The Frontstretch: Mirror Driving : Bill France's Legacy, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart's Idiocy, And D.E.I.'s Future Integrity by Frontstretch Staff -- Tuesday June 5, 2007

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Welcome to “Mirror Driving.” Every week, your favorite columnists sit down and give their opinion about the latest NASCAR news and rumors. Love us or hate us, make a comment below and tell us how you feel about what we’ve said!

This Week’s Participants:
Toni Heffelfinger (Frontstretch Assistant Editor & Sundays / Busch Breakdown)
Tony Lumbis (Mondays / Rookie Report)
Mike Neff (Tuesdays / Full Throttle & Thursdays / Fantasy Picks ‘N’ Pans)
Tommy Thompson (Wednesdays / Thompson In Turn 5 & Fridays / Turn 5 Cartoon)
Matt Taliaferro (Thursdays / Scanner Static)
Amy Henderson (Fridays / Holding A Pretty Wheel)
Vito Pugliese (Fridays / Driven To The Past)

Editor’s Note : For all the latest news and information concerning the death of Bill France, Jr. click here for all that Frontstretch has to offer on this tragic loss.

Your thoughts on the passing of Bill France, Jr. What’s your favorite memory, and what type of legacy did his presidency leave behind? Finally, where does NASCAR go from here, and what effect will his passing have on the sport?

Matt T.: What’s to say that hasn’t been said? He was a visionary that brought the sport into the modern era. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.
Tommy: Bill France was a marketing genius, and his visions and ability to make them become reality has made NASCAR the success that it has become.
Amy: Without him, NASCAR would still be a regional sport, racing for small money with a few clips on TV if there was nothing else to show. He convinced CBS to show a whole Daytona 500.
Toni: France had been battling illness for a long time and had backed his presence out of the sport. I find it fitting that he died quietly while everyone’s attention was on the race at hand.
Vito: It’s sad, naturally. I grew up with NASCAR in the early 80’s when it first started getting big. I was never comfortable with the Chase, and still am not. I regret a lot of the changes that have taken place since he truly stepped aside in 2003.
Amy: Unfortunately, the effect of his passing is that now there is nobody to tell Brian he’s a complete idiot.
Tony: Exactly. One has to wonder how much of an influence he had on Brian and if Brian will now go wild with all of his ideas.
Matt T.: Oh, he’ll go wild; the triumvirate of Brian France, Mike Helton, and Jim Hunter will now proceed unchecked.
Mike: I am saddened deeply because the last true connection to the past in the leadership hierarchy of NASCAR is gone. I don’t know that Bill had much influence over Brian, but at least he was there as a sounding board.
Tony: He was the last tie to tradition, something we seem to be losing more of every year.
Amy: He really took the time to get to know the competitors, too. Even in recent years, with failing health, he stayed with the people in the sport.
Matt T.: See, I don’t think the drivers (crew, etc.) feel a connection with the “ruling body” now. Do the teams truly respect Brian & crew the way they did when Big Bill or Bill, Jr. was running the show?
