Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NASCAR Drivers Worried About Bump Drafting at this Weekend’s Daytona 500

Odds makers call it a tight race with Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon & Dale Earnhardt Jr. all at 9-2

Defending Nextel Champion Tony Stewart is so worried about reckless driving on NASCAR tracks this season that he’s checking his life insurance before this weekend’s Daytona 500. Although defending champion Jeff Gordon was favored earlier this week, odds makers currently have Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all at 9-2 (at as of February 15) to win this weekend’s race.

The 2006 season only began last weekend in Daytona, and drivers are already firing shots at each other over some questionable driving according to defending Nextel Champion Tony Stewart. With inclement weather postponing the Budweiser Shootout until Sunday the day ended with Nextel Cup stars Jimmie Johnson and Terry Labonte having their qualifying laps set aside for rules infractions and Hamlin's veteran teammate Tony Stewart saying the practice of ``bump drafting'' at Daytona International Speedway is going to get someone hurt or killed.

"I was watching TV before we came down here and they were talking about the tribute to Dale Earnhardt," said Stewart, referring to the fact the legendary driver was killed five years ago in the 2001 Daytona 500. "Five years from now we're probably going to have to do another tribute to another driver because we're going to kill somebody. It could be me or Dale Earnhardt Jr. or anybody out there."

What has the two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion so upset is the reckless use of bump drafting, where a car from behind rams into the rear of the car in front in an effort to increase momentum and speed up the draft. That is used to help get by another car but it's a dangerous tactic that often knocks the car out of control.

"This isn't a new topic," Earnhardt Jr. said. "It was brought up last year and guys had the right idea. I don't think softening the guys' rear bumper in front of you is the answer, rather I think it's softening the front bumper."

When asked if he learned anything from the 72-lap Budweiser Shootout, Stewart said, "Yeah, I learned to look at my life insurance policy today (Sunday) or on Monday as soon as I can get the office open."

With all the crazy props that some online sports books have been offering lately, it'll be interesting to see if anyone offers odds on whether or not a driver will be killed due to bump drafting this NASCAR season.