Defending champ J.J. goes to ‘backup’ plan
Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010 5:09 pm
By: By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jimmie Johnson’s quest for a fifth straight NASCAR championship will begin in a backup car.
Johnson was involved in the latest wreck at Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday, doing enough damage that crew chief Chad Knaus decided to scrap the primary car for Sunday’s season-opening race.
“I was just riding along and thought everything was fine, and the next thing you know, I was in the middle of it,” Johnson said.
Joey Logano also got caught up in the accident during the second practice at Daytona.
Mike Bliss triggered it when he lost control of his car coming out of a turn.
Bliss turned sideways, seemingly got tapped by Derrike Cope, then shot across the track and rammed into Logano.
Logano also was forced into a backup car. Kyle Busch weaved through the wreckage and avoided any damage.
The two practice sessions had several other harrowing moments.
Clint Bowyer started a three-car accident in the first session when his tire went flat, hit the wall and collected David Reutimann and the 1990 Daytona 500 champion Cope.
Bowyer and Reutimann went to backup cars.
Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. narrowly avoided wrecks in the second session.
Waltrip spun and drove through the infield grass, but managed to not hit anything.
Earnhardt got a little sideways after getting bumped from behind by Denny Hamlin, but Junior got the car straightened out at 190 mph.
Earnhardt said over his radio that Hamlin “doesn’t know how to bump draft.”
“I think he made an aggressive move with (Jamie McMurray) and I followed him,” Hamlin said. “I think I was pushing him and he was steering all over the racetrack and it just may have lifted his car up at that point. But a relatively good save.”
A few minutes later, when asked about his bump-drafting technique, Hamlin joked that, “Dale Jr. said I (stink) at it.”
UNDER REVIEW: Officials within NASCAR are considering a change to their policy on making only one attempt at a so-called “green-white-checkered” finish to races that would otherwise finish under caution.
Under the current policy, officials will add two green-flag laps to the end of the race to avoid a finish under yellow in the event of a late-race accident — but they’ll only try it once.
But after Saturday night’s Bud Shootout ended under caution because of an accident during NASCAR’s version of overtime, officials could change the policy to make multiple attempts at a finish under green.
The idea is getting a mixed reception from drivers, many of whom didn’t like the concept of adding any laps to the end of the race because it could lead to even more accidents and affect teams’ fuel mileage calculations.
“I just think that you’ve got fuel mileage issues,” Jeff Gordon said. “We’re all cutting it real close anyway. And all you’re going to do is set yourself up for another wreck. You give us two laps out there under green and we’re going to find a way to wreck.”
Hamlin liked the idea.
“As a fan, I would’ve thought that the finish was kind of not that great on Saturday night, but once again they can’t change the rule right in the middle of the race,” Hamlin said. “Once again, they’re doing everything they can to make everyone happy and make sure we have good finishes.”
DAILY DANICA: Danica Patrick took the next step in her stock car racing education Wednesday, staying out of trouble and learning as much as she could in her first NASCAR Nationwide series practice at Daytona International Speedway.
“She just soaks it up, man,” crew chief Tony Eury Jr. said. “She just asks question after question, and we just try to give her the answers.”
Patrick finished 26th on the speed chart Wednesday. Eury said practice speeds aren’t particularly important at Daytona because they don’t indicate how fast the car will be in the race.
“We kept the car in one piece, I ran out there with some big guys, so that was good,” Patrick said in a television interview. “I played it pretty safe.”
After finishing sixth in the Daytona ARCA race on Saturday, Patrick is preparing to make her Nationwide race debut Saturday.
“I think it’s a little too soon, personally,” Gordon said. “But I probably would have made the same decision if I was in her position. And you’ve got to get that experience.”
A few drivers took to Twitter to poke fun at the media and fan attention Patrick is receiving.
Scott Speed posted a note on his feed saying that the media seems to consider Patrick the best driver since Dale Earnhardt Sr. and is “also related to Jesus.”
Regan Smith said on his Twitter feed, “Maybe ESPN could cover Danica on ESPN2 and the other 50 plus cars on ESPN Classic.”
AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins contributed to this report.