The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: A "Cryle"-Baby?, Hendrick Drama, And Icing Title V by Kyle Ocker -- Monday November 8, 2010

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Kyle Busch often wears his emotions on his sleeve. On Sunday, his emotions took a field trip to his middle finger.

Even in his older age, Jeff Gordon can still scuffle
FACT

Fans at Texas Motor Speedway were treated to a special midrace, WWE-like bout between two of the series’ most respected drivers. Following a Lap 192 crash under caution in turn 2 involving Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, the two drivers met in the middle of the backstretch for an old-fashioned scuffle.

To the fans’ displeasure, two NASCAR officials and two track safety workers were on the scene to break it up before any actual punches were thrown and the two drivers were hauled away to the Infield Care Center — in the same ambulance.

The crash caused Gordon to fall to sixth in points and Burton to 12th. However, both were already considered to be out of realistic title contention entering Sunday’s race.

Kyle Busch can handle adversity
FICTION

So much for the once heavily publicized “new Kyle.”

Kyle Busch spun in turn 1 on lap 159 and sped down pit road in an attempt to stay on the lead lap. When Busch came back down pit road to serve a one-lap penalty, he decided to fire off a “one-finger salute” to the official standing in front of his car — clearly visible to the entire ESPN audience watching his in-car camera live. In response, NASCAR issued a two-lap “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty to Kyle. According to NASCAR’s Director of Communications Kerry Tharp, Kyle could have additional penalties levied on him later this week.

“Any time you make an obscene or inappropriate gesture to one of our officials, which he did, you’re subject to penalty,” Tharp said. “We penalized him during the course of the race. We held him two laps. But I tell you what, we’re going to go back this week when we get to Concord, NC, and we’re going to review this situation and there could be further penalties regarding the No. 18 car.”

The tantrum came less than 24 hours after Busch stormed out of the Texas media center, using multiple expletives in both his brief post-race news conference and on his delayed post-race radio interview after finishing second in the Nationwide Series race. In that event, Busch adamantly claimed Carl Edwards jumped the final restart en route to beating his No. 18 and cruising to victory.

Another “Milk and Cookies” meeting scheduled at HMS
FACT

Back before Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus morphed into a well-calibrated machine, Rick Hendrick had to host a kindergarten-style milk and cookies meeting to patch up their at-the-time shaky relationship. Well, a similar one will have to take place if Knaus really thinks his pit crew will want to work for him this week at Phoenix.

After Johnson’s pit crew failed to perform to expectations and his HMS teammate Jeff Gordon wrecked out of the AAA Texas 500, crew chief Knaus called for an unprecedented pit crew switch. For the final three stops, it would be Gordon’s No. 24 pit crew servicing Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet while Johnson’s crew helped out behind the wall and took down Gordon’s pit box after the No. 24 retired from the event. The switch paid off, big time, as the final three stops of the race were faster than the No. 48 crew’s best time of the day.

With the frustration of being pulled from their jobs coupled with the embarrassment of being showed up in front of the entire NASCAR Nation, it should be an interesting week with the No. 48 team. Let’s just say that there better be some DoubleStuf Oreos at that meeting.

Johnson will win his fifth straight title
FICTION

After Denny Hamlin’s win at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, he leapfrogged Jimmie Johnson in the standings and now leads the championship battle by 33 points with two races to go.

The last time Johnson trailed heading into the final two races was in 2005, when he entered Phoenix second in points but left Homestead fifth. If that isn’t enough to prove the “Drive for Five” is over, Johnson also entered Phoenix second in points in 2004 and wound up losing the championship. Still need more? The driver leading the Chase with two to go has won every season since the system was implemented in 2004.

Plus, possible turmoil with his pit crew could wreak havoc down the road for Johnson. Anyone who has watched the movie “Cars” knows that drivers can’t win a race, let alone a championship, without a pit crew.

Contact Kyle Ocker

Monday on the Frontstretch:
FREE NEWSLETTER! BREAKING NEWS ON JEREMY MAYFIELD AND BRIAN FRANCE! CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Texas Fall Race Recap
“Fights? Friction? Failure? “An Eddie Gossage Dream” Unfolds in Fort Worth”:http://www.frontstretch.com/bkeith/32201/
Bubble Breakdown: Pole Position Turned Post-Race Disappointment For RPM
Running Their Mouth: AAA Texas 500
Tracking The Trucks: Winstar World Casino 350K

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Swan Racing Announces Restructuring, No. 26 & No. 30 ‘Sold’ Off
Tech Talk with Tony Gibson: Taking Stock Of Danica Patrick In Year Two
Vexing Vito: Three Drivers In Need of a Role Reversal
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Fantasy Insider: Team Revelations For NASCAR’s Short Tracks

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Stephen HOOD
11/08/2010 04:00 AM
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Fact: You should get a big penalty for flipping off an official. You ought to be able to flip off a fellow driver, but officials should be off limits.

I think Kyle has been listening to the media hype that believes he is the “best stock car racer ever” while his teammate slowly accomplishes what he can’t seem to do. Kyle has won twice this year while Denny has one eight freaking times. Everybody talks and writes about Kyle while the best JGR racer car driver is Denny Hamlin. Hell, Joey Logano may be outrunning Kyle Busch by the end of 2011 and we will be hearing about Kyle picking up a full time Nationwide deal to salvage his career. Kyle season is falling apart once again, and he doesn’t have Steve Addington to blame.

