Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gordon Win Costly; He'll Start Race 42nd after Failed Inspection

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gordon Win Costly; He'll Start Race 42nd after Failed Inspection

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DAYTONA BEACH - NASCAR had a difficult time dealing with its shameful week, but Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon tried to do their part Thursday to make it all about racing again.

Even that didn't work.

Each driver won a 150-mile qualifying race that set the field for Sunday's Daytona 500, but when Gordon's car failed post-race inspection, NASCAR again proved it can't escape a suddenly troubling trend.

Gordon's car was deemed an inch too low, and the infraction will drop him to 42nd in the starting lineup for Sunday's race at Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR said a bolt to hold a rear shock malfunctioned, a failure the sanctioning body determined wasn't intentional - and probably was dangerous - so Gordon's team won't face any further sanctions.

"I'm 100 percent sure it was unintentional," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition. "There is a penalty because the car was too low. If it was done intentionally, there would be more to it. It was a mistake that was made."

Stewart and Gordon acknowledged it will take a lot more racing miles for NASCAR to work past the cloud created by a Daytona cheating scandal that has resulted in the suspension of six people and $300,000 in fines before the first official lap of the season has been completed.

"This week has been pretty mind-boggling with the severity of what happened and the consequences," Gordon said. "That's gotten a lot of attention. It was nice to go out there and go racing. Between that and Anna Nicole Smith, it's been hard to move away from it. I'm glad we're finally racing.

"I hate for the sport to see this happen. But drama always outweighs pure excitement."

Stewart backed up his victory in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout all-star race with a dominating performance in Thursday's first qualifying race. He led twice for 37 of 63 laps, including the final 13. In the second race, Gordon shot from fourth to first in a daring pass on the final lap.

The front row for Sunday's race - David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd - was determined during pole qualifying last Sunday. That's when four crew chiefs were caught with cars that had holes in the wheel wells and trunk decks.

Thursday's races set the rest of the field. By winning the first qualifying race, Stewart now will be third on the starting grid for the Daytona 500. Gordon would have been fourth, but he now has to move to the end of the line.

Four drivers - Waltrip, David Reutimann, Joe Nemechek and Mike Wallace - raced their way into the starting lineup. They joined the top 35 drivers from last year's standings and the three-fastest qualifiers among the non-guaranteed drivers - Boris Said, Sterling Marlin and Johnny Sauter - to complete the 43-car lineup.

Those who failed to qualify for Sunday's main event (3:15 p.m., Fox) include former series champion Bill Elliott, former Daytona 500 winners Derrike Cope and Ward Burton, Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Jeremy Mayfield and 72-year-old James Hylton. …

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