|KEVIN HARVICK Suggestion fell on 'deaf ears' (File/Reinhold Matay/Associated Press)|
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Kevin Harvick believes it's time for NASCAR to start doing regular, random drug-testing of NASCAR's drivers - and he's not alone.
Harvick said he spoke with NASCAR officials at the end of last season about its drug policy and the lack of regular testing and that "it went on deaf ears."
"In the 10 years that I've raced, I've never been drug tested. So, to me, that is not a proper professional sports drug policy and, as I went up and talked to them about it, they were more mad that I had a reaction to the situation than they were as far as trying to move forward."
NASCAR's substance abuse policy, based on "reasonable suspicion," allows it to broadly administer tests anytime, anywhere. The sanctioning organization would not reveal how often those tests have been administered, but only a handful of drivers have been suspended from its various racing divisions for violations.
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp answered Harvick's criticism Thursday at
"We test an individual when we have reasonable suspicion, and a positive test results in severe consequences and is a career-changing moment for that person," Tharp said. "NASCAR's policy is also supported by the various policies that the teams have in place that are required under the driver/owner agreements."
The subject of the substance abuse policy came up in the wake of revelations this week by former Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series driver Aaron Fike that he was addicted to painkillers and sometimes used heroin at the track on the same day he raced.
"I cannot believe it," two-time reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said. "[But] I'm so happy they figured out or found out what was going on and got him off the track. That is absolutely unacceptable."
Cup drivers are not represented by a union, like many other professional athletes, but most say they would like to see a program of random drug testing installed to alleviate any chance that people like Fike, arrested while shooting up heroin last July 7 in the parking lot of a Cincinnati amusement park, will be racing against them in the future.
Going for twoA year ago, Jeff Gordon crossed Phoenix International Raceway off the ever-dwindling list of tracks where the four-time champion has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. His victory in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 was the first of six victories in one of Gordon's best seasons. "Last year was an awesome year for us, all the way around," Gordon said after qualifying 11th for tonight's race on the mile Phoenix oval.
The only current Cup tracks where Gordon hasn't won are Homestead and Texas.
Now Gordon would like to take advantage of his newfound winning ways at Phoenix to bounce back from a terrible race last week on that bugaboo Texas track, where he crashed and finished last in the 43-car field.
Ryan Newman will start from the pole tonight, with Elliott Sadler on the outside of the front row.