Wreck Mars Practice for Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A seven-car wreck during Tuesday’s practice for the Daytona 500 was a vivid example of how things happen in a hurry at Daytona International Speedway.
The melee was ignited when Brett Bodine’s Ford bounced off the wall on the backstretch of the 2 1/2-mile oval. Several other cars braked or swerved to avoid Bodine. Before it was over, Tony Stewart, Bobby Hamilton, Jeff Burton, Ricky Rudd, Jimmy Spencer and Todd Bodine became entangled in the mess.
Hamilton, the only driver who will have to switch to a backup vehicle for Thursday’s twin 125-mile qualifying races because of damage to his primary car, said, ``Nobody got hurt out there, we just tore some stuff up.
``It’s not a big deal. We ran sixth or seventh in the July race. All of Andy Petree’s stuff is equal, so we’ll be in pretty good shape.″
Burton’s Ford was also pretty badly torn up, but the Roush Racing team decided to repair it.
``It happens every year,″ Burton said. ``The only way to find out what your car will do and how you’re running is to get in big packs, and any time we get in big packs and anything at all happens, it just takes out a lot of cars.
``It looked like the 11 (Brett Bodine) picked up a really bad push or something and got in the wall, then got in the 55 car (Hamilton). Everybody was just trying to miss the wreck at that point.″
Burton also spun his No. 99 earlier in the day without any damage.
``I got tapped from the back and got spun around. Then the second one they wrecked in front of me and I got hit from the back and got in the wreck.
``Yesterday, somebody ran Kurt Busch into the wall and Jeff Gordon and I almost got in that wreck. So I’ve seen three wrecks this week and been in two of them.″
SPOILER CUT: The results were mixed as Fords finally got a chance to see how well their cars would work with the quarter-inch spoiler reductions given to them Sunday night by NASCAR.
``It definitely let us draft better then we did before the change,″ said Rudd, one of the beneficiaries of NASCAR’s cutting the Taurus spoilers to 6 inches. ``This car seems like it’s going to keep up well, but we’re still working on it.
``I saw some of the Fords today were finally able to come from the back of the pack to the front, so it was definitely a step in the right direction.″
Chad Knaus, crew chief for pole-winning Chevrolet of rookie Jimmie Johnson said, ``The Fords were sliding all over the track today, especially when they ran into one another.
``They were sliding a little bit and I hope that continues. I hope they keep cutting the spoiler off so they get out there in the middle of the pack and they start getting so loose they can’t drive it. That’s going to happen, I bet 25 laps into the race when they don’t have any rear downforce, I bet they’re going to be wishing for that quarter-inch back.″
Dale Jarrett, Rudd’s Robert Yates Racing teammate and one of the race favorites even before the rule change, said he isn’t concerned that the Chevy and Pontiac teams are complaining about Ford getting the rule change.
``I don’t really care,″ the three-time Daytona 500 winner said. ``They’ve been talking the whole time, so I don’t really care. Who ought to be howling is the Dodges because, if you look at numbers, they need help with their spoiler.
``That would be fair to everybody and leave it up to you to figure out how to get your car around the race track as fast as you can.″
Dodge returned to Winston Cup racing with the Intrepid in 2001 after a 16-year absence. The new car was based on Ford templates, and most observers believe the two makes are nearly identical.
Despite that, NASCAR has now given Ford two quarter-inch spoiler reductions in the past month, while the Dodges remain at 6 1/2 inches.
The Chevrolets, which most people believe have at least a slight advantage, are using a 6 1/4-inch rear spoiler, while both the Pontiacs are also at 6 1/2.
``I think Chevrolet, because we have the better drivers and the better teams, are going to be good and have a couple of drivers in the Top 10,″ Knaus said. ``But the race winners are probably going to be your Pontiacs or your Fords.
``All you have to do is look at the speeds and look at the way the cars draft out there and how fast they moved through the pack and you can see who’s going to win the race. It’s either going to be the orange No. 20 or the brown No. 88,″ he added, referring to Tony Stewart’s Pontiac and Jarrett’s Ford.
COOL CAT: Richard Petty and Paws Inc., the corporation that handles Jim Davis’ Garfield series of newspaper comic strips and television cartoons, announced a two-year licensing agreement.
Petty Enterprises and Paws Inc. will collaborate in a series of souvenir merchandise, specialty cars, events and promotions. Much of the proceeds will go to the Victory Junction Camp for chronically ill children, and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride.
``We’ve been in the movies, on television and in the newspapers, but this is the first time we’ve got in the funny papers,″ Petty said, grinning.