Racing, Respect and/or Retribution. The Three R’s were the topic of conversations, long and short, after Sunday’s race. Even the newer and blander race winner, KURT BUSCH/No.22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge weighed in on the subject. “This sport was based off of guys roughing each other up. That’s that good old short track racing that we see – the good old door slamming, bumper to bumper. It’s the heritage of our sport. That’s old school, and I’m old school.”
All of the talk eclipsed Busch’s dominant victory, his first this year and his first on a road course. And one he raced clean.
The elder Busch brother was savoring the moment. “It was an unbelievable day. To win on a road course (his first) and beat him (JEFF GORDON) is good.
“It was an unbelievable setup. Once we got into the groove with this car, it seemed to get better after lap five or six. Our cars have never done that before. Thanks to the fans, this was an awesome ride today. That backward lap brought tears to me; I was all choked up because that’s something cool that deserves to be done.”
It was Busch’s first victory this season, his first on a road course, and he dominated. He raced it clean and he was devoid of drama.
Everyone was talking about the three R’s – Racing, Retribution and Respect (or lack thereof); and how they led to a wild and crazy race. Everyone weighed in on the subject, be it long or short. Everyone had an opinion. Everyone had a quote.
The main topic was the incident where BRIAN VICKERS/No.83 Red Bull Toyota put TONY STEWART/No.14 Old Spice Chevrolet up on the Turn 11 tire wall. It’s already on YouTube, and I guarantee that incident will make all the sports highlights. More from them later. And no, NASCAR didn’t have anything to say to the boys.
Not to be overlooked, there were other incidents: Pole sitter JOEY LOGANO/No.20 The Home Depot Toyota and ROBBY GORDON/No.7 Speed Energy Dodge; the accident caused by JUAN PABLO MONTOYA/No.42 Cottonelle Chevrolet and whomever was in his way, including fourth place KASEY KAHNE/No.4 Red Bull Toyota. Young BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Miller Lite Dodge wasn’t having any of it, and he did unto JPM as he had done to others.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Best Buy Ford started a chain reaction by hitting DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 FedEx Freight Toyota, who hit MARTIN TRUEX Jr/No.00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota.
MICHAEL McDOWELL/No.66 HP Racing LLC Chevrolet had a busy weekend, but ultimately rather ordinary results. In the Cup race, he hit BOBBY LABONTE/No.47 Clorox/Kleenex Toyota and ended Labonte’s day. McDowell ended up thirtieth. Saturday McDowell, who came from a road racing background, was on his way to a possible victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, when he drove wide and lost ground, literally and figuratively. At least he avoided the debacle created by former F1 Champion, JACQUES VILLENEUVE, who knocked several front runners out of the way. JV finished third, while his victims retired.
Second placed JEFF GORDON/No.24 Dupont Chevrolet) was in a good mood after the 110-lap race on the ten-turn elevated road course. He held his daughter in his lap while he chatted with third place finisher, CARL EDWARDS/No.99 Ortho Scott Ford, who was also in a light-hearted mood. They had fun bantering back and forth during the post-race media conference.
Gordon, aka JEFF GORVETTE, said “You’ve got to keep your nose clean and stay out of trouble. There were a lot of guys doing some silly things that were wrecking and causing themselves a whole race instead of just trying to survive. When the car is like that you kind of have to give up the spots and not fight the guys off too much, which is just the toughest thing to do. You want to race.”
Asked about Kurt Busch saying he was put off that Jeff didn’t apologize to him last year, but that Jeff apologized to other people, Gordon said. “I make a bonehead move and mistake on a guy, a guy like Kurt Busch who ran me off the track on a restart, then I ran him off the track on the next restart. But I did it far more. I didn’t feel like I owed him an apology. He’s done things to me over the years that I didn’t get any apology on. That’s just the relationship I have with Kurt. If it’s Carl (Edwards), certain guys out there have certain relationships. If you have that kind of respect on the track for one another, you apologize. I don’t think that exists really with me and Kurt, so I see no reason to apologize.
“I was not proud of some of the things that I did last year. You know, it’s not my style. It’s not the way I like to race. Like I said, there were some instances where it was a mistake on my part. Juan Pablo is behind me. He’s the king of the late-brakers. He would be a long way behind me, yet he would still drive down inside me. When I crashed Martin, I was blocking Juan Pablo and made me go into Martin. It wasn’t like I was trying to do anything towards Martin (MARK MARTIN, Jeff’s Hendrick Motorsport teammate.)
I certainly didn’t want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of ’em coming out of here. So it’s nice to come out of here and that not happen. I don’t think I really touched anybody today. So that feels good.
Edwards bantered back “You really pissed me off passing me at the end (laughter). Gordon – “But I didn’t touch you.” Edwards – I felt bad after that race. Then I heard how mad everybody was at you and it made me feel better. ”
The conversation turned to retribution, and Edwards and Gordon were asked about having problems with other drivers in a certain race, and to answer in general “because NASCAR might be listening.”
