Sunday, February 11, 2007
Kenseth, Kahne fail inspections, face penalties
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne failed
inspection after qualifying Sunday for the Daytona 500, and their
teams could face harsh penalties before NASCAR's season opener.
Their qualifying times were disallowed after inspectors
discovered illegal modifications in each car. NASCAR said Kenseth's
Ford had illegal holes in the wheel well and Kahne's Dodge also had
illegal holes in an unspecified location. The holes may have
improved the aerodynamics of their cars.
It's the second consecutive year NASCAR discovered violations
following pole qualifying. Last year, crew chief Chad Knaus was
thrown out of the race after Jimmie Johnson's car failed
inspection. Knaus was suspended four races. Johnson rebounded to
win the Daytona 500 the following week and they eventually reunited
and won the Nextel Cup championship.
"We are committed to try to stop all the games being played,"
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "Obviously, the parties involved
are going to have to tell the story however they want to tell it.
But NASCAR is charged with maintaining the integrity in that garage
area and we're going to do whatever we need to do to do it."
Hunter said NASCAR officials were planning to discuss the
situation Sunday night, and that penalties could be expected Monday
Michael Waltrip's car also was impounded after inspectors found
a questionable substance inside the intake manifold. Waltrip was
allowed to replace the manifold and qualify, but then the car was
taken so NASCAR could go through it with "a fine tooth comb."
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion and last year's runner-up, and
Kahne, who finished eighth last season, will be allowed in the
qualifying races Thursday. But they will have to start from the
back of the pack in the second 150-mile race.
"I am surprised, but at the same token, our inspection process
gets better every year," Hunter said.
STERLING STREAK: Sterling Marlin's streak of consecutive starts
in the Daytona 500 will continue.
Marlin, a two-time winner of the Great American Race, earned a
starting spot in the Feb. 18 opener by posting one of the fastest
laps in pole qualifying Sunday.
"What a relief," said Marlin, who extended his streak to 26
consecutive Daytona 500 starts. "That's a huge relief for this
team and a lot of weight taken off of our shoulders."
The top 35 drivers from 2006 are assured spots in the 500, and
their starting positions will be determined by a pair of qualifying
races next week.
Marlin finished outside the top 35 and either had to have one of
the top three qualifying times Sunday or race his way in Thursday --
a risky proposition considering 22 drivers will be vying for four
open positions in the 43-car field.
Marlin was glad to get it out of the way sooner rather than
"We would've had another shot to make the race, but now that
we're locked in, we can focus on getting a top starting spot for
the 500," Marlin said. "We've been fast since we unloaded and we
were happy with the way our Waste Management Chevy drove in the
pack during testing. I love this race track and I'm glad I can stop
worrying about making the show and start focusing on winning it."
Marlin won NASCAR's biggest race in 1994 and 1995, becoming the
third driver to post consecutive Daytona 500 victories. The other
two were Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.
C'MON OVER: If Michael Schumacher wants a ride in NASCAR, Ray
Evernham has one waiting for him.
Evernham, who works with German company DaimlerChrysler, has
issued an open invitation to the seven-time Formula One champion to
give stock car racing a try.
The German driver retired from racing red Ferraris after the
2006 season. Asked recently about Juan Pablo Montoya leaving F1 to
drive in NASCAR, Schumacher told The New York Times: "Personally,
I wouldn't do it. What do you do in NASCAR? What is exciting there?
I can't see that, running around on ovals."
But Evernham would like him to reconsider.
"I'll put him in a red car, a real good car, any time he wants
to come over here and try it," he said. "A lot has changed in
recent years. These cars are looked on as much more sophisticated
than they used to be. I think he'd find them technical enough to
keep him happy."
SMALLER FUEL CELLS: NASCAR announced Sunday it will use
13-gallon fuel tanks in the Nextel Cup and Busch races at Las Vegas
Motor Speedway in early March, hoping to offset increased speeds by
forcing teams to change tires more frequently.
Banking was increased from 12 to 20 degrees and the track was
repaved, causing speeds to rise during a recent test session. If
cars raced with the typical 18-gallon fuel tank, tire wear might be
a problem and could pose safety concerns.
NASCAR hopes the change will reduce that risk.
But not everyone was convinced that would correct the real
"I'm glad that they're going to do something to make it safer
for drivers," car owner Ray Evernham said. "I just wish there
were a better way to figure out what the actual problems were so
that we didn't have to have a knee-jerk reaction with the car to
take care of an inadequate tire situation."