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“A year ago, about a month before our Cup race, our guy who walks the track every day, one day he’s seeing a few things but everything’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said. “The next day, he goes out and the bottom three lanes have dropped 4 inches down. There’s a gap the size of my fist, all the way laterally along that thing.

“If that happens on the Saturday night of a Cup weekend, that’s a really bad day _ and we can’t take that chance.”


NARROWING THE FIELD TO FOUR: The NASCAR Foundation announced the four finalists for its first Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award on Sunday, with the candidates ranging in age from late teens to early 80s.

The winner will receive $100,000 for his or her chosen charity.

The youngest finalist is 17-year-old Jake Bernstein of St. Louis, who co-founded the website and averages 100 volunteer hours per month for Autism Speaks, which will receive the prize money if he wins. His work was cited earlier this year in a speech by President Obama.

Robert Weaver, 83, of Talladega, Ala., is the oldest of the final four. Weaver is a longtime volunteer for organizations which serve people with visual or hearing disabilities, and for more than 50 years has delivered ice cream to deaf students. If he wins, he will donate the $100,000 to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Foundation.

The other finalists are Brenda Doner, 52, of Columbus, Ohio, and Patty Aber, 44, of Middletown, N.J.

Aber, who also volunteers for the NASCAR Foundation and driver Kasey Kahne’s foundation, has donated more than 1,000 hours in the past two years to her chosen charity, the Bridge of Books Foundation. The organization provides books for underprivileged children in New Jersey.

Doner’s chosen charity is PBJ Connections, which uses equestrian activities to help children with emotional and behavioral issues. In addition to her longtime work with that organization, Doner also volunteers extensively with several current and retired drivers’ foundations.


SPARK PLUGS: Billionaire Warren Buffett watched the race from atop Kyle Busch’s pit road stand. … A.J. Allmendinger was penalized twice Sunday. He had to start from the back after missing driver introductions and had to make a pass-through after coming too fast into pit road in the 131st lap.