Practice Not Happy One For Burton

FORT WORTH -- The final NASCAR Winston Cup Series practice heading into the Harrah’s 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday morning wasn’t a “Happy Hour” for Ward Burton and his No. 22 Caterpillar Dodge team.

Instead of getting his car dialed in for Sunday’s 1 p.m. (EST) start, Burton spent the majority of practice getting a back-up car ready to roll after he crashed his primary car in the practice session. Burton will have to give up his 28th starting position and drop to the rear of the field.

“The back end just came around on me,” Burton said after practice. “I saved it two or three times, but it finally got in the wall with the left rear. The last two sets of tires
yesterday made the car extremely tight. I guess we just freed it up this morning. It didn’t have any grip in the rear. We’ll fix it. We hadn’t hit on anything yet, but we’ve got a long day ahead of us so maybe we can make some adjustments during the race.”

AN EVENTFUL DAY: Greg Biffle had a wild day Saturday in the Busch Series Jani-King 500 at Texas. He started seventh and finished seventh, but there’s a lot more to his story than just that.

Just after the race had started, Biffle’s day would take a turn for the worse when he was caught up in a Lap 56 wreck involving defending Busch Series champion Jeff Green. After a rather harmless spin through the frontstretch grass, Biffle was able to continue on, but with a whole lot of work ahead to get back to where he started.

“There was nothing I could do,” Biffle said. “I don’t know if the No. 10 car wrecked by himself, but he got turned around and it sent me through the grass. I was a victim of circumstances and it’s frustrating because we had a good car.”

Biffle was able to pad his lead in the race for the 2001 Busch Series Rookie-of-the-Year award.

PARK DEFENDS EARNHARDT: Since the death of Dale Earnhardt on the last lap of the season-opening Daytona 500, some have questioned ‘The Intimidator's' refusal to wear a full-faced helmet. Saturday morning, one Dale Earnhardt, Inc, driver stepped up to defend his former boss.

“Dale wasn’t a big advocate for safety and restrictor plates,” Park said. “He was just a racer.He was just a guy who started racing in the ’70s when you put your helmet on and your seat belts and you went racing. It didn’t matter where you were. We’ve also seen him walk away from terrible wrecks in Talladega without a hitch. He was a big advocate of the open-face helmet. He felt it kept him safe.

“I remember I used to run a sternum belt until he told me it was going to hurt me, so I stopped wearing it. It just depends on how far you want to take the safety issue and what you feel is going to work for you at any given time.”

ROUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE: Shawna Robinson had high hopes Saturday of winning her first Busch Series race in her first start with Michael Waltrip’s team, but those hopes ended up in a pile of crumpled sheet metal when she and Todd Bodine made contact racing through the third and fourth turns at the 1.5-mile oval.

Instead of winning, she ended up with a 39th place finish.

“What we wanted to do was run some laps to get experience,” Robinson said. “We were running pretty good and followed Todd under Shane Hall, I guess he didn’t know I was there.”

Robinson will run three Busch Series races for Waltrip, and then run a five-race Winston Cup schedule this season for Michael Kranefuss.

NEW GUY IN CHARGE: There will be a change of sorts on pit road on Sunday for the No. 92 Kodiak Dodge team and driver Stacy Compton as they begin a two-race stint without crew chief Chad Knaus, who was suspended for two races by NASCAR for cutting the manufacturer’s date off Compton’s belts at Atlanta. In Knaus’s absensce, Dean Johnson will serve as crew chief for the next two races.

“Dean is doing a good job,” Compton said Saturday. “Chad and Dean have worked together so much up to this point that they think alike. We think it was a bad call on NASCAR’s part, but there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. We’ll do the best we can do the next two weeks and Chad will be back at Talladega.

“We talk to Chad on the phone and we ran some ideas past him last night. We’ve all worked together enough that we all pretty much think alike not. It hurts not having him here and it will hurt when the race starts.

“Dean has been gassing for us, and we’re going to have to change some things around on pit road now. They talk about a safety issue. My biggest safety issue is we’re at a track where (truck series driver Tony Roper) got killed last year and a key part of our team is sitting at home. To me, that’s a bigger safety issue than cutting the excess off of a seat belt.”

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