The first (and maybe only) installment of NASCAR notes. First, I should start by saying I am no official NASCAR writer or analyst. Just a citizen journalist (or blogger) pointing out some interesting things in the world of NASCAR. The information here is merely stuff I noticed either this week at Darlington or over the course of the season. With no regular airing of the show right now, I have to talk somewhere.
The Ryan Newman-Juan Pablo Montoya Feud: They had a feud? It is a little bit of sarcasm, but after Darlington, this quickly became back-page news.
The only thing that anyone knows, these two have not liked each other since Montoya entered NASCAR. This feud wasn’t settled, and it will likely rear its ugly head again.
But for now, no one remembers what happened at Richmond.
The NEW Feud: Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick – Both of these once hot-headed drivers drew all of the attention on Saturday night. Both drivers had seemed to mellow over the past year or so, realizing they couldn’t be successful by not having any equipment at the end of races.
Busch, the younger of the famed-Busch brothers, is known for his smart aleck attitude, knowing he has all the talent in the world. This guy hates losing (but what driver doesn’t?) and doesn’t let any driver get in his way.
Harvick has never shied away from confrontation with other drivers. Whether it was Ricky Rudd or Juan Pablo Montoya, Harvick has ruffled the feathers of several drivers, and not being afraid of getting in someone’s face.
After a wreck late in the race, Busch appeared to have spun out Harvick intentionally. Neither car suffered major damage, but it was a battle that began on the backstretch prior to the lap 363 accident.
After the race, the two began a cat and mouse game, each shadowing the others move. Once on pit road, with Harvick in front, Harvick gets out of his car to confront Busch. Busch remained in his car, and as Harvick approached, Busch rammed Harvick’s car into the pit wall, and drove off. Harvick appeared to ‘punch’ Busch as he drove past him.
Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, Busch’s actions are unacceptable. It is bad enough to use racecars as a weapon with drivers in their cars. However, to hit an uncontrolled car could have seriously injured someone.
As for if Busch wanted payback, wouldn’t it pain Harvick more to wreck him in the Nationwide Series, where Harvick actually owns the car he runs. While never suggesting it is proper to take feuds onto the track, just an opinion on if you wanted it to bother Harvick just a little more.
Like the Montoya-Newman feud, this one is far from over, and could easily be re-visited next week at Dover.
Regan Smith Wins 1st Career Race – Unfortunately for the driver from Cato, New York, he might be the only one that remembers the win next week.
The actions of Busch and Harvick overshadowed the Smith’s first career win, in 105 races, in the Southern 500 at Darlington. Smith stayed out when many of the leaders pitted for right-side tires.
Smith, you might remember, did take the checkered flag in first place a couple of years ago at Talladega. However, he passed below the yellow line, prohibited at Daytona and Talladega. Tony Stewart officially won the race.
Smith’s team, is Furniture Row Racing, an independent team, who gets its engines and cars from Richard Childress Racing, and borrows a pit crew from Stewart-Haas Racing. For the team from Colorado, they reached the top of NASCAR.
However, look a little closer, and you can see how this team has worked to get to this point. The team first appeared around 2006 with Kenny Wallace as its driver. Later the ride was occupied by Joe Nemechek.
In 2009, the team chose to scale back and brought in Regan Smith as its driver. Just off winning Rookie of the Year, it was only a part-time ride for Smith.
He stuck with the team as they returned to full-time status in 2010. This was one of the first season, they consistently ran well. Good qualifying efforts by Smith and strong runs at Daytona and Talladega helped this team gain confidence.
Smith had his worst qualifying effort of the season at Darlington, starting 23rd. His mother wasn’t at the race like she always was (she was helping with disaster relief efforts in Alabama).
He stayed on the lead lap throughout the race, and in its final stages, he was running inside the top ten. The easiest way to win races: put yourself in a position to be successful. Sixth place before staying out to win the race was key.
Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch…championship contenders – No, I’m not stating the obvious, I’m stating the facts.
While their finishes from Darlington don’t show it, both overcame mid-race adversity to return to the top ten.
Johnson spun twice in the race and was running in the top ten before the final pit stops. However, a pit road penalty left Johnson with only a 15th place finish.
Kyle Busch dominated a portion of the race, before having to pit for a loose wheel under green flag conditions. He got his lap back and made it back into the race before the whole incident on lap 363. Busch finished 11th.
Coming back from adversity throughout a race and throughout a season are crucial to fighting for a championship.
Could There Be Short Fields? – One of NASCAR’s biggest fears is not having a full, 43-car field for Sprint Cup Races. However, it could be a reality.
Until this week, NASCAR typically had 43 or 44 cars show up for a race. Darlington had 46 cars.
The Wood Brothers, #21, usually driven by Trevor Bayne has not entered the last two events. With Bayne still questionable for appearing in upcoming races with his illness, they might not enter until he is able to race again.
Robby Gordon’s car, #7, won’t enter the race at Dover this week after being a start-and-park at Darlington. Gordon will continue to run the ‘fun’ races throughout the rest of the year, after running every race until this point.
In these situations, there are usually teams that end up forming and showing up, since there is the opportunity of making a Sprint Cup Series race. However, I won’t be surprised if a short field scare occurs.
There you have it, some notes and opinions on the week that was in NASCAR. Like I said in the opening, some of this is speculation (i.e. short fields) and opinions. With “Section 26 Sports” being on hiatus during the Summer, be looking for more columns similar to this to bring you up-to-date on the happenings in sports. Be looking for us to return in the Fall.