NASCAR punishes offenders

Posted: Tuesday, September 20, 2005

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Robby Gordon and Kasey Kahne avoided suspensions Monday when NASCAR penalized them for road-rage incidents in New Hampshire.

Gordon was fined $35,000 and docked 50 points in the driver standings for intentionally trying to hit Michael Waltrip's car during Sunday's race at New Hampshire International Speedway, throwing his helmet at Waltrip's car, and cursing during a television interview.

Kahne was fined $25,000 and penalized 25 points in the standings for intentionally hitting Kyle Busch's car in retaliation for an earlier accident.

''There have been a growing number of incidents lately where drivers have taken matters into their own hands,'' NASCAR president Mike Helton said. ''Such unsafe and inappropriate behavior has to stop."

''NASCAR will use whatever means necessary to stop it.''

Waltrip was fined $10,000 and 25 points for using an obscene gesture during the televised broadcast, and his car owner, Teresa Earnhardt, was penalized 25 points.

Gordon and Kahne actually got off easy considering the harsh tone from NASCAR officials that hinted at suspensions following the accidents.

''We're going to do whatever we need to do, whether it's to park a guy for a week or park a guy for nine weeks,'' spokesman Jim Hunter said after the race. ''We're going to do whatever we need to do to prevent retaliation on the racetrack.''

Instead, Kahne and Gordon essentially got off with a slap on the hand.

For example, Busch Series driver Martin Truex Jr. was fined $10,000 and 25 points for using an obscene gesture earlier this month. Last season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fined $25,000 and 25 points for cursing in a television interview.

Jimmy Spencer was the last driver suspended, forced to sit out one race in 2003 for punching Kurt Busch after the two were in an accident. Kevin Harvick was ''parked'' for one race in 2002 when NASCAR did not allow him to compete in a Cup race at Martinsville, Va., as punishment for aggressive driving in a truck race the day before.

In addition to their penalties, both Kahne and Gordon were placed on probation until the end of the season and their car owners were also penalized. Ray Evernham, Kahne's car owner, was docked 25 points and Jim Smith, owner of Gordon's car, was docked 50 points.

This is the second consecutive year Gordon has gotten into trouble at New Hampshire. He intentionally wrecked Greg Biffle last year as retaliation, and the accident collected Chase contenders Tony Stewart and Jeremy Mayfield, effectively ending their championship hopes.

Although NASCAR did not penalize him, Gordon was placed on probation by then-car owner Richard Childress.

Gordon apologized Monday for cursing, but still blamed Waltrip for the accident.

''I let my emotions get the better of me and I apologize,'' he said. ''I don't know what it is, but he puts the bumper to me a lot, and this time he did what he set out to do. We basically destroyed a great race car, and unfortunately it's the people that work in the shop that really suffer. We didn't deserve that at all.''

Gordon and Waltrip wrecked under caution, and Gordon waited until Waltrip came past him and tried to back his car into him. He missed — but almost hit Stewart, who had to stop to avoid Gordon.

Gordon then got out of his car, waited for Waltrip, acted as if he was going to walk in front of Waltrip's car and threw his helmet at him. It hit just below the driver's window.

Kahne's accident came midway through the race, when Busch bumped him and sent him hard into the wall. Kahne restarted his battered car and drove it slowly along the bottom of the track until Busch came by in turn one. Kahne then shot up the track, hitting Busch in the left front.

NASCAR parked him for the rest of the race, but Kahne was unapologetic.

''I accept responsibility for my actions and will, in the future, channel the competitive energy and emotion that my team and I share toward productive results on the racetrack for Evernham Motorsports, our sponsors and fans,'' Kahne said Monday. ''This is behind us now. As a team, our focus is on the upcoming events and the future.''

Also, Lance McGrew, crew chief for Brian Vickers, was fined $10,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of the year because their car failed prerace inspection. Vickers also was penalized 25 driver points and car owner Mary Hendrick was penalized 25 points.

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