Jacob
11/08/2010 06:58 AM
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Who cares if he flipped off an official? As Matt pointed out in his column, Dale Earnhardt would flip off anybody that he felt needed it.
na$car’s penalty is much more likely a reaction to it being seen live on TV, and being able to say to the FCC that they don’t tolerate such obsenities in a post Janet Jackson/Superbowl TV world.

Is the sporting world really so full of p*ssies, right now? I remember back to a time when players on a team would get benched for playing like crap. That’s all that happened with the 48. If their egos are so fragile that they aren’t motivated to avoid being publicly embarassed next weekend, they don’t belong in professional sports.

I hope you are right that Denny will win the championship, but it is RIDICULOUS to claim that 34 points can’t be made up in two races, or that it is even an overly difficult challenge.
Historically, after a bad weekend, Jimmie Johnson will come back to win the following week, and usually in a dominant fashion. Should that happen next weekend, and Denny Hamlin finishes in 5th place, Jimmie will be back on top. I think it is too early to count Jimmie out.*

*Disclaimer, saying that should NOT be read as an endorsement of brian france’s craptacular championship system.

Carl D.
11/08/2010 08:49 AM
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I hate it when people compare racing to stick-and-ball sports, but here I go doing it…

If an offensive tackle is missing his assignments and not making the necessary blocks during a football game, he gets pulled for someone who can get the job done. If a pitcher can’t find the strike zone, he gets yanked for someone who can get the job done. The team comes first. Johnson’s pit crew got yanked because they weren’t getting the job done. I’m okay with that.

j22pa
11/08/2010 08:55 AM
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how are Kyle’s actions ‘unsportsmanlike’…but Jeff Gordon’s actions are not? …seems like more nascar ‘consistancy’….my gosh.

Montvale
11/08/2010 09:20 AM
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Too bad the “fight” was between two good guys…I look forward to the day when Kyle gets his jaw wired shut for a few weeks

Carl D.
11/08/2010 09:33 AM
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Montvale… It’s looking more and more like that busted jaw you’re predicting for Kyle Busch may come from a member of his own team.

Johnboy60
11/08/2010 11:32 AM
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As I have said before, with few exceptions, nascrap is FULL of “sissy-men starting with baby brian! 90 % of these drivers couldn’t beat their way out of a wet paper bag!! You hear me crybaby kyle?

Craig
11/08/2010 11:49 AM
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Maybe this will be a turning point for Jeff Gordon. He’s seemed aloof since the Chase began. Dale Sr. went through a similar swoon in the 1990s, and broke it by winning the 1998 Daytona 500. Kyle though is just funny. I imagine he will be seeing some kind of fine for his actions on Saturday and Sunday. Got to give him credit though, double barrel fingers no masking it.

HankZ
11/08/2010 12:51 PM
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Good grief!
When are you men writing these articles, and you so-called men commenting, gonna stand up and grab your nads and say enough is enough? Busch flipping off officials? So what! They did much more than that “back-in-the-day”. Take the friggin cameras out if the cars then. Jimmie’s crew got pulled? So what! They weren’t doing their jobs. Gordo’s crew confirmed it. Racing is a business, leave your zhu zhu pet crying feelings at home, or go do something else if you can’t handle it. Screw teamwork, if it ain’t working, fix by any means necessary…there’s a championship on the line. Not to mention buckets of money and big azz trophy to boot.

Let the pussification of the amercian male continue.

I see the FS yo-yo is back in action. And I’m not targeting just Mr Ocker here, but the entire staff. Denny wins and Jimmie struggles, so Jimmie won’t win the championship. Jimmie wins two in a row and “no one can touch him”. Make up your mind FS. You’re confusing as all hell.

Matt
11/08/2010 12:54 PM
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Here is my problem with the pit crew swap. Yes, if the Yankees are in the world series and someone in their lineup is doing poorly, they can yank him out of the lineup and replace im, what they cant do thiough is bring in Ichiro from my Mariners because the Mariners would (obviously) be out of the playoffs and Ichiro would otherwise be at home on the couch. They have to pull from their own depth chart. This is where the big teams like Hendrick are running away from the little teams, a small team has no chance against one that can pull a championchip caliber pit crew out of it’s back pocket if theirs is having a bad day. And who wants to watch that, isn’t sports supposed to be all about watching a team actually rise above adversity anyways?

Doug in eastern NC
11/08/2010 12:54 PM
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A bird from the hand is worth 2(laps)for the Bush.

LOL

Kyle Ocker
11/08/2010 01:11 PM
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HankZ, I’ve said from the get-go Johnson wouldn’t win the Cup this year, just so you know. I think when I filled out my preseason media picks I had him fourth.

Carl D.
11/08/2010 03:58 PM
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Matt…

That’s a very good point. With all the multi-team circle jerking going on, it’s sometimes hard to remember that Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon should be considered as separate teams, not interchangable parts to the Hendrick machine. I failed to consider that in my comment. Thanks.

MSW
11/09/2010 02:50 PM
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Does anyone else think that if the Nascar officials were not there, that Jeff Gordon would not have tried to hit Burton? Gordon seems to only want to fight, when he can get in a quick cheap shot, then let someone break it up.