Stewart drives right into trouble

DAYTONA NOTEBOOK

Nextel Cup champ penalized after pushing Kenseth's car into grass

February 20, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR's 2005 Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart made it clear he wanted NASCAR to crack down on aggressive drivers in this Daytona 500 and NASCAR listened.

The first driver to be penalized was Stewart, who drove his No. 20 Chevrolet across three lanes of traffic to push driver Matt Kenseth into the grass entering Turn 3 at Daytona International Speedway yesterday on Lap 108.

"He took me out intentionally because he was mad," said Kenseth, who earlier in the race had leaned into Stewart when he said his car momentarily lost its grip. "I didn't think I did anything wrong. I left him plenty of room, but I leaned against him. I learned that from him."

Stewart countered: "Yeah, Matt always thinks that [someone hit him intentionally]. I guess Matt didn't think anything when he got me sideways over in [Turn] 2, either. He should have thought about that first. He got back what he started in the first place. He started it and I finished it."

For finishing it, Stewart was given an aggressive-driving penalty, which meant he had to go to the back of the field on the restart after the caution.

Despite the misdeeds, Stewart rallied for a fifth-place finish. Kenseth wound up 15th.

And Jeff Gordon, who was involved in an incident with Stewart on Lap 49 in which both made contact with the wall, finished 26th.

Gordon was gracious about the contact with Stewart. Though it appeared the Joe Gibbs driver cut Gordon little slack when his car refused to make the turn out of Turn 2 on a pass, Gordon said the incident was his fault.

"I think I took the air off the front of Tony's car," he said.

But Kenseth, who was black-flagged because NASCAR perceived he was overly aggressive in his move around Stewart when they were leaving the pits, saw no reason to apologize.

"It's just really disappointing," said Kenseth. "Tony said all that stuff earlier in the week about being worried about people's lives and everything, then he wrecks you on purpose at 190 mph. I wasn't too happy with that."

Good start

Hall of Fame Racing, owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, got all it could have hoped for yesterday. Its driver, two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte, started 43rd and finished 17th in their No. 96 Chevrolet.

Disappointed

Petty Enterprises, which had a fine week leading up to the 500, was let down yesterday. Bobby Labonte in the No. 43 Dodge started last started eighth and ran in the top 10 much of the afternoon at times but was collected in an accident on Lap 197 and finished 35th. Kyle Petty in the No. 45 went for a wild ride on Lap 80, when he was collected in an accident with Carl Edwards. After repairs, Petty finished 39th, 30 laps down.

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