News from Bristol: Kyle Busch still Public Enemy No. 1

Jay Busbee
From the Marbles

In the wake of Kyle Busch wrecking Elliott Sadler in Wednesday's Truck Series race and his ensuing comment questioning who pays Sadler's salary (a veiled shot at Kevin Harvick), Harvick said this:

"Old Kyle I guess showed up last week. He was kind of pouting because he was getting his butt whipped. If he keeps running his mouth, he might get it whipped off the track."

Kyle's response: "I didn't watch any film. Just talked to Elliott. It's all good. Everything's fine. It's over. It's done with. It's in the past. We agree on some things. Uhh, a delightful conversation."

In slightly related news …

Brad Keselowski said he did not have a plan a year ago when he stepped to a microphone and said this during driver introductions at Bristol:

"I didn't really have that planned," Keselowski said Friday at Bristol. "Obviously the events form the night before (when Busch spun him), I was still a little riled up from the Nationwide race. Felt like I had been done wrong, and certainly don't feel any differently about that now."

Keselowski said fans still talk to him about that moment — "Every autograph signing I go to there are two comments that are always made: One, wreck Kyle Busch, and two, Kyle Busch is still an ass. I get that every autograph signing I go to. — but don't expect a repeat Saturday night.

"I don't know what I could say to top that," he said. "I don't even know if I should try. That was kind of its own moment and its own space and there was a authenticity to it that you hate to ruin by just having another moment just to have one when there's nothing behind it."

And no, there's no chance of renewed friction between the two coming out of Friday's Nationwide race. Due to his broken ankle, Keselowski is sitting the race out.

Just making the Chase isn't Junior's goal

On a professional level — for his sponsors, his team owner and his fans — Dale Earnhardt Jr. cares about qualifying for the Chase. But personally, he doesn't.

"I don't really know how much it matters to me," he said Friday. "Making the Chase is just an afterthought. I really want to win the championship, you know. Making the Chase is great and all, but as a person, you want to be the champion. Making the Chase doesn't really make you feel better at the end of the season if you don't win a championship."

Of course, to win a championship one has to make the Chase first, but Junior's point is noted. Just making the Chase isn't enough.

Performance vs. Popularity

Just about every driver was asked about Thursday's announcement that Danica Patrick would be coming to NASCAR full time beginning in 2012. One of those drivers was Jeff Gordon, whose arrival onto the Cup scene way back in 1992 reached a certain level of hype, though not quite Danica level.

"Please don't take this as any disrespect, Danica, but I think that the hype for me didn't have anything to do with me being popular," Gordon said. "I was not that popular at the time I made my move. But I was winning races in the Busch Grand National Series. And so, to me, if there was any hype, which I didn't think there was that much hype, but if there was any, it was more of just from a performance standpoint."


If winning were enough, why is Gordon wildly more popular than Jimmie Johnson? The answer is Dale Earnhardt Sr. Through his rivalry with Senior, Gordon became one of the sport's top-two marquee drivers. Without that rivalry, he'd have been Johnson 10 years earlier.

Outside of Dale Earnhardt Jr., no one benefitted more than Gordon from having a relationship with Earnhardt Sr., something Gordon has readily admitted.

As for Patrick's prospects running a part-time Cup schedule next season, Gordon said she "still has a long way to go."

"The most challenging years in my racing career was definitely my rookie year in Nationwide and my rookie year in Cup because you feel like you have so much to do to step it up and to live up to any expectations that there are," he said. "She certainly has a lot to live up to."

Stewart wants three full-time cars in 2012

While Danica Patrick will only  run a part-time Cup schedule next season for Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart would like to run the car full time. Doing so would potentially keep the car in the top 35 in owner's points, guaranteeing it a spot in every race. Running on a part-time basis would mean Patrick would have to qualify for every race and would not be guaranteed a spot in the grid.

"We'd love to," Stewart said. "If we can put together a package to run somebody in the rest of the races, we would love to do that. It's in everybody's best interest to do that. I know it would be good for us at team to be able to go ahead and run that car full time next year if that opportunity will present itself."

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