Edwards said “I don’t think I’ve ever gone out and tried to get somebody back. Have you?”
Gordon said “Never. And I have a terrible memory. I never remember those instances where I got into a wreck with somebody so I forget about it later.”
Edwards said “I think NASCAR has this ‘have at it’ mentality, the statement they made. I think in the end will be better and safer for all of us. You know when you’re out there, if NASCAR is going to let things be settled on the racetrack, I think people will respect each other a little bit more on the racetrack, and that’s good.”
Gordon said “The only thing I’ll say is if you’re going to try to win a championship, those types of situations are, in my opinion, going to hinder you from doing that. If you start getting into a battle with a guy, especially if it’s somebody that is not in championship contention, you know, then what happens is you’re not going to win. It’s going to be a lose for you and everybody. If it’s somebody that’s in the championship, then you guys have to figure out how to settle it, whether it happens on the track or off the track.
“I think it just depends. If you’re that upset at what happened, and you see that guy again before the race is over, you’re still upset, depends on how your fuse is. Some people have short fuses and some people have long fuses. I got into a battle with Tony Stewart before. That’s not a guy I battle with anymore. We had our situation. I’m so glad that we resolved it fairly quickly. Nobody has more respect for one another out there than me and Tony because I’ve been on the other side of it with him when he can get mad. He’s not a guy that you want to have gunning at you. He’s a great racecar driver, he’s smart, he can get really mad. We’ll see how this one turns out.”
Gordon’s reaction to seeing Stewart upended on the tire wall, he said I’ll tell you what I thought. Did you see the wreck in the Grand Am in Elkhart Lake? That’s what I thought. Throttle stuck or brakes went out. You got to be traveling at a high rate of speed going backwards to get up on the tires over there and keep it there…..From what I heard, he (Stewart) had a little help getting there.
“I made a comment one time on the radio, it was nuts, just crazy, crazy. You guys are seeing turn 11. It’s crazy from the time you drop the green going into one, two, three. I mean, it’s just the buildup to get to turn 11.
“The problem is turn 11. There’s two places you can pass on this track, going into seven and 11. You couldn’t really pass going into seven today. It was so slick, you had to be so careful. So everybody gets to turn 11. Because you’re racing one another, it seems like guys, you know, really block the inside lane and force guys to go around the outside lane. So it builds frustration. You get in a position where this is your only shot for that entire lap to try to make a pass.
“So, you know, either somebody gets aggressive and drives in there too hard, makes contact, or they just get frustrated and start using the bumper. It’s hard to say. But it was pretty crazy from where I was sitting. I know that.”
Edwards reply was “To be able to escape out of here with a top three is a good day with us, especially considering everything that went on out there.”
“It looks like there is an opportunity with all that pavement out there to move turn 11 about 200 yards this way. They can call it the donut hole or something out there. You can go out there and spin around and do donuts when you get run off the race track. There is an awful lot of pavement there to put that corner at the end of it. You know what I mean?”
“I don’t know that I have ever gone out and tried to get somebody back. Have you Jeff? I think NASCAR with the “Have at It” mentality will be in the end better and safer for all of us. I know that if I go down in the corner and hit a guy that NASCAR will kind of let things be settled on the race track. So in a way, I think people respect each other a little more on the race track.”
“My spotter does a good job of letting me know who is mad at each other. Jason will say for me to watch guys because they are about to wreck each other. In general, you never really know what happened or if it started a lap before or what. It is hard to tell in real time who is mad at who and what is about to happen.”
CLINT BOWYER/No.33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet – fourth, said “Well, we didn’t really weather the storm but it was a lot of fun.”
MARCOS AMBROSE/No.9 Stanley Ford – fifth, said “I am so proud of my Stanley car and my Stanley team to get a top five out of what could have been a very tough day for me. Todd and the guys worked hard all day and got us into a good position there at the end.
Pole sitter, JOEY LOGANO/No.20 The Home Depot Toyota, whose spotter was MAX PAPIS, who ran Saturday’s NNS race at Road America and is running the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series full time, said “It was crazy out there. Luckily this time I wasn’t involved in as many (incidents) as I’ve been before.
“Usually, I was getting spun out all the time. We did a good job with all that stuff. Obviously, our car’s beat up a little bit. I think overall, considering everything that happened, that’s pretty good.”
Logano brushed off his run-in with Robby Gordon. “That’s no big deal to me. I don’t know. He was running me all over the race track. He knocked my fender in for no reason. We were a lot, lot faster than him. I just had enough. I wasn’t going to get pushed around. He pushed around before, I was sick of it. I think that’s a small story. That’s not a big deal. We finished sixth. I’m pretty happy about that.”
