NASCAR lays down law on Harvick | NevadaAppeal.com

NASCAR lays down law on Harvick

Motorsports Column for April 21, 2002

The big news this week is NASCAR’s “parking” of Kevin Harvick at Martinsville last Sunday.

It is the first time in the history of NASCAR that such an action has been taken, and I for one applaud it. For once, NASCAR made a clear-cut case, with plenty of warning, and stuck to its program. Hopefully, this signals a halt to the escalation of questionable driving tactics and on-track tantrums.

Harvick, already on probation for misbehavior in the Bristol Busch series race, was heard on the radio saying that he was going to “get” Coy Gibbs in the Martinsville Craftsman Truck race, and proceeded to do so, blatantly and obviously. NASCAR, which up until now had emulated a WWF referee, decided that the time had come to make an example. It had previously been announced that Harvick’s probation applied to all NASCAR series, so his actions led to his absence from the Martinsville Winston Cup race, a $35,000 fine, and extension of his probation through the end of the calendar year, not just the season.

Any further violations could result in an “indefinite suspension,” according to NASCAR. I guess this means he’d better behave

himself at the Winston Cup banquet as well!

I’ve watched Harvick’s ascension to the top level of the sport, from the time he was in Winston West a few years back. He’s an extremely talented young driver, who has found himself in a top Winston Cup ride early in his career, and I’m afraid it’s gone to his head. Kevin, you may be driving his car, but you ain’t Dale Earnhardt yet.

Expect Richard Childress to sit young Harvick down and explain the facts of life in the Big Leagues to him in no uncertain terms. However, Childress was critical of NASCAR’s decision in applying the probation to all racing series. “The decision to ‘park’ (Harvick) during the Winston Cup race is wrong,” said Childress. “NASCAR should keep the actions and punishments separate to each series.”

It was a weekend for disciplinary action in the CART series as well. Long Beach Grand Prix winner Michael Andretti was fined $20,000 after his Honda/Reynard failed technical inspection. The car failed to meet the minimum height requirement in post-race inspection, resulting in the fine. However, the win will stand and championship points for both driver and team will not be affected.

The Petty team contributed to racing safety by releasing loose cannon Buckshot Jones, effective immediately. Former Busch Champion Steve Grissom will take over the wheel of the No. 44 Dodge for the rest of the season, starting with today’s Talladega race. Grissom had most recently raced the team’s Craftsman Truck entry, and has been doing a lot of the testing work for the Petty Enterprises. In fact, Grissom has more laps in Petty Dodges

than either Kyle Petty or John Andretti, the team’s other driver.

This weekend’s IRL race at Nazareth will see some changes in the driver lineup. Sarah Fisher, recently released by Walker Racing, will replace the injured Robby Buhl in the No. 24 Infiniti-powered Dreyer & Reinbold Gforce. And Eliseo Salazar is out due to injuries received in a testing crash at Indianapolis. No word at this writing on a replacement, although Greg Ray and Donny Beechler are being considered for the ride.

NASCAR has lost one of its original competitors. Buck Baker, 83, who finished 11th in the first NASCAR-sanctioned race at Charlotte Fairgrounds in 1949 driving a Kaiser, went on to win two NASCAR championships in 1956 and 1957.

He is the father of racer, announcer, and driving coach Buddy Baker.

Congratulations to John Force on his milestone 100th Nationals victory at the O’Reilly Spring Nationals last weekend. Force, one of the top Funny Car drivers of all time, is also one of the best spokesmen in the sport, with a mouth that runs almost as fast as his car does.

If you don’t already have plans for this afternoon, why don’t you head out to Champion Speedway for the season-opener? The track is located off Snyder Avenue at the south end of town. The main gate opens at noon, and practice starts the same time. Racing begins at 2 p.m. General admission is $8, $5 for

Juniors (13-17) and Seniors (55 and over), kids 6-13 $3, and kids 5 and under free.

Roger Diez is the Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist.