Work in Sports
Penske's luck runs out in Charlotte
CONCORD, N.C. (CNNSI.com) -- One out of two isn't bad for Roger Penske.
Penske had a 1-2 finish at the Indianapolis 500 with winner Helio Castroneves and runner-up Gil de Ferran. But just two hours later, NASCAR pole-sitter Ryan Newman wrecked early in the 600-mile stock car race in North Carolina.
Newman, 23, who Penske is grooming to run a full Winston Cup season next year, earned the race's top position in just his third start in stock car racing's top division.
But Newman ran into trouble in turn 4 on lap 12 with Jeff Gordon coming up from behind. Newman lost control and his Ford slammed hard into the wall and he was out of the race.
"It was just inexperience and impatience," Newman said.
Newman said Gordon never touched his car as the two battled for the lead.
"I didn't feel anything," he said. "He was close and he might have taken the air off [the spoiler] a little bit, but it was nothing more than racing. It was not his fault at all."
Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield also drive Penske cars. Mayfield finished 10th and Wallace 14th.
More Earnhardt memories
One thing was missing from the Coca-Cola 600 -- Dale Earnhardt.
Many fans of the late driver watched with heavy hearts Sunday during the first Winston Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway since Earnhardt died at the season opener at Daytona.
The popular Earnhardt was from nearby Kannapolis, which is 12 miles from the 1.5-mile speedway.
A video of Earnhardt's career was played for fans prior to the 600-mile race and seven skydivers landed on the track's infield with flags symbolizing the driver's seven Winston Cup championships.
A plane flew overhead later with a No. 3 flag flying behind.
Earnhardt made his Winston Cup debut at this track in 1974 and competed in 48 races here, winning five times.
Wishing for a HANS device
Casey Atwood has driven with and without a HANS device this season. He wished he had one on Sunday after wrecking in the Coca-Cola 600.
Atwood said he wore the much-debated neck and shoulder restraint system earlier in races at Talladega and California, but it hurt his shoulder, so he discarded it.
But Atwood might put one back on for the rest of the stock car season after hitting the wall hard early in the 400-lap race.
"I didn't wear one this weekend. I wish I would have," Atwood said. "My neck is sore and my head is hurting a little bit, but other than that I'm fine."
Some argue that the Head and Neck Support (HANS) device could have helped save Dale Earnhardt's life in his fatal Daytona 500 crash in February.
Two Winston Cup rookies who made a big splash here last year didn't fare so well this time out.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won The Winston all-star race and sat on the pole for the Coca-Cola 600 with a qualifying record before finishing fourth in 2000.
Meanwhile, Matt Kenseth won the circuit's longest race despite starting 21st.
Neither second-year drivers were in contention Sunday night.
Earnhardt Jr. finished 25th, while Kenseth was 18th.
Earnhardt Jr. also had a poor showing in Saturday's Carquest 300, finishing 29th in his first Busch race since 1999.
Working through the pain
It was going to take more than an upset stomach to get Kevin Lepage out of his Chevrolet on Sunday night.
Halfway through the 600-mile race, Lepage told his crew he was sick and needed a relief driver.
There was just one problem, no driver could be found to take over.
After receiving some fluids during a much-needed pit stop, Lepage returned to the track as driver Mike Wallace, who didn't qualify for the race, showed up to help if needed.
But Lepage remained in his ride, which he landed on a full-time basis two weeks ago and finished 35th.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.