LOUDON, N.H. Stock car racing did very little to shed its worsening image last week at the Richmond International Raceway with post-race collisions and fights highlighting the Craftsman Truck, Busch and Winston Cup races.
NASCAR handed out a long list of fines totaling $87,500, but for a sport of millionaires, is that really a deterrent?
It depends on if you're on the giving or receiving end of the punch.
Kevin Harvick got the biggest penalty, a $35,000 fine and probation for the rest of the season for his tirade against Ricky Rudd after Saturday night's Winston Cup Series race. He was mad Rudd bumped him into the fourth-turn wall late in the race, and he took out his frustration by running into Rudd's car on pit road after the race, jumping on Rudd's car and getting into a profanity-laced argument.
The fines were for ''actions detrimental to NASCAR,'' a well-used description that gives the sanctioning body considerable latitude in its interpretation and enforcement of the rules.
Harvick's car owner, Richard Childress, offered an apology to his sponsors and Wood Brothers Racing, which owns Rudd's car, on Monday. He also offered to pay for damages to the car after Harvick and some of his crewmen jumped on it.
Eleven drivers and crewmen were fined for skirmishes after all three races last week.
THE 2004 SEASON: NASCAR finally released the 2004 Nextel Cup Series schedule this week, months after most speedways already were advertising next year's racing dates.
As expected, there were a few tweaks to the schedule that again will include 36 official races and a pair of all-star events. Most notable was the move of the Labor Day weekend date that Darlington Raceway had enjoyed for 54 years to California Speedway. Darlington's spot in the lineup was moved to mid-November in North Carolina Speedway's old spot in the schedule. North Carolina now will only have one race.
The season starts Feb. 7 with the Budweiser Shootout All-Star race for pole winners at the Daytona International Speedway. The Daytona 500, the first official race of the year, is Feb. 15. The schedule, which includes 23 tracks in 19 states, ends Nov. 21 at Homestead, Fla.
A big question was answered with the all-star race for winners now known as the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge returning to Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., on May 22. NASCAR had suggested the race may move away from Lowe's, considered the home track for most of the race teams.
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