Mike: I think they respect Brian. They can’t argue with the cash that his ideas have brought into the sport.
Matt T.: Really? Or do they just play along? Hmmm…I don’t know.
Tony: They may not always respect his decisions, but they have to respect his position.
Mike: They’re all getting fabulously wealthy thanks to his ideas, whether they like them or agree with them. I don’t know that the drivers respected Bill France, Jr. at first. He was pretty young when he came on board, and it took awhile for them to warm up to him, too.
Vito: Look; NASCAR has been on the wrong track since 2004. I hate to be morbid and prophetic, but with the ratings decline and fan attendance dropping, perhaps Brian might want to take a look to the past and see how his dad did it.
Tony: I think Brian has had eyes on the NFL’s ratings ever since he got in and is trying too hard.
Mike: They’ve been chasing the NFL for years, even before Brian came in.
Amy: Brian grew up on the NFL’s success…he simply doesn’t know better. That's also sad, because he doesn’t care to learn differently.
Tony: Bill didn’t build Rome in a day. He got his series sponsor in 1972, but didn't get his first fully televised race until ’79, then was still experiencing exponential growth during the 90’s. Brian has to learn to pace himself as well, I think.
Matt T.: I just don’t see solid leadership from a racing standpoint. It’s all ratings, money, sponsorship, etc. with Brian. I don’t think that was all Big Bill & Bill France, Jr. offered.
Mike: I don’t know how much experience Brian had with promotion and stuff before he moved into his current position. I know he did some work, but I don’t know if he did as much as Bill France, Jr. did when he was growing up.
Tony: That’s a good point. I know I barely knew what Brian did or even who he was outside of Bill’s son until he came into his current position.
Mike: I still think that the sport will succeed for awhile no matter what. Unfortunately though, I don’t think Brian has the same vision that Big Bill and Bill Jr. had for the sport, and it will ultimately hurt the fans. I am scared to death to say this, but I think it won’t be long before they go to divisions, so that they can go to more tracks. And I think that will ruin the sport.
Tony: To allow more competitors in?
Mike: No, to allow more tracks to hold events.
Amy: That would completely ruin the sport.
Mike: I agree Amy, but I won’t be surprised to see them try it.
Matt T.: Hard to tell where the sport goes from here. Like I said earlier, now that Brian & crew are unchecked, it could go anywhere… like Japan or Europe.
Vito: NASCAR is like the Busch Brothers on a weekend bender with Lindsay Lohan…way out of control.
Tony: So I think that while we can’t necessarily be sure about the future, the sport will go on; but one thing is for sure, Bill France’s passing is definitely the end of an era, one that we’ll never forget.
Mike: Oh there is no doubt, Big Bill saved the sport in the ’60s and Bill France, Jr. took it and brought it to the next level.
Amy: He’ll be remembered as an innovator and a promoter…no finer compliments in this game.
Matt T.: And most importantly, a fair man.
Vito: Well, just don’t tell Jack Roush that! (_Editor’s Note: Roush lost the championship as a result of a NASCAR penalty in 1990._)

