DAYTONA BEACH — Chairman Brian France defended his sport's drug policy, asserting with unusual vigor that NASCAR was "unequivocally" correct in indefinitely suspending driver/owner Jeremy Mayfield for a positive drug test.
Mayfield, who on May 1 tested positive for a substance NASCAR identified this week as methamphetamines, won a temporary injunction to race in tonight's Coke Zero 400, but he did not enter. A federal judge cited the possibility of greater harm being done to Mayfield than NASCAR as Mayfield's lawsuit moves through the courts; NASCAR has countersued. Central in deciding the injunction was the handling of two Mayfield urine samples.
France considers NASCAR's testing policy the most stringent in professional sports, citing the greater risk of injury inherent with racing.
"We had to have the toughest policy because we have the most to lose if one of our players is on … the track impaired," he said Friday.
RAIN OF TERROR: Foul weather continued to harass NASCAR as midafternoon rain prevented Sprint Cup qualifying at Daytona International Speedway. Tonight's starting order was set by owner points for the fourth time this season. Tony Stewart will start on the pole, followed by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Three races, including the season-opening Daytona 500 and last week's event at Loudon, N.H., have been abbreviated by rain.
HELP: Picking the right draft partner is crucial in restrictor-plate racing. " 'Right' doesn't mean 'best,' " Gordon said. Drivers like Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are handy until the cooperation doesn't benefit them anymore, he said. So Gordon is looking for someone he can exploit.
"It's the guys who have less experience I would probably feel a little more comfortable with because I might not watch my mirror quite as much," he said. "But I feel like I can use their bumpers and air off of them to hopefully give me that momentum."
And, when it benefits him, leave them behind.
WALK THE LINE: That selection process will be more interesting with the new double-file restart rule instituted for the first time at a plate track.
"The front row is going to be determined on what the second and third row is (because the leader can choose to start inside or outside)," said Kyle Busch, who won the 2008 Daytona summer race. "It will separate teammates and you'll have to go with whatever lane you feel like the best 'pushers' are going to be, whether it's the guy who's in third or fifth, or the guy who is in second and fourth."
SPARK PLUGS: Max Papis and Mike Wallace missed the field. Greg Biffle and Sam Hornish will begin from the rear because they crashed in practice and did not practice in their backups.