Kyle Busch thinks Nextel Cup's veteran drivers should look elsewhere for scapegoats in the latest "slam-drafting" blowup. It's not necessarily young drivers like him that prompted NASCAR's new policy to curb the dangerous practice of ramming a fellow driver from behind at 190 mph, he said. Drivers like defending series champion Tony Stewart, who said after the Bud Shootout on Sunday that "we're going to kill somebody," are among the culprits.
"From what I've seen, it's been more of the veterans that have been causing the whole thing," Busch said. "I was leading the Shootout, I had Denny Hamlin behind me and Tony Stewart was behind him and Stewart was pushing Hamlin just before the tri-oval, through the tri-oval. Then Hamlin got onto my rear bumper and was pushing me as well through the tri-oval. We were all bumper to bumper through the tri-oval and who's heading that? Tony Stewart is. I'm not doing it."
Busch said he put himself in a bad situation in running up behind Mark Martin in Turn 3, making Martin's No. 6 Ford wobble and bump Jamie McMurray up the track. That was a mistake, he said, not a slam-draft.
"My Mark Martin situation," he admitted, "yeah, that was pretty stupid on my part, putting my nose in there."
Most drivers agree bumping should not be done in corners, but at the same time say they need to do so to compete.
Busch said he didn't want to "point fingers," but was unwilling to take the blame. He said he had a dent in his rear bumper after practice earlier this week courtesy of Stewart.
"I don't want to be the bad guy, but I don't want to have fingers pointed at me either," he said.
Stewart deferred comment on the new policy to penalize rough driving until he sees it at work, but other drivers were skeptical. Ryan Newman called it "a joke because NASCAR's job is to control the races, not control the drivers," and that "any judgment call in racing is not good for racing."
START OVER: Jimmie Johnson said he expects crew chief Chad Knaus to return from a likely suspension for inspection violations "much more conservative (and) in some ways I am disappointed because he has always been one to drive technology in our sport."
Johnson said his team's mounting history of rules-pushing and antagonizing NASCAR officials does not hurt his credibility or diminish his success. Johnson, 30, has 18 wins and finished second and fifth in points twice each in four full Cup seasons.
Johnson's car was found to have an illegal device that pushed out its rear window to enhance aerodynamics during Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday. Though no suspension has been announced, Johnson gave several clues that Knaus will be gone for a while. Johnson also noted that the team would work with engineer Darian Grubb as crew chief until Knaus returns "after just a couple of weeks."
Johnson claimed no knowledge of the illegal device Knaus attached to his car.
UP FRONT: Martin, the five-time and defending IROC champion, drew the pole position for the season-opening International Race of Champions race on Friday at Daytona International Speedway.
LAST CHANCE: While 35 drivers will attempt to improve their position for the Daytona 500 in today's twin 150-mile qualifying races, four will try to race their way in. The top two drivers in each twin who did not qualify on time will make the field. Among them is Scott Riggs, who is driving a new third car for Evernham Motorsports and posted the 53rd-best qualifying time after having a transmission problem during qualifying. Riggs is competing against six others for a transfer spot.
"(We'll be) cautiously aggressive," he said. "And if we've got to get down and get more aggressive than cautious, then we'll have to do that. We're going to have to go for it and try to get into the race.
"People are going to be trying to use it as a big practice, and that's where we have to take advantage of that and make our move and get ourself in position."
SPARK PLUGS: Tampa native Aric Almirola, embarking on his rookie season in the NASCAR truck series, had the fifth-best speed in practice (187.825) before later spinning out.
- BRANT JAMES, Times staff writer