Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Harsh Words Define Daytona; Drivers Have Plenty of Complaints about Their Rivals after First Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Harsh Words Define Daytona; Drivers Have Plenty of Complaints about Their Rivals after First Race

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DAYTONA BEACH -- It didn't take long for the racing season to get up to speed. The cars were pretty fast, too.

Jimmie Johnson won the Daytona 500 Sunday, using patience for the first 400 miles to stay out of trouble, then turning his Chevrolet loose in the final 100 to win the biggest race of the season.

And that's when the real race started.

Drivers were quick to point fingers and make threats, and just about everyone got in the act.

Ryan Newman didn't like the way Johnson's team cheated during the week; Johnson didn't like Newman. Tony Stewart was angry with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch; Jeff Green was upset with Dale Jarrett; Greg Biffle didn't like Mike Wallace; Kurt Busch didn't appreciate the way Jamie McMurray put him in the wall.

With more than two months to prepare for the Daytona 500, teams put a lot of time, money and emotion into the race. And with it comes the kind of pressure that often spills into controversy.

It started when Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, was caught cheating. He found a way to raise the rear window during the prequalifying inspection, knowing the window would deflect air off the rear spoiler and reduce drag. He was "ejected" from the Daytona International Speedway and faced further sanctions this week.

For Knaus, it marked the sixth time he's been caught outside the NASCAR rule book. Five of those infractions, however, came before or during a race victory.

"I'm pretty sure three of his last four wins have had some [connection] with being illegal," said Ryan Newman, who finished third. "If you have repeat offenders, if it keeps happening again and again and again, I think there should be something more than a suspension. NASCAR makes the rules; it's up to them to enforce them. It's not good for the sport, not good for any of us for that to be out there."

Johnson quickly defended his crew chief and friend.

"I kind of view it as jealousy," he said. …

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