Road rage steals spotlight from Busch at Infineon
Kurt Busch won Sunday at Infineon Raceway, and there wasn’t much drama in his route to victory lane. He dominated the day in the Toyota/Save Mart 350, leading pretty much wire-to-wire, never getting so much as a challenge from anyone en route to his first career road-course victory.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s play the feud.
While Busch may have had an incident-free day, mostly because no one could catch him, he was about the only one as tempers flared at a rate that, well, Irate Kurt Busch would be proud of.
It started with Joey Logano wrecking Robby Gordon and ended with Brian Vickers doing the same to Tony Stewart. Scattered in between was Juan Pablo Montoya acting like last year’s Jeff Gordon, wrecking anyone in his way.
Not that any of this was unexpected. With tight quarters and few passing zones, racing at Infineon has become a bumper-car affair. On Friday, Jimmie Johnson warned that things would get chippie, while Matt Kenseth called the track the most physical on the circuit.
Their prognostication rang true when Gordon got into Logano, the polesitter. Having grown tired of being everyone’s punching bag, Logano used the chrome horn to send a message to Gordon, spinning him around going into Infineon’s hairpin Turn 11.
“Somebody ought to have Joey Logano’s dad come down to watch him get a spanking,” Gordon fired back over his radio.
While Gordon didn’t get retribution Sunday, he shot a fairly vicious warning across Logano’s bow afterward.
“I guess I need to pull a Richard Childress on him, just not at the race track,” Gordon told SB Nation.
When Childress took a couple swings at Kyle Busch a few weeks ago, it was an elder sending a message to a youngster that he wasn’t going to stand for a lack of respect. It’s the same sentiment, sans fists, that Stewart has been lamenting all season long.
After last week’s race at Michigan, Stewart, who has installed himself as the arbiter of all things fair and unfair, called his fellow competitors “idiots” for the way they had raced. While he acknowledged that Vickers had a reason to be mad on Sunday – Stewart did spin him earlier – Stewart stood by his actions, saying he’s going to keep delivering messages as long as there is a lack of respect on the track.
“I’ve been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year,” Stewart said. “I like Brian; I’m not holding it against him at all. I don’t care if it was [teammate] 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.”
For NASCAR, it’s a perfect situation, really. Because while they want the boys to keep having at it, there needs to be some policing, and Stewart appears more than willing to be the sheriff.
“I don’t race guys that way and I’m not going to let anybody race me that way,” Stewart said. “So if they block, they get dumped. Plain and simple.”
Does this take away from the goal at hand – winning? Sure.
Kurt Busch turned in one of the most dominating performances of the season, becomes the 11th different winner in 16 races and moves up to fourth in the standings, yet the talk centered around the shenanigans that went on behind him. Last month at Darlington, Regan Smith’s first career win was an afterthought in the Kyle Busch-Kevin Harvick pit road mix up.
The drivers are playing a sport, but at the same time they are entertainers.
“This sport was based off of guys roughing each other up,” Kurt Busch said. “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.”
Without that heritage, Sunday’s race would have been a ho-hum affair devoid of any drama. And you never would have read this far.
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