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Jeff Gordon: SAFER barriers should be standard at all NASCAR tracks

Motorsports Notebook

- rbonnell@charlotteobserver.com
Friday, May. 31, 2013

After a rattling crash into the wall at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday, veteran Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon is questioning why NASCAR tracks don't standardize SAFER-barrier technology.

"I had a rough week. I didn't quite understand the pain I was feeling that night until I went back and watched the video and realized the angle I hit, as well as the fact that there was no SAFER barrier,'' Gordon said Friday. "That blew my mind that there wasn't one. There's one at the start/finish line and it stops and then there's one at Turn 1. It goes around to Turn 2. That kind of shocked me.

"Certainly I said something and when I get the opportunity, I'll talk to others as well about it...Me sitting down and having a conversation with them isn't necessarily going to change that, but it doesn't mean it's going to stop me from doing it.''

During a media appearance in Charlotte last week, NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France said, "when we need to put additional SAFER barriers around, we will do it,'' but stopped short of setting a standard.

Gordon says the reason behind NASCAR's stance is obvious.

"It's cost,'' Gordon concluded. "There's only one reason, cost. That's it.''

Hamlin gameplan: After missing four races because of injury, Denny Hamlin says he has no choice but to be extra aggressive the rest of season. Friday he drove that way in winning the pole for Sunday's Fedex 400.

"Our only play is to be aggressive. If we don't win we're not accomplishing much,'' Hamlin said of the ground he must make up to qualify for the Chase. "We just can't hope to back our way into it.''

Hamlin won the pole with a speed of 157.97 mph. The top four qualifiers were all Toyotas. Hamlin was followed by Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth. Ryan Newman's Chevrolet was fifth in qualifying

Danica amused: Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick got a chuckle Friday over the friction between one of her mentors - Tony Stewart - and her boyfriend - Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.

Stewart has done a slow burn all season about drivers habitually blocking him. He perceives Stenhouse as one of those drivers. So despite claiming Stenhouse is "like family,'' Stewart wanted to hurt him following the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord.

"I'd choke him right now if I could get to him,'' Stewart said on Sirius XM radio following the race.

Patrick got a kick out of Stewart's choice of words during an interview Friday outside her hauler.

"Don't you want to choke your kids every now and then? I mean, everybody wants to choke their kids, or their dad, or significant other at times.

"You say it because you can't do it,'' Patrick said. "(Stewart) loves him like a son.''

Then Patrick addressed the situation more seriously:

"(Stewart) wants to help teach the rookies,'' Patrick said. "If he didn't think they were good, then he wouldn't try and help them because they won't be around long in his opinion.''

Power down: Kurt Busch had a fairly rare problem during the Coca-Cola 600 when his car battery seemingly conked out. They replaced it without a major delay, but it was a bit of a mystery how that could happen.

Mystery solved:

"It wasn't a dead battery. It was a plug-and-wiring snafu,'' Busch said Friday.

No regrets: Matt Kenseth's crew took a risk in the Coca-Cola 600, choosing not to pit late. It ended up working against him, but he says that was more bad luck than bad planning.

"It's easy to look back and pick out one thing or whatever, but really we were still running second,'' said Kenseth. "It was just really an untimely caution for us. If the caution had come out two laps later, all the guys that were racing with us that were on the lead lap basically, would have already pitted and everything would have been fine."

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