Thursday, February 5, 2009
All drivers clear first round of drug tests
By David Newton
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- All drivers in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Nationwide Truck Series passed the first round of drug testing under NASCAR's new policy, officials said on Thursday, but that wasn't the case for crew members.
Kevin Harvick said two pit crew members for his Truck Series team were released after failed tests and he expects there are others throughout all three series.
"There's definitely more out there,'' Harvick said during media day at Daytona International Speedway. "There's a lot of people that are looking for jobs right now that are straight-up people. It couldn't have come at a better time.''
NASCAR implemented a policy that calls for mandatory preseason testing for all drivers and crew members and random testing throughout the season by an independent laboratory after former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike admitted last season he competed under the influence of heroin.
The tests are focused on narcotics, beta blockers and steroids. Random testing will be done at the track almost every race weekend, beginning at Daytona next week.
Anywhere from 12 to 14 crew members and two drivers per series will be tested each weekend. A failed test by a driver will be made public, but not those by crew members. Three failed tests will result in an automatic lifetime ban.
In the past, testing was done only on "reasonable suspicion.''
Harvick, who instituted stricter testing at KHI before NASCAR, said he was pleased with the results of the Sprint Cup operation at Richard Childress Racing, where he drives the No. 29.
"I wasn't pleased with a couple of tests we got from our team at KHI,'' he said. "We had a couple of people that didn't do so good, but that's what it's for.''
Harvick said members of the team not on the KHI pit crew are given one chance after a failed test.
"The pit crew guys have known this stuff was coming,'' he said. "I don't have any tolerance for that stuff.''
Overall, Harvick said the policy is doing what it is supposed to.
"On the outside looking in it's cleaned a lot of things up,'' he said. "Nobody has to ask those questions anymore. Everybody knows the drivers are taking those drug tests and the guys jumping over the wall are clean and legitimate people . . . and you don't have to worry about some squirrel out there that can ruin it for everybody.''
NASCAR chairman Brian France agreed.
"We did not do that because we thought we had a big problem,'' he said of the policy. "We did that to make sure we were doing everything we could to have a thorough policy.''
For many drivers this was the first time they have been tested.
"It's kind of odd to go into a room with another man and have him watch you pee in a cup,'' three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said.
But Johnson agreed that NASCAR was right to be pro-active.
"We need to separate ourselves from other sports,'' he said. "We need to be on top of this stuff, especially with the issues that have popped up through the years with the illegal drugs. We absolutely need a policy and I'm glad it's in place.''
So is Michael Waltrip, the driver/owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, who jokingly said he made a 98 on the test.
"I love the fact that NASCAR stepped up and said that's what we have to do,'' he said. "Everybody needs to be held accountable. Racecar drivers are independent contractors. That in itself says I'm independent. The truth is, whether it's me or some kid starting up, a lot of people's livelihoods depend on what you do and how you act.''
Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, said the policy should have been implemented a long time ago.
"I don't think there's really anything going on we needed to catch, and yet it's a comforting feeling when you're out there going 200 mph knowing everybody is in the same shape that you are,'' he said.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.