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Earnhardt, Mears get probation after bumping

CONCORD, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears were penalized Tuesday for intentionally bumping cars after the race at Phoenix International Raceway.

NASCAR put both drivers on probation for the next six races, but neither was fined or lost any points. It was an about-face from Saturday night, when officials said they would not punish the drivers for their post-race skirmish.

“We had a weekly competition meeting, we had a good discussion about it, and we decided to put the drivers on probation so the situation did not escalate,” said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston.

Contact between the two caused Earnhardt to crash with 11 laps to go in Saturday night’s race, spoiling what had been a good run. He led 63 laps and was likely headed to a top-10 finish, but the accident dropped him to 31st.

After the race, Earnhardt intentionally spun Mears on the cool-down lap. Mears retaliated by passing several cars on pit road to find Earnhardt, then bumping into the back of his car.

The two were teammates last year at Hendrick Motorsports, but Mears now drives for Richard Childress Racing. Both are having disappointing seasons so far. Earnhardt is 19th in the standings and Mears is 22nd.

Their probation begins this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and runs through the May 31 race in Dover, Del.

Hybrid to be pace car

CONCORD, N.C. – Denny Hamlin glided a hybrid vehicle down the backstretch at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at 110 mph, one hand on the steering wheel and his head turned toward his passenger.

“Pretty smooth ride, huh?” he grinned.

Smooth enough for NASCAR’s standards.

A hybrid will be the official pace car for the first time in NASCAR when Toyota lends a Camry for use in next month’s Coca-Cola 600. Hamlin offered rides around the speedway Tuesday in the car that will be used to demonstrate its performance capabilities.

“A couple times I found myself just puttering around there because it was so smooth,” Hamlin said after almost an hour on the track. “You’ve almost got to force it to get out of shape.”

The demonstration was done a day before Earth Day, which is celebrated Wednesday. Toyota spent more than a year trying to get its Camry hybrid used as an official pace car, and final approval was contingent on a NASCAR performance test.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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