A.J. ALLMENDINGER/No.43 Best Buy Ford – thirteenth “That was crazy just like always. The car was pretty good and I think from about mid-race on we kind of got loose. The track, there was so much crap on the race track and we kept adjusting. Everybody was running into each other out there. I got into a couple guys and got them angry and then I had one guy dump me. I just tried to keep fighting.
Montoya said “The No. 4 was the first car, I got beside him and he knocked me a couple of times and they just don’t give me any room so it was hard. The No. 2, I got on his bumper moved him a little bit, got beside him and passed him and he just plain and simple wrecked us. It’s hard when people don’t know how to race on road courses and think they do. It’s okay. We had fun, we have a good car.”
JPM doesn’t plan on talking with Keselowski. “Ask him, he’s the one that wrecked me. We through the corner and I just got on his bumper a little bit and moved him a little. Got a good run and I guess he didn’t like it. I mean, it is just hard to run with people who have never run well on road courses or have no experience at it. It cost us a ton of points today. But no, you have to talk to smart people.”
Now back to Stewart and Vickers. Early on in the race, Stewart lightly rear-ended Vickers in Turn 11, and sent him spinning. Later, on Lap 87, Vickers had his payback, hitting Stewart in the same turn, sending him spinning around where he ended up impaled backwards on top of the tire wall. Quite the visual. It took some head scratching for the emergency crew to get Stewart down and into the pits for repairs. When Stewart was back on track, his car was crabbed, not going straight. He slowed on course, and waited for Vickers, But as his car was too far gone, Stewart retired after that lap, finishing thirty-ninth.
Not surprisingly, Stewart was up front and outspoken. When asked what happened “I dumped him earlier for blocking and he got me back later on. If they block, they are going to get dumped. It is real simple. I mean I don’t blame him, I don’t blame him for dumping us back. But, I don’t race guys that way, I never have. If guys want to block then they are going to wrecked every time. Until NASCAR makes a rule against it, I am going to dump them every time for it. He did what he had to do, I don’t blame him, there is nothing wrong with it.”
Stewart admitted it was Vicker’s payback. “I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier but I dumped him because he was blocking. If anybody wants to block all year that’s what I’m going to keep doing so they can handle it however they want. It was payback, but I dumped him first and I dumped him because he was blocking. I’ve been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year. I like Brian, I’m not holding it against him at all. I don’t care if it was Ryan Newman I would have dumped him too. If they want to block that’s what is going to happen to them every time for the rest of my career.”
“It was payback. I don’t care that it was Brian (Vickers.) That’s how it’s going to be for the rest of my career. It could have been (teammate) Ryan Newman. I’m gonna dump him too. If they block me, I won’t tolerate it.”
Vickers had a different perspective on the Stewart incidents. “You know, he wrecked me and I wrecked him. I wasn’t blocking him. That may have been his perception where he was sitting. You know, the 18 (KYLE BUSCH/M&M’s Pretzels Toyota) went off the race track in front of me — he was flying through the dirt. He was coming back on the race track and I was trying to avoid him. You know the cars in front of me were slow and I was in the inside of the guy in front of me. It’s pretty early in the race to worry about blocking someone or wrecking someone. I think when he sees the replay and he realizes why I went low, he’ll realize that if he looks out my front windshield, he’ll realize it had nothing to do with him, it had to do with the 18 almost wrecking and a couple other guys slow up top. You know, it’s unfortunate. He made his bed at that moment and he had to sleep in it.”
Vickers didn’t think there was a problem with Stewart. “I don’t believe he said that. Maybe he did. I think we were joking and laughing last week — we had a great race. We haven’t had any problems in a long time. Actually, I think the last real problem we had was turn 11 in 2004, funny enough. That was the last time we actually got together.”
“I’m not angry. I’m okay. I’d rather have been racing for a win than worrying about crap like that. I’m fine with how it all worked out. Granted I wished it hadn’t happened — I hate it for the Red Bull guys. These guys worked hard on the car, we had a really good car. We were trying some different stuff, we made some changes at the beginning of the race. We were trying some different stuff on air pressure and we were just horrible at the start of the race — just absolutely horrible. Once we fixed that we were pretty quick. We were quick until after that until we got wrecked.
Vickers said NASCAR hadn’t said anything to him, “and I don’t think they will. They know that Tony and I have been around long enough to know how to handle these things ourselves. We’re both grown adults. It’s not like we’re rookies and we’re learning the ropes. We know the deal, they know the deal — we’ll figure it out. I’m sure Tony and I will talk this week. We don’t need them to tell us.”
Bobby Labonte said “I do know we got together with DAVID REUTIMANN/No.00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota. I just drove underneath him there. He might not have seen me. I just got on the curb and was almost saving it, but it didn’t quite work out. He got setup by the 17 car (MATT KENSETH/Crown Royal Ford). I was just part of it, part racing. Then we were building our speed back up there and got a couple laps and come off turn 11 and the 66 car (McDowell) was there and I’m not sure what all happened, but next thing I know I’m in the fence.”