Does Kurt Busch deserve to be suspended by NASCAR after driving after Tony Stewart on pit road during Monday’s race, nearly hitting a member of his crew? Or did Tony deserve to be stood up to after a wreck that appeared to be of his making?

Amy: Yes, absolutely…Kurt caused the wreck, not Tony, and then he nearly hit a crewman being an ass on pit road. Stewart held his line…if you watch the video, Kurt cut up in front of him. I’d like to see another suspension and a huge fine.
Mike: I don’t know about suspended, but he damn well better be fined. He could have severely injured that crew member who was coming around the car. I am sure he’ll be on double secret probation until the end of the season. I will say one thing, though: Kurt has more fans than I thought. They are all fired up about my column.
Vito: I think that’s a little overblown. Kurt wasn’t going to hit anybody. He comes into the pits every weekend and stops his car on the sign in the midst of 280 guys on pit road.
Matt T.: I wouldn’t necessarily say that was of Tony’s making. And Kurt doesn’t deserve to be suspended for driving after him. The crewman that was in the way may be what gets him, though. But I think we overpenalize; so no, fine, points, let go.
Tony: Some of these racers need to learn to take their problems out back in person and handle it like a man.
Vito: Personally, I thought it was great. Tony Stewart has been getting away with wrecking people for far too long. He always has his canned response ready too – saying he dosen’t have a problem with Mark Martin. Yeah. Nobody does, because he’s Mark Freaking Martin.
Mike: I’m not saying Tony wasn’t partly to blame on that whole deal, but the action on pit road was the part that will get Kurt in big trouble.
Vito: If Stewart’s not running into someone, he’s crying about them rubbing him. If he’s not complaining about the sport sucking and drying his eyes with his millions of dollars, he’s insulting someone on television.
Amy: Well, I have never liked Kurt’s driving tactics…he was a dirty driver in trucks, and I’ve never seen anything that truly makes me believe that’s changed. Tony didn’t wreck Kurt, Vito, Kurt wrecked Kurt, because he wasn’t clear. All Stewart did was hold his line.
Tony: I will say one thing about Tony. He had every right to back off or stay in the gas; either would have been fine. But for a guy that keeps preaching patience and clean driving, he never really sets a good example.
Matt T.: Neither driver showed much patience, but is that what we really want to see? Heck, I thought it was great theatre.
Vito: Kurt should’ve just waited for him to come back out on the track and pin his car into the inside wall on the frontstretch.
Amy: Busch is arrogant and thinks he’s entitled, always has been that way…
Tommy: I believe that Kurt needs to be sat down for a race or two, if for no other reason than he's a habitual offender.
Amy: Harvick was parked a race for hitting a guy intentionally, and that wasn’t on pit road. Here, there are crewmen working. If that guy hadn’t been so heads up, he could have been seriously hurt, maybe even killed.
Vito: Having said my part about Tony…how boring would the sport be without a Tony Stewart interview or a Kurt Busch soundbite. Attitude meets Adjectives in a battle royale… 230 lbs vs 130 lbs.
Mike: I was really put off by how Busch talked to Shannon Spake at the Busch Series race last Saturday night in Charlotte. I thought that was totally uncalled for.
Vito: Well, in this instance, I blame Stewart, not Kurt. Way too early in the race to be running like it’s the last lap. For someone who invokes the name of Martin all the time, he could have lifted and saved everyone a lot of grief.
Amy: Why should he have backed out? It was Kurt who wasn’t clear when he moved up. Biffle was about a foot behind the No. 20; he’d have nailed him.
Mike: I don’t know that Stewart could have eased up much; he’d have been dumped from behind if he rolled out very hard. But Stewart is way overboard on the whole respect and racing crap. It's racing.
Tommy: Tony lets his temper override good judgment, and sometimes it is detrimental to his goals. Fortunately for him, he has the talent and equipment to bounce back from his lapses in judgment.
Vito: Respect is a two-way street. With Tony, a lot of times there is little give, and lots of take.
Mike: I agree, Vito. He preaches a good line, but doesn’t practice it on the track.
Tommy: Tony does advocate more give-and-take, as long as he’s on the taking end.
Matt T.: I loved the on-track action, though.
Amy: Tony is aggressive to the point of taking an issue too far…he’s not a dirty driver. Kurt IS.
Vito: Kurt is not a dirty driver. He does some dumb things sometimes, but since his little incidents with Spencer in ‘02 and ‘03, he’s been pretty clean. You obviously didn’t see Kurt Busch dump Robby Gordon during the All-Star race then.
Tommy: I can’t agree that Tony isn’t at times capable of dirty driving. I can still picture in my head Kenseth sliding through the infield grass at Daytona.
Toni: As for Tony, I find it funny that a guy that is so big on people moving out of his way can’t cut anyone else any slack when he’s holding up a faster car.
Amy: True, that was a stupid move on Tony’s part…but I’d still rather have him on my back bumper any day than Kurt.
Matt T.: Kurt should get fined & docked 25 points. But I bet it’ll be more severe.
Tony: I think whose fault it is can be argued for weeks to come, but one thing is for sure, when it comes to putting pit crew members or anyone in danger by an intentional move, then a punishment needs to be handed down. Enough said.
Mike: I think the penalty should be 100 points, but I still don’t think he should be suspended.
Vito: Well, in other news, Tony at least leads the series in guys wrecking him on pit road…

What does Martin Truex, Jr.‘s win do for the D.E.I. program long-term? How will this affect the way in which people view the organization in light of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.‘s departure?

