The Martinsville paperclip flared tempers among Chasers on Sunday and in one instance, proved that being teammates means very little in the context of racing for a win and a championship.
The tussle between Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon came out of nowhere. After running near the front of the field, Gordon got shuffled back towards the back of the top 10 after a slow pit stop. In an attempt to make up that lost ground, Gordon got into the corner too hard and bumped Busch up the track in what looked simply like a racing incident.
Busch obviously didn't view it that way, and while he claimed he tried to let Gordon go on the straightaway, as you can tell by the video, the contact he initiated looks pretty intentional. And — at least in the elder Busch's view — means that it's OK for a Chaser to wreck another Chaser in retaliation for initial contact that may not be intentional.
At Kansas, Kyle Busch was wrecked by David Reutimann after he got into Reutimann earlier in the race. In that circumstance, Kyle felt that it wasn't appropriate for someone like Reutimann — who isn't in the Chase — to retaliate against someone racing for the championship. (Yes, Kurt Busch had no real shot at the title entering Martinsville, but Gordon was 156 points back with the faintest of faint hopes.)
Late in the race, Gordon let Busch by without incident, a minor surprise given that Gordon was off the pace because of his wounded race car. Remember, Busch called the drivers at Hendrick Motorsports "pretty boys" earlier in the season and tried to take on Jimmie Johnson himself over the summer.
Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick got touchy — both over the radio and on the track — over real estate at the front of the field. The two RCR teammates made contact numerous times racing for position, and immediately after a caution came out Harvick slammed Burton's rear bumper as if to send a message.
Harvick told his crew chief Gil Martin that he was sick of giving Burton mulligans and that it was the third time that Burton had done it to Harvick, including Indianapolis and Loudon. However, it was unclear from the replays and race coverage just exactly what that "it" was.
At the same time, Burton radioed to crew chief Todd Berrier — formerly Harvick's crew chief — that he was tired of being a good teammate and that if Harvick bumped him again, he would have to do something. However, once Harvick and Burton had a chance to cool down, that feud quickly simmered and the two raced each other cleanly the rest of the way.
While chances are good that Harvick and Burton will settle their differences and be good teammates at Talladega, the same can't be said for Busch and Gordon. It seems that Gordon may owe Busch one over the final four races. Will he cash in?