DOVER, Del. (AP) – NASCAR will not have impaired drivers racing around the track.

“We have a zero tolerance for that,” NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Friday. “There is just no place for that in the sport.”

On Thursday, Busch Series driver Shane Hmiel was suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR’s substance-abuse policy for a second time. NASCAR did not say what substance it believes Hmiel was using.

The 25-year-old driver was previously suspended for almost four months at the end of the 2003 season.

NASCAR tested Hmiel after qualifying for Saturday night’s Busch race in North Carolina. He was permitted to race, but was suspended Thursday after NASCAR received a positive result from the test.

Hmiel crashed his car during that practice session at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. He practiced his Busch car Thursday at Dover International Speedway, but was escorted out of the garage by several NASCAR officials before the second session.

Currently 14th in the Busch standings, Hmiel was replaced this weekend by Ron Hornaday.

Braun Racing spokesman Gene Haskett said the team would not have any comment on the status of Hmiel, and a spokesperson for the driver could not be reached for comment.

NASCAR came up with an official substance-abuse policy in 1988, shortly after questions were raised about driver Tim Richmond’s lifestyle. Before the Daytona 500 that year, Richmond tested positive for large amount of decongestants and pain relievers, and was suspended.

Richmond, later voted one of NASCAR’s Top 50 drivers, never raced again. He died of AIDS in August 1989.

Since the policy went into effect, NASCAR has had the authority to conduct random testing, and the sanctioning body has encouraged drivers to let officials know if they see suspicious behavior.

NASCAR first suspended Hmiel after a positive test in 2003. He was under suspicion for his driving in a race at Richmond, Va.

“There were some erratic moves that he made on the race track, and a gesture with a car toward an official, ” Hunter said. “Our policy is to set up testing where reasonable suspicion gives us a broad latitude where a guy is acting erratic or abnormal, things that you see when somebody is abusing some sort of substance.”

The sanctioning body was not alone in noticing Hmiel’s moves in Richmond, Va.

“A lot of cars were tore up that day and it seemed like Shane was in the middle of it,” said David Green, a former series champion.

Green recalled that another driver was tested then and never returned to the track, leaving him with the impression that Hmiel’s recovery effort was impressive.

Apparently, it didn’t last, and Hunter says Hmiel won’t be back any time soon.

“We’ve got a responsibility to all the other drivers and crew to make sure that no one is using anything that will affect their performance on the race track,” Hunter said.

“We’ve got cars going around at 200 mph. These drivers have to trust one another.”

AP-ES-06-03-05 1735EDT


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