DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Martin Truex Jr., vying to get into NASCAR’s Chase for the championship, started the weekend with a significant setback.
Truex’s Chevrolet failed inspection before practice Thursday, prompting NASCAR officials to impound the car and sending Truex’s crew scrambling to get the backup ready.
“Somebody made a big mistake,” said Truex, who drives the No. 1 for Dale Earnhardt Inc. “Shouldn’t happen in this level of auto racing, but people make mistakes. We’ll go on.”
Truex’s car failed to fit NASCAR’s roof template, and NASCAR decided to take a closer look at it. Officials planned to send the car to the sanctioning body’s research and development center in Concord, N.C., and check out the roof design.
“I guess NASCAR wasn’t happy with the way it fit,” said Truex, who finished fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last week. “It’s their ballgame, so it’s their call.”
Truex enters Saturday’s Sprint Cup race in 14th place in the points standings, 71 shy of being in position to be guaranteed a place in the Chase.
Now, though, he could be in jeopardy of falling way behind.
When NASCAR introduced its Car of Tomorrow last season, it warned teams that it would have a zero-tolerance policy for altering car bodies.
Since then, NASCAR has slapped several teams with 100-plus-point penalties for illegal body modifications. NASCAR probably won’t announce penalties against Truex — if there are any — until next week.
STEWART’S DEFENSE: Tony Stewart sharply defended crew chief Greg Zipadelli’s decision to pit late in last weekend’s race at New Hampshire, saying “it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback.”
Stewart dominated the race but wound up 13th when officials stopped it 17 laps early because of rain. Zipadelli called for the late pit stop — most of the leaders followed suit — and Stewart found himself in the middle of the pack when the rain started a few minutes later. Many of Stewart’s fans were critical this week of Zipadelli’s call.
“You see all of this criticism from people and it’s people who can’t even control their own lives and they want to sit here and tell us how to run race teams on the weekend,” Stewart said. “I find that highly amusing that people think that they’ve got a better solution all the time than what we do. It’s easy after it’s all over to say, ‘Well you should’ve done this. What was he thinking?’
“If they were that smart, they would be crew chiefs, and obviously they’re not that smart listening to the criticism. It just frustrates you as a driver knowing that you’ve got a crew chief that’s won two championships and 30-plus races with you that people think they are a lot smarter than and they’re not.”
STILL FUMING? Cup Series points leader Kyle Busch and Juan Pablo Montoya haven’t made amends following last week’s on-track altercation at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Busch said Thursday that he hasn’t spoken to Montoya and doesn’t plan to, either.
“It’s over with. That was last week,” Busch said.
Montoya, saying he didn’t like the way Busch was racing him for position, intentionally spun Busch late in the race and ended up wrecking both cars. NASCAR eventually assessed Montoya a two-lap penalty for rough driving. Busch finished 25th, seven spots higher than Montoya.
“It’s NASCAR’s discretion at what they want to do to penalize people,” Busch said. “I’m confident in their judgment.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was surprised to see cars wreck under caution, but he also said Montoya isn’t one to get pushed around.
“Juan’s a little firecracker man,” Earnhardt said. “He’s a good guy, but you just don’t push his buttons. You’ve got to respect him on the racetrack. He has to sort of have that mentality coming from Formula One. He definitely doesn’t want to get pushed around. He’s not having the best season. He’s obviously not very happy with how his car is running up to this point, so he’s got even a shorter fuse because of that.”
PRACTICE PROBLEMS: Kurt Busch, who finished second in the Daytona 500 in February, blew a right-front tire during the first practice Thursday and hit the wall.
Busch, who posted the fasted lap time during the session, had to switch to a backup car. He blamed the wreck on the new tire Goodyear provided for this race. There was some grumbling before the Daytona 500 about the tire, which drivers complained blistered too easily.
“No warning,” Busch said. “We’re supposed to have a harder tire for here, and it is harder because we’re sliding around a lot. But we have to have so much weight in the right side and the camber we run with these new cars, they can’t build a tire hard enough to last.”
The second practice session was canceled because of rain.
FINAL WORD: “I think what Brett Favre is doing, a lot of people expected and some people hoped. I was one of those that hoped. I didn’t expect him to come back, but I hoped that he would, just for the fact that I am a football fan and I love to see Brett Favre play.” — New England Patriots All-Pro receiver Randy Moss, on the possibility of Brett Favre coming out of retirement.