BROOKLYN, Mich. - NASCAR officials will be keeping close eyes on two feuding drivers, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth, in today's DHL 400. And all 43 drivers in the race will be keeping close eyes on NASCAR officials.
Harvick and Kenseth drew probation and $25,000 fines last week after taking turns wrecking each other in the Pocono 500.
NASCAR officials are on de facto probation with all the drivers after two straight Sundays of bad judgment calls from the control tower.
Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, who'll start on the pole today, has led the lobbying for NASCAR to get its act together.
"They've had a couple of bad weekends, and it's important for them to move forward and make sure they fix the issues," said Gordon, who was doubly outraged by calls last week.
First came glaring human error - at the beginning of a caution period, a NASCAR official standing at the end of the pit road inadvertently waved a green flag, signaling the pits open, but too early. Most of the field got a free pit stop, but leader Jimmie Johnson had already passed the pits and missed out.
Officials took no measure to correct the flub that could have cost Johnson the race, and that angered Gordon, who co-owns Johnson's team and has been his mentor.
Fortunately for NASCAR, Johnson's Chevrolet was so dominant that he won the race, anyway - but it finished under caution as officials struggled to deal with the Harvick-Kenseth set-to, and that also kept Gordon steaming. He'd been coming up strong late in the race and wanted to finish under green, so he could beat Johnson. But he had to settle for fourth.
"Happy as I was that Jimmie won, I'd wanted to give him a race," Gordon said.
Gordon was no happier with Harvick and Kenseth, who extended their slam-fest into the final caution period - each spun out the other during that yellow - and forced extension of it through the end of the race.
"Obviously as the race winds down, you get more and more aggressive, especially in the closing laps," Gordon said. "What you don't do is start bumping and banging when the caution's out."
The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.