the Daytona 500. Because Gordon left Richard Childress Racing to form his own team this year, he is starting from scratch with no provisionals that would have guaranteed him a spot in the season-opening field.

So if his car is too slow, he won't make the field unless he wins one of the 150-mile qualifying races. The winners of Thursday's races get an automatic 500 berth. Gordon won one of the races two years ago to get into the field.

"I've done it before,'' he said. "Qualifying and racing are totally different and I think we'll be fine when we get into (racing) mode.''

More bad parts
NASCAR found several illegal parts and pieces during its inspection process, though none were as serious as the one seized from Robby Gordon's car.

NASCAR inspectors confiscated the transmission from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolet because it had the wrong gear ratio. That will likely lead to a monetary fine for the No. 8 team.

Kerry Earnhardt and Mike Skinner both had unapproved window nets, Andy Belmont and Larry Gunselman both had unapproved fire extinguishers and Kyle Busch's car had unapproved spacers.

Jeff Gordon and Robby Gordon were both found to have unapproved under-pans on their cars.

Penalties for violations on Daytona 500 cars are not announced until a few days after the Feb. 20 race.

Not good news for Goodyear
Complaints about tire problems during the first two practice sessions led Goodyear to pull about 300 tires from circulation Saturday.

The tread from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s tire split during the first practice session Friday, and Joe Nemechek had nearly the same thing happen in the second session.

Goodyear engineers lined up all the serial numbers of the tires it had distributed to teams and discovered the ones that had problems came from the same batch. So the company pulled all the tires from that batch as a precaution.

"You hope you don't have these types of things happening,'' said Nemechek, who has one of the fastest cars so far at Daytona. "If you've ever gone and seen how tires are made you'd wonder how in the world they ever last. There are so many variables in them and my hats are off to Goodyear.''

Goodyear said it was investigating why the tread was splitting, and officials stressed to teams that there will not be a tire shortage leading up to the Daytona 500.

Wood Bros. honor fallen marine
The Wood Brothers are honoring a fallen Marine from their hometown of Stuart, Va., with a decal on the No. 21 Ford.

The decal on Ricky Rudd's car honors U.S. Marine Corporal Jonathan W. Bowling, who was killed in Iraq in January.

"Jonathan and his sisters went to school with our kids,'' Eddie Wood said. "We've known the family forever. We were out West testing when they had the funeral so we couldn't go.

"Their whole family has always been very supportive of us, and we wanted to do something to honor Jonathan, so we had the decal made up for Speedweeks.''

Bowling, 23, was killed when insurgents ambushed a Marine convoy.

He joined the Martinsville (Va.) Police Department in 2002, hoping to gain the experience to fulfill his dream of becoming a Virginia state trooper like his father. He was also a volunteer firefighter and an elder at his church.