AUTO RACING

NASCAR fines, takes points away from Earnhardt Jr.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. spins out in turn one during the NEXTEL Cup Series Food City 500 last Sunday in Bristol, Tenn.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 at 11:26 p.m.
DAYTONA BEACH - Dale Earnhardt Jr. was hit Wednesday with a $10,000 fine and the loss of 25 NASCAR Nextel Cup points for purposely causing a caution flag in the race at Bristol.
Earnhardt had fallen behind because of a tire problem and was in danger of going down a lap when he spun, bringing out a yellow flag that allowed him to pit for tires and stay on the lead lap during the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway last Sunday. He wound up finishing 11th.
After the spin, Earnhardt was heard telling his team on the radio that he had never spun on purpose before.
"The driver of the No. 8 car was quite vocal in admitting he intentionally spun out his car to cause a caution condition on the track, which is clearly prohibited in the NASCAR rule book," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "We have several rules that have been in place for quite some time to prevent someone from altering the outcome of an event. This was a clear cut case of that."
Despite losing the 25 points, Earnhardt will still go into Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway third in the standings. But he now trails leader Matt Kenseth by 66 points and runner-up Kurt Busch, the Bristol winner, by 45.
Earnhardt, the son of the late seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt, is off to the best start of his career with two victories in the first six races of the 2004 season.
Teresa Earnhardt, owner Earnhardt's Chevrolet, accepted NASCAR's decision.
"We regret what this has cost us in our pursuit of the Nextel Cup Championship," she said in a statement. "In the heat of battle, a lot of things can happen and decisions can be made that come at a high cost.
"It was a mistake we've all learned from and we have to move past it."
Meanwhile, Jamie McMurray was fined $10,000 by NASCAR on Tuesday and placed on probation until the end of August for spinning out Matt Kenseth at Bristol Motor Speedway.
McMurray, the 2003 rookie of the year on NASCAR's top circuit, was penalized for actions detrimental to stock car racing. He is on probation until Aug. 31
On the final lap of the Nextel Cup's Food City 500 on Sunday, defending series champion Kenseth bumped past McMurray on the way to a fifth-place finish.
McMurray recovered to finish eighth, then caught up with Kenseth after the checkered flag. He first rubbed along the side of Kenseth's car, then backed off and bumped him from the rear, sending Kenseth sliding sideways near the entrance to pit road.
  • NEW RIDE: Jimmy Spencer will replace Kevin Lepage in the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Motorsports Chevrolet for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.
    "We are changing drivers to evaluate our race team," owner Larry McClure said Tuesday.
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