NASCAR appoints panel to look into changing drug-testing policy

RICHMOND, Va. -- NASCAR president Brian France has appointed a group of company officials to an interim committee that will study the sport's drug policy, vice president of communications Jim Hunter said Friday.

The group, whose members Hunter said have "been around a long time and know the sport," will report back to France with any recommendations "within six weeks or so."

Among the topics they will survey, Hunter said, is whether or not to add a staff substance abuse expert and whether or not random testing should be implemented.

Currently, drivers are drug tested only under "reasonable suspicion."

"We know the [current] policy is a good one, but maybe we need to enhance it, maybe we don't," Hunter said. "Maybe we need to do random testing, maybe we don't. But within six weeks or so [France] wants a report with recommendations on what we should do."

Hunter said the biggest hurdle for the sanctioning body is privacy.

"We've always respected that and we're going to respect that," Hunter said. "But if random testing is the answer I know the drivers are all for it. It's a question of getting the team owners to cooperate with us."

Sprint Cup driver and Nationwide Series owner Kevin Harvick, who was outwardly critical of NASCAR's policy following an ESPN The Magazine report that Aaron Fike had raced under the influence of drugs, recently implemented a random testing program within his company, Kevin Harvick, Inc.

Hunter hopes other owners follow his lead.

"We applaud Kevin Harvick for his stance," Hunter said. "Kevin's being a leader by stepping out and saying, 'Okay, I said we need a better deal, I'm going to do my part.' What we [at NASCAR] need is to get everybody to do their part to eliminate any perception at all that there's a problem in this sport -- because there's not.

"Any time something happens like the Aaron Fike situation it casts some doubt out there. The integrity of the sport is at issue, and everybody has a lot at stake so we're taking this very seriously."

Any change to the policy, Hunter said, wouldn't likely take place until the 2009 season.