2009-07-09 / Sports

Stewart Survives Dramatic Daytona Finish

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Tony Stewart Tony Stewart DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch really set off the fireworks Saturday night at Daytona as Stewart took the checkered flag in the Coke Zero 400 after Kyle Busch slammed into the outside wall, just a few hundred feet from the finish line.

"I don't know what else I could have done," said Stewart. "I went where I had to go and he went where he had to go. I don't like winning them like that, but winning is what racing's all about."

"I made my second move on the outside and got up by his right tire. He went to block me, and I was already there. That's not the way you want to win these things, and I'm sorry for what happened."

Stewart had dominated the first 158 laps of the 160-lap race, and was leading going into lap 159. With drafting help from Denny Hamlin, Busch was able to overtake Stewart on the outside as the pair came off turn four. After taking the white flag, Busch led until the two came off the final turn, and headed toward the finish line.

Busch hugged the yellow line and blocked Stewart's first attempt at a pass with the checkered flag just yards away. Stewart then moved high, and as Busch slid back up to block, contact with Stewart's car turned Busch into the wall and ignited a dramatic multi-car wreck near the finish line.

Busch experienced two more hard hits, first by Kasey Kahne, and then by his teammate Joey Logano. He was unhurt and finished 14th, but left the track after refusing comments.

"We went for it right there at the end," said Busch's crew chief Steve Addington. "This is a product of restrictor-plate racing with these race cars. What are you going to say? I'm not pointing any fingers at Tony. He was trying to win the race, Kyle was trying to block him for the win and we got turned around."

Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth, Juan Montoya, and Elliott Sadler were the remaining top-10 finishing drivers.

Jeff Gordon was a victim of a wreck on lap 77 but was able to continue. Though his car was damaged too severely to contend for the win, he stayed on the lead lap and finished 28th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also involved in the same wreck as Gordon and finished 39th.

Top-20 Chase contenders after 18 of 26: 1. Stewart- 2719, 2. J. Gordon-2539, 3. Johnson-2525, 4. Kurt Busch-2414, 5. Edwards- 2317, 6. Hamlin-2302, 7. Newman- 2235, 8. Kyle Busch-2234, 9. Biffle- 2215, 10. Kenseth-2201, 11. Montoya 2187, 12. Kahne-2166, 13. Martin-2101, 14. Reutimann- 2092, 15. Burton-2061, 16. Bowyer-2031, 17. Vickers-1998, 18. Ambrose-1948, 19. McMurray- 1863, 20. Logano-1847 Jeremy Mayfield a marked man

NASCAR doesn't take it lightly when someone rains on its circus.

And Jeremy Mayfield has done just that. Even though he may not win the war, he has won a major battle against imageconscious NASCAR.

Mayfield is a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver again after U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen granted Mayfield's motion last Wednesday for a preliminary injunction to force the sanctioning body to lift his indefinite suspension for a test that NASCAR says was positive for methamphetamines.

After nearly two hours of testimony by NASCAR and Mayfield attorneys, Mullen found that the harm Mayfield is suffering by not driving is more than the harm to NASCAR to conduct a safe race and that Mayfield has a likelihood of success on the merits of his case.

One of the issues Judge Mullen was concerned about was the limitation on the discretion NASCAR had in determing what violates its Substance Abuse Policy.

At issue, in a way, was NASCAR's power. The Substance Abuse Policy, some would suggest, is over the top, in not having a list of banned substances and that makes it too open-ended. Mayfield's lawyer argued that in theory NASCAR could state that drinking too much Coca-Cola or coffee or orange juice could violate the policy.

NASCAR does not have a list of banned substances like other professional sports leagues.

It will be interesting to see what new rules NASCAR puts in place, and remember, this is just an injunction, there's still a whole court case to settle, so this isn't over.

Mayfield, who must comply with any requests from NASCAR to drug-test him, said that he planned to be racing as soon as he could get a car ready.

He was not in Daytona for this past weekend's race, but you can bet NASCAR has ways of making it hard on him and his team if he continues to try to make future races.

Milwaukee mile closes

The Milwaukee Mile track in West Allis, Wis., closed last week. Whether the country's oldest automobile racing facility lives to see its 107th birthday is in question.

The facility has lost money for the past several years. Texan Claude Napier had no financial backers when he assumed the lease on the track late in 2008.

"It depends totally if I'm able to get some investors," Napier said. "I knew I was going to be short of money."

Napier's organization, Wisconsin Motorsports, owes NASCAR nearly $1.9 million for staging two races in June and owes the Indy Racing League an undisclosed amount for its weekend in May. The organizer of a spectator event in August - the track's final opportunity for a significant payday this season - said this week that he is ready to walk away from his commitment.

NASCAR held Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races at the track in June.

Bowyer gets Daytona Nationwide victory

Top-10 Nationwide leaders after 17 of 35: 1. Kyle Busch-2756, 2. Edwards-2584, 3. Keselowski- 2488, 4. Leffler-2367, 5. Logano- 2200, 6. Allgaier-2006, 7. Bliss- 1986, 8. Gaughan-1956, 9. S. Wallace 1950, 10. Keller-1907

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams are at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The Truck series has the weekend off.

Friday, July 10, Nationwide Series Dollar General 300, race 18 of 35; starting time: 7:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sat., July 11, Sprint Cup Lifelock. com 400, race 19 of 36; starting time: 6:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: TNT.

Racing trivia question: When was the first NASCAR race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

Last week's question: How many Cup championships does Tony Stewart have? Answer. He has two, 2002 and 2005.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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