Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 23 News List

NASCAR driver proactive on drugsa

AP , CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick’s car burns after he was involved in a crash during the Aaron’s 499 auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, on April 27.

PHOTO: AP

Kevin Harvick has received a crash course on privacy laws, learned how long different drugs stay in the system and tested the drivers and crew chiefs on the teams he owns.

A month after the startling admission by former Craftsman Truck Series driver Aaron Fike that he used heroin on the day of races, Harvick has jumped ahead of NASCAR by requiring the drivers and crew on his Nationwide and Truck Series teams to submit to drug tests.

“This is a very clean environment,” said Harvick, who drives in Sprint Cup for Richard Childress Racing. “But we have these incidences happen, as we did with Fike. We need all that to go away.”

Fike was never caught in NASCAR’s substance abuse program, but was suspended after he was arrested last year and charged with possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. He told ESPN The Magazine last month that he used heroin the same day he drove in races.

Shocked that Fike fell through the cracks of NASCAR’s drug policy, Harvick immediately thought of the dangers presented by a driver on the track under the influence. Harvick was once in a race with Fike.

“Running into a wall at 200mph [320kph] and putting 42 other drivers at risk is a much bigger consequence than not being able to hit a baseball,” said Harvick, who drives the No. 29 Chevrolet for RCR.

“The responsibility needs to be put in everybody’s hands, whether it needs to be put in NASCAR’s hands, the team owners’ hands, the drivers’ hands,” he said.

So Harvick and his wife, DeLana, who own a Nationwide Series car and two trucks in the Truck Series, scrambled to put together a drug testing program. Kevin Harvick Incorporated drivers Ron Hornaday, Jack Sprague, Cale Gale and their crew chiefs have all submitted to drug tests in the past month.

“Just knowing that these guys that build these cars and trucks are clean just makes me feel that much safer,” Hornaday said. “It would be good to see everybody follow KHI’s lead and do the same.”

NASCAR’s drug policy allows tests anytime, but is based on “reasonable suspicion.” NASCAR won’t reveal how often tests have been administered. A handful of drivers have been suspended this decade, including Truck Series driver Tyler Walker last year and Nationwide drivers Kevin Grubb and Shane Hmiel in 2006. Hmiel was banned for life after three failed tests.

“The policy is perhaps the broadest and the one with the quickest trigger in all of sports,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said. “It prohibits the misuse or abuse of any drug and essentially provides NASCAR the latitude to test anyone anywhere at anytime. And that serves the sport real well. The question now is: Is there more that can be done to test in a different manner, or even more often?”

Harvick suggests any driver involved in a wreck who is taken to the infield care center should be required to take a drug test.

“You can make it happen randomly on its own with the drivers and you cover all those figures every time you go into the infield care center,” Harvick said. “And it literally takes 30 seconds.”

Harvick also wants NASCAR to require anyone wanting a “hard card” credential at the beginning of the season to pass a drug test. The Indy Racing League implemented a similar policy before this season.

“We’ve always had the right to test at a moment’s notice, but the drivers signed a release this year when they went through their physicals, then were tested,” IRL spokesman John Griffin said.

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