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Evernham prefers flying fists to fixing fenders

Published Aug. 28, 2005

If racers are driven to revenge, they need to take care of it off the track, with fists, not million-dollar race cars, team owner Ray Evernham said.

His views on racing justice are decidedly old school, and Robby Gordon's retaliation against Greg Biffle and subsequent wrecking last weekend of Jeremy Mayfield has hardened them. Mayfield, driver of Evernham's No. 19 Dodge, earned a spot in the Chase for the Championship by winning Sept. 11 at Richmond, but he fell to 10th in the standings, 142 off the lead, after finishing 35th at New Hampshire. Tony Stewart fell from fourth to eighth after being collected in the melee and finishing 39th.

"I think there are some things the drivers need to settle and I know people don't like it when I talk like that," Evernham said, "But what happens on the racetrack doesn't affect the drivers as much as the owners and everyone else.

"When one driver takes out another driver, neither one of them has to work on the car. It's the guy working 12 to 16 hours on it, and the sponsors paying for it. If the drivers have a problem, they need to settle it off the racetrack."

Evernham lauded Gordon's team owner, Richard Childress, for putting his driver on probation for the rest of the season.

"It'll take care of itself," Evernham said. "Guys like that will work themselves out of the sport. If you're going to do things like that, you won't be at this level."

Mayfield appears to have refocused _ though on Friday he wore an orange shirt (the color of Gordon's sponsor) with the phrase "I want you to stay far, far away from me" _ winning his second pole of the season with a lap of 22.584 seconds at 159.405 mph at Dover International Speedway.

SORRY WITH A CAVEAT: Gordon apologized again for possibly ruining Mayfield's and Stewart's title hopes, but not for following through on a pledge made over his team radio to retaliate against Biffle. Gordon felt "we got wrecked on purpose."

"I wasn't mad because I sat there and drove a wrecked race car around for 270 laps," he said. "It was the fact that I had to think about (Stewart and Mayfield), and I know that they were in this race for the championship and I had affected their championship race."

Gordon said he has spoken with Biffle but has not been able to find Mayfield or Stewart. Mayfield chuckled at that, noting Childress called him twice to apologize.

"I hate that he had to do that," Mayfield said, "but Richard didn't seem to have any trouble getting ahold of anybody."

SPARK PLUGS: Terry Labontewill make his 809th career Winston/Nextel Cup start Sunday, tying him with Darrell Waltrip for fourth on NASCAR's all-time list. Labonte will start 38th in a backup car after wrecking on his second qualifying lap. Hendrick Motorsports rookie teammate Brian Vickers hit the wall in the No. 25 Chevrolet during the first practice session. He qualified third. Kasey Kahne, the leading candidate for Cup rookie of the year, won the pole for today's Stacker 200 Busch series race in 22.879 seconds at 157.350 mph. Points leader Martin Truex(22.887, 157.295) starts from the outside of the front row.

_ BRANT JAMES, Times staff writer