Close Encounters of the NASCAR Kind.

Aggressive racing seemed to be the theme this weekend. Almost every driver interviewed by the media was specifically asked about the aggressive driving – of late, and especially at road races

1.the action of a state in violating by force the rights of another state, particularly its territorial rights; an unprovoked offensive, attack, invasion, or the like: The army is prepared to stop any foreign aggression.
2. any offensive action, attack, or procedure; an inroad or encroachment: an aggression upon one’s rights.
3.the practice of making assaults or attacks; offensive action in general.

Some but not all of Random Sound Bites by Sprint Cup Drivers

AJ.J.Allmendinger's No.47 Chevrolet

A.J.ALLMENDINGER No.47 Chevrolet: “I think just the competition level has stepped up. It’s not like if you are fast, you kind of blister through the pack and you have a few guys you are racing. You look at how deep the field is now at the road course races, that’s why it is aggressive, because it is hard to pass. Everybody is so close. If you get kind of stuck in the back of the pack, it is hard to go anywhere. You look at Marcos (Ambrose) last year at Watkins Glen – he was leading the race, and pit strategy worked out where he restarted 20th, and it was hard for him to go anywhere, and he dominated that race. It just shows how deep the field is especially around this place. It is so tight. The double-file restarts are some of that. Before when it was single, everybody was kind of in line and then if you made a pass, you made a pass. You go through these first how-many corners side-by-side and that is when you can really make your most time. So it’s definitely gotten more aggressive and I think the competition level has just gotten higher, and that is what it relates to everybody being so aggressive. Also around this place, your fenders don’t matter as much as Watkins Glen, so people seem to use them up a little bit more.”

Clint Bowyer's No.15 Toyota

CLINT BOWYER No.15 Toyota: “All road racing contact is accidental until the end and an accident usually reoccurs and it’s something that’s drug on through the season and you get here and the guy gets loose underneath him. Early in the race, if people get into each other because they were pushing hard, dive-bombed them, got a wheel hop and wrecked a bunch of people, that’s an accident. The consequence for that accident at the end of the race is usually not an accident — it’s very much so on purpose. You usually see the smoke rolling out of the race car before the actual impact at the end of the race, which is kind of fun to watch as long as you’re not one of them — either or.”

Jeff Gordon's No.24 Chevrolet

JEFF GORDON No.24 Chevrolet: “Definitely road course races we’ve always seen aggressiveness, and sometimes mistakes by people trying to be overly aggressive and making mistakes. That has always been the nature of this track and road course racing because there are two opportunities to really pass, and you try and take advantage of those opportunities. Then when they did the double-file restarts – that is what really changes things. It changed things on the ovals too, but it really changed things on the road courses because it gives you that extra opportunity to be aggressive, to get the position and take some extra chances to try to get that position. Or maintain a position and causes a lot of incidents. We see a lot of people running into one another. But it has also made the road course some of the most exciting races that we have now on the circuit.”

Kyle Larson's No.42 Chevrolet

KYLE LARSON No.42 Chevrolet: “There is a lot of chaos that goes on at road course races. So just have to stay out of trouble and get a good finish.”

Hopefully that will go better than the recent Michigan race when Larson and Tony Stewart disagreed to disagree. “On the restart he lined up behind me and I was mirror driving and saw him go to the right so I went to right, felt him hit me and thought, ‘Tony’s going to be pissed,’ so I pulled up top, let him by and drove around him a couple corners later. When the (next) caution came out, I knew what was going to happen and I knew he was going to pull next to me and show me he wasn’t happy

“In sprint car racing, blocking is a little more normal so I don’t know if he gets as angry in that as he does with blocking in stock cars. Anyway, a guy like Tony Stewart probably respects you more if you don’t back down. Coming to a place like Sonoma, I’m sure we’ll be around each other and we’ll see what happens. But I don’t feel like I’ve done anything dirty so I’m not going to do anything to make the situation worse and I hope he doesn’t.” Stewart showed his displeasure in one of his customary fashions – middle finger.

Joey Logano's No.22 Ford

JOEY LOGANO No.22 Ford: “The first contact one is always an accident and then after that I don’t know how much is an accident. I think it depends on what’s going on. Usually, we all try to start the race calm, cool and collected. Everyone is kind of just running their deal and then one person gets hit and gets knocked out of the way and then he’s mad, and then he hits someone else and now the next guy is mad, so that just triggers it off and there you go. I think everyone starts with the right attitude and then at the end all manners are out the window and it’s all about just getting those positions. Like I said, there are four or five people that are pretty calm that might not have a mark on their race car because everyone else is gonna get beat around and when you get beat around you get ticked off. It happens. Usually there are about four or five guys that are smiling after the race and everyone else is really mad at each other. I can’t wait.”

Regarding aggression from drivers yet to win at Sonoma: “Look at the guys that are good at these road course and you look at the guys that haven’t won yet this season. They’re starting to get desperate, I’m sure. They’re starting to get to that panic mode at this point in the season and if this is one of those race tracks where you feel you can capitalize on, and you’re close to it, they’re gonna be desperate and they’re gonna do some crazy things out there. So that’s why it’s so important to be on the aggressive side. Like I was saying earlier, I want to be the guy pushing. I don’t want to be the guy getting pushed around. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got a car you can do that with because it’s easier said than done. If you’re the guy running up front, and you look at the top three, four, five cars, they will be ones that won’t have many marks on it, so you’ve got to be consistently up there. You’ve got to be patient. You can’t get too fired up, but you’ve got to be the aggressive one and I think those guys that haven’t had the win are gonna get desperate and it’s gonna be either checkers or wreckers for them. Hopefully, I’m far enough ahead that it’s not a problem.”

Tony Stewart's No.14 Chevrolet

TONY STEWART No.14 Chevrolet: “This is one of those places where most of the time you shake your head when you’re leaving here going thank goodness it’s over. The first half of the race is a blast because everybody is being patient and they’re driving like they have sense. The closer to the end of the race, the more that goes away and the more guys just try to take advantage of every situation and every hole that’s available.”

Brian Vickers' No.55 Toyota

BRIAN VICKERS No.55 Toyota:”Sonoma Raceway is the short track of road racing.”