Saturday, October 04, 2008
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Earnhardt runs into trouble at Talladega

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[October 04, 2008]  TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. had better days at Talladega.

Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet blew an engine in the first practice Friday and blew a tire in the second and it cost him any shot of starting in the front of the field.

When the right tire exploded in the afternoon practice, it triggered a multicar wreck that affected Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, David Reutimann and a few others. Earnhardt spun and hit the wall, debris flying all over the track and collecting other drivers up in the mess as well. His car was towed off NASCAR's biggest track

Stewart and Kahne connected and Stewart's No. 20 Toyota slid down the track and into the grass.

Earnhardt, who already had to start in the back because of the engine change, was forced to go to his backup car. It was the same car he used in Daytona to win the 150-mile qualifying race.

"I feel like we'll definitely mentally be stronger for Sunday because of what happened today," Earnhardt said.

Stewart's team briefly considered moving to the backup car, but crew chief Greg Zipadelli ultimately decided to instead fix the primary. The repairs apparently required full participation, as Zipadelli and vice president of competition Jimmy Makar crawled under the car to hammer away at sheet metal and weld parts in a hurried effort.

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"I don't know exactly what it is about this one that he likes better than the other one, but obviously there's something," Stewart said. "It was decent, but I don't know what it's going to be like now."

Earnhardt was hoping for a strong finish to spark his way up the Chase standings. He's in ninth place, 129 points behind leader Carl Edwards, but is driving at one of his favorite tracks. Earnhardt was won here five times - including four straight from 2001-03 - was second two other times and 10th in the spring race.

"We've had troubles here and we always came back," he said. "It's a place where you can kind of rally back. We're still last anyway because of the motor change."


UPSET STEWART: Don't look for Tony Stewart crew chief Greg Zipadelli to try and play nice with Brian Vickers' team any time soon. Zipadelli was steamed after what he said was Vickers' refusal to cooperate in the pits last week in Kansas.

Stewart was delayed three times getting out back on the track because Vickers - who was pitted in front of Stewart - had issues getting out his pit stall. Stewart nearly made contact with Vickers' gas man during one early pit stop.

Zipadelli said if Vickers and his team didn't want to work together, "that's their prerogative."

"I can't get mad about it," Zipadelli said. "But what I'll do is I won't ever cut them any slack again."

Stewart took his anger out on Vickers on the track, and made contact with the No. 83. While Vickers finished the race, Stewart slid across the infield which damaged a spoiler. He finished 40th and is 11th in the Chase standings, 255 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Zipadelli wanted Vickers to pull up in his pit to give Stewart - who was behind him - more room so he could in turn make it easier for Greg Biffle to pit. Stewart and Biffle are both racing for the championship, and Vickers is not. By not pulling up far enough in his stall, Vickers made it difficult for Stewart to exit because Stewart was pulling up in his stall to give Biffle more room.

"When it comes back around, and they are capable of winning a race one of these days, and we don't give them the room they need, they are going to understand what it is to work with other people," Zipadelli said. "It wasn't like we were racing them for the win and they wanted to play those little games. There was nothing to win. Nothing to lose, nothing to gain on either side other than putting us in the predicament that it put us in all day."


SHOCKED JOHNSON: Jimmie Johnson was "shocked" his long time attorney is facing charges in connection with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves' tax case.

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Alan R. Miller is facing charges of tax evasion based on allegedly false federal income tax returns filed by Castroneves from 2000 to 2002. Castroneves pleaded not guilty Friday to charges that he used offshore accounts to evade U.S. taxes on more than $5 million in income.

Miller did not enter a plea in court on Friday and was ordered released on bail of $250,000.

"I'm shocked and I know he's shocked," Johnson said of Miller, who represents several NASCAR drivers.

Johnson was a teenager when he first hired Miller as his attorney and called him a "great friend." Johnson said he will still use Miller, but will keep a close eye on the situation.

"He has respected my thoughts and me as a driver as though he was a parent of some sort," Johnson said. "He has really done a phenomenal job for me."

Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said the best way to avoid this kind of mess was to not hire an agent.

"I think agents do nothing but get you in trouble, and not from a financial standpoint," he said. "I just think a lot of times they think they have the pull in the garage and they don't."


Auto Repair

PIT STOPS: Carl DeWitt "De" Cordell Sr. was hired by Gillett Evernham Motorsports as its chief sales and marketing officer. "We see this as another step forward in our team's quest to become the marquee team in motorsports," said GEM CEO Tom Reddin. ... Race promoter J.C. Agajanian, owner Raymond Parks, owner Bud Moore, NASCAR Modifieds champion Jerry Cook and driver Donnie Allison were selected for Talladega's International Motorsports Hall of Fame. "It's probably without a doubt the biggest honor ever bestowed on me," Allison said. ... Casey Mears is expecting the birth of his first child so Brad Keselowski finished the second practice in Mears' car to get him track time in case he's needed this weekend.

[Associated Press; By DAN GELSTON]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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