Point swapping raises red flag

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- The point-swapping following the 2008 season has created several questions as the Daytona 500 approaches next week.


The top 35 teams from last season's car owner standings will get automatic exemptions into the 500. With last place paying at least $250,000, there's a lot at stake.

Mergers, acquisitions and technical alliances have jumbled the standings, leaving some questions on which cars will have to race their way into the lineup through the Gatorade Duels and which ones get a free pass.

Hall of Fame Racing merged with Yates Racing in January, and Yates responded by transferring points earned by David Gilliland in the No. 38 to that team. Paul Menard joined Yates and was rewarded with the points earned by Travis Kvapil in the No. 28 Ford.

Ryan Newman 's switch to Stewart-Haas Racing came with the points earned by Scott Riggs in the No. 66 last year. His teammate, Tony Stewart took the points earned by Johnny Sauter in the No. 70, but he also has a past champion's provision to fall back on.

To add to the confusion, John Andretti will drive the No. 34 Chevrolet for the newly-formed Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, and he will be exempted with the points earned by Menard and Marcos Ambrose will race the No. 47 Toyota at Michael Waltrip Racing with David Reutimann 's points. Reutimann is safe, however, because he's going to take the points earned by his Waltrip teammate, Michael McDonald .

Teams that don't have exemptions include Clint Bowyer , AJ Allmendinger and Sam Hornish . Those organizations are looking at ways to make technical alliances to qualify for an exemption. Bill Davis Racing probably won't start the season, so those owner points are available. So are points from two dormant teams from the Earnhardt-Ganassi merger -- the No. 01 and 41.

NASCAR doesn't allow teams to sell their positions in the car owner standings. Technical mergers, however, seem to be the new way to skirt the rules.

DRUG FREE ZONE: Every NASCAR driver passed a mandatory preseason drug test, NASCAR said. So did crewmen and NASCAR officials.

The announcement was a relief for the organization, especially since Aaron Fike admitted last year he drove races while under the influence of heroin.

NASCAR's new drug policy calls for random testing, but Newman said everyone was notified in advance of the preseason exam. Newman said by giving everyone advance notice, it "takes away from the people who know how to cheat the system."

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.



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