First NASCAR Team starts Drug Testing
The Hot Pass: Harvick steps up for drug testing
by Lee Spencer
Lee Spencer is a senior NASCAR writer for FOXSports.com.
Updated: April 25, 2008, 8:59 PM EST
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Following Aaron Fike's recent admission of drug abuse behind the wheel of a race car, his former employer, Kevin Harvick, took a proactive stance and implemented a random drug testing program for all KHI employees — starting with himself, his drivers and his crew chiefs.
Harvick announced his plans last Tuesday at the company's competition meeting and was pleased that his principals agreed voluntarily.
"After the whole drug testing thing in Phoenix, we went home and changed the whole policy that we have at our company," Harvick said. "All the drivers and crew chiefs volunteered to take a random drug test. We did that, then we put an outside company to put a random drug test and policy in place. The whole company will be tested within a week. We have got most of them done and haven't had any failures yet, so that is a good thing."
Harvick believes that a sport-wide testing policy would alleviate any doubt that competitors have about fellow drivers racing under the influence. A system could be put in place as part of the mandatory preseason driver's physical. Crews could follow suit during testing at Daytona before hard cards — NASCAR's annual garage pass — are distributed. Harvick suggests taking the program one step further by performing random drug testing at infield care centers following on track wrecks and incidents.
"That is something that we can probably fix here by just putting a policy in place that if you want to get a hard card, you have to get tested by teams — they have an outsource come in and randomly drug test all the teams as they submit their approvals for a hard card you have to send your drug test with it," Harvick said. "That would make it a lot easier on NASCAR. If you go to the infield care center, it should be just like the drug policy at a lot of the shops. If you wreck or something and have to go through the infield care center, it should be standard procedure to take a drug test as you go through there. If you have been through there 10 times in 10 weeks, that should be a standard procedure. I think that would fix a lot of the questions that we have and be a pretty simple solution.
"I am proud that we went home and made ours right. We are considered a drug-free environment at KHI and we have a facility that handles that testing for us, it is a pretty simple procedure. I have learned a lot about drugs over the last week and a half and how you can and can't handle things legally. Luckily our drivers were nice enough to volunteer their time to go to the drug testing facility so Hornaday, Sprague, Cale Gale and myself and all our crew chiefs went over there and got that all handled. So hopefully everyone will follow suit. It will be good for our garage. I really think the hard card thing would fix a lot of our problems."
When the dominoes start falling
With Tony Stewart contemplating his next move, other drivers are waiting for the dust to settle. Names like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. are all in the mix with contracts expiring at the end of the season. According to Dale Earnhardt Inc., officials, Truex still has an option year, but Newman Edwards and Biffle are free and clear.
Biffle said that other than the No. 20 ride possibly becoming available, there's nothing about Stewart's deal that's holding up his decision.
"I'm negotiating with Roush Fenway for an extension on my current contract, so I don't think what he's trying to do or going to do makes a difference," Biffle said. "(I am) sort of in a holding pattern. We're not in a big hurry to get it done, I think. We're in that negotiation period, and like I said, I'm pretty confident that we're going to be able to get to common ground on what I want and what they want."
Like Stewart, Biffle, 38, has ownership possibilities on the table as part of his negotiations. It's a challenge the veteran finds exciting. Ownership is just the latest perk used to attract top name drivers to teams.
"I have had offers of ownership of more than one team in the garage, and it's definitely an intriguing offer," Biffle said. "There's a lot of things to consider when you're an athlete in you're in the position that we are in. Both Tony and I are, let's say, we're at the 60-percent point in our career. We're not Kyle Busch, you know, 21 or 22 years olds.
"At some point we need to start thinking about how long we want to be involved in this sport and what we want to do in the future. So those ideas to stay involved in the sport are very intriguing to us. And I'm sure part of Tony's thinking is, when I'm done driving the 20 car, or whatever car, what am I going to do in the future? And he's probably watching out for himself, thinking ahead, and somebody's made an offer or whatnot, and he's considering it."
Denny Hamlin had heard the rumors of Stewart's possible departure but concludes, "It is what it is."
"If he chooses to go, he chooses to go," said Hamlin, who has jumped from 15th to sixth in the point standings in the last three races. "But if he doesn't, we're going to definitely keep him as our team leader."
Should Stewart leave, Hamlin, 27, would become the senior driver on the Gibbs' roster. Hamlin considers Stewart "a good role model" and expects he would take on a similar role with up-and-comer Joey Logano as he eases into NASCAR's upper divisions.
When Stewart becomes a team owner, would Hamlin consider driving for him?
"I could probably drive for him," Hamlin said. "I think so. I think we have a lot of the same personality, so he could kind of put up with my crap at times."
Allmendinger digging Sprint Cup return
AJ Allmendinger has never stopped coming to the racetrack. He just hasn't been behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup Series car since March 4.
That changed this weekend at Talladega when Mike Skinner, the driver who stepped in for Allmendinger after the Las Vegas Cup race, and the Craftsman Truck Series went off to Kansas Speedway.
Allmendinger practiced the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota on Friday and will attempt to qualify on Saturday. During his sabbatical, the 26-year-old made the most of the experience. It gave the sophomore a better idea of "what goes on outside the race car".
"When I'm in the race car, I'm complaining about how bad the car is and things like that," said Allmendinger, who was fastest in Happy Hour of the cars required to qualify on time. "You're not really seeing what the team is doing to fix that.
"To be on the outside of it and have another set of eyes to help Ricky (Viers, crew chief) and see what he goes through more — it will give me a lot better understanding when I'm in the race car to know what they're doing. That's just probably going to keep me calmer and give me more confidence about what's going on and just help me all around. Hopefully it also helps the team all around."
Your business' name here
Carl Edwards' sponsor Office Depot is offering the opportunity for a company of 99 employees or less to be "the Official Small Business of NASCAR". The winning company will have its logo placed on the TV panel of the No. 99 Ford for one race and positioned on the car for the remainder of the season.
"In both business and racing, succeeding is a team effort," Edwards said. "This year, Office Depot's 'Official Small Business of NASCAR' promotion really reflects that approach because small business owners can leverage the support of their friends and family to help them have the best chance of winning."
Starting on Sunday, business owners can enter the contest at officedepotracing.com.
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