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Dover's pit road a speed trap to some

Jimmie Johnson spent several minutes in the NASCAR officials trailer after finishing 10th Sunday in the MBNA America 400 at Dover International Speedway.

He came to plead his case after being penalized for exceeding the 35-mph limit on pit road on Lap 171. It didn't go very well.

"They said I was speeding. I said I wasn't," said Johnson, who was sent to the end of the longest line, dropping him from fourth to 19th. Though he gained a spot to fourth in the driver standings, he fell from 30 points to 57 behind new leader Jeff Gordon.

Johnson, who said he had never been flagged for speeding in NASCAR's top division, thought his pit box being near the entry of pit road unfairly subjected him to greater scrutiny. Those pitting near the far end routinely exceed the speed limit, he said.

"If you pit down on the turn one side, everybody is running 500 to 1,000 rpm over," he said. "(If) you're in a group with 15 guys, no one is going to get nailed. I'm down on the turn four side and I leave my pit box strong like I would any other time _ and I didn't even pass a car on the track. I left pit road the same place I went in and I'm speeding. I'm dumbfounded."

Elliott Sadler was the second Chase for the Championship driver to be nabbed on Dover's difficult pit road. After making a green-flag pit stop for a flat tire late in the race, he was assessed a pass-through penalty. The pit stop and penalty dropped him from seventh to 20th (where he finished) four laps down.

The penalties again called into question NASCAR's procedure for determining pit-road speeds. Open-wheel series use speed-limiting technology _ activated by drivers with a button push _ to assure compliance. NASCAR has no such device and because it also bans speedometers, drivers must gauge speed by RPMs. The process for catching violators is equally unsophisticated. It's done by officials with stopwatches.

NEW DIGS: Officials in Snohomish County in Washington announced Monday that International Speedway Corp., which owns 12 NASCAR tracks including Daytona, hopes to build a $140-million, 75,000-seat Great Northwest Speedway on what is now 850 acres of farmland, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

Total cost, including land, could exceed $300-million.

MINOR LEAGUES: Ray Evernham, whose two-car Nextel Cup team comprises Chase for the Championship qualifier Jeremy Mayfield and rookie of the year frontrunner Kasey Kahne, plans to add one fulltime and perhaps a part-time Busch Series program for 2005.

"It's a big step toward the future," Evernham said. "You need to have those drivers coming up, a Triple-A team. Jack Roush has probably done the best job of that and Rick Hendrick has done well, too, and we need to do that."

RAIN DATE: Busch Series teams have been instructed by NASCAR to equip their cars for rain for the 2005 event in Mexico City, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. Cars would need windshield wipers, defoggers and brake lights. Because teams will build new cars for the road race anyway, the process will be slightly more simple than modifying current cars.

TOUGH SPOT: Kahne's rotten luck at Dover appeared to be over when he qualified on the pole for the Busch race and finished third Saturday, but the Nextel Cup rookie was out after just 15 laps Sunday when the flywheel on his No. 9 Dodge failed. Kahne led with 19 laps left in the June race before hitting an oil slick. He wrecked and finished 21st.

WHODUNIT: Leave it to Roush to have a conspiracy theory. He saidit's necessarily smart to assume NASCAR changed the system to determine its driver champion just because his driver, Matt Kenseth, had a somewhat ho-hum run to a first title last season.

"Maybe they changed it because it was Jack Roush's first championship," he said.

"Maybe they changed it because it's been three years since Hendrick (Motorsports) won one."

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