Mike: Well, it at least shows that D.E.I. can be competitive in the Car Of Tomorrow. There was no doubt from early on that Truex was going to be a car to be reckoned with on Monday.
Toni: And it shows that D.E.I. isn’t as bad as some folks make them out to be. Not quite top flight, but not that far off either.
Tony: Truex didn’t just back into this race, he dominated. A lot of people saw this momentum at the end of ’06…Truex just didn't capitalize on the momentum and cash in at the beginning of this year.
Matt T.: I don’t know how people will view the organization any differently though because I don’t know that it does much to help the long-term problems D.E.I. is facing.
Amy: I agree; I don’t think it does much, if anything, long-term.
Tony: It may settle down all the rumors of Truex leaving.
Mike: I don’t know if it settles down the rumors or not. It does show that someone can win in a car other than the No. 8 on a non-plate track for the first time in what, a decade?
Vito: I think it raises their stock a ton. The gloom and doom scenario of D.E.I. imploding was way overblown to begin with, and I think this reaffirms their position as one of the top rides in Nextel Cup.
Mike: I don’t know about that, Vito. They are far from one of the top rides in NASCAR. In fact, they’re currently the fourth best Chevy team on a good day.
Toni: Come on, they aren’t as out to sea as say Yates is. I know the talk might make you think that…
Vito: They’ve won more races than Gibbs has this year.
Matt T.: The management at D.E.I. is horrid. I don’t see the place going belly up anytime soon, but I don’t look for many more days like Monday.
Mike: That’s true, Matt, but the management at Roush is worse, and they’ve won two Cup titles in the last six years. And Toni, D.E.I. isn’t as strong as Hendrick, Gibbs or RCR. Let alone Roush-Fenway.
Toni: No, they are not. But I’m saying they aren’t as far off base as people think – they are a solid second tier team, one that's capable of having some really good weekends. They’re just not quite to the point of stringing a whole season of them together like Hendrick or Gibbs.
Tommy: They have been a second tier team. But that CoT program looks pretty stout. Not Hendrickesque, but good.
Vito: D.E.I. is going to be in rebuilding mode with Junior leaving. They have no choice but to add people and technology to become an attractive team and a competitive one. I think they’ll be fine depending on what driver they get next to pair with Martin.
Mike: But if they get their engine program going well, they could move up.
Matt T.: Yeah, the RCR-DEI engine deal may be what really saves this organization.
Mike: I don’t know that they have to step up that much in the technology department. Junior did them a favor mentioning that from what he has seen, they are on par with the rest of the teams.
Amy: I don’t know that it’s engines over there, either…it’s the chassis that never seem to handle quite right.
Vito: Truex is a 2-time BGN champ…a lot of people discount that, which is silly. The guy is a pretty fair driver in his own right, and has been overshadowed quite a bit by his teammate. It shouldn’t be any secret who the team was focused on the last two seasons. With Martin the lead driver for the time being, it’ll be good to see the organization put their efforts behind him more so than in the past.
Tony: Martin is just outside the Chase, too, and you do need some sort of consistency for that. Like everyone is saying, D.E.I. is not championship material, but I'll rise them up to the top of the second tier teams with Ginn. Truex was brought up slowly, not thrown in to the fire, and I think the best is yet to come as he continues to learn.
Matt T.: Agreed. Truex is a talent.
Mike: And I also think Bono is a hell of a crew chief. They are certainly hitting their stride and will probably contend for more wins in the future. They were strong at the end of last season, and they’ve been getting better and more consistent this year.
Matt T.: Still, sponsor issues and mismanagement are big issues here.
Tommy: That win was no fluke though. D.E.I. is doing some things right, as much as people hate to admit it. The No. 1 team came up with Martin from the Busch Series. They’ve been learning this thing together, and that is going to serve them well in the future.
Tony: One can look at the D.E.I. situation for Martin in two ways: 1.) Give up and run or 2.) Step up to the plate and be a leader. I think he’s going with 2.
Mike: I noticed that. He kind of made the comment like the organization needed leadership and he was going to try and take the reins. That kind of surprised me.
Vito: Hey, when there’s a power vacuum…suck it up.
Matt T.: Maybe Truex and Bono develop into a Kenseth / Reiser-type duo, too.
Tony: Agreed. I would expect maybe one more win this year from them.
Mike: I don’t think he’ll win five races, but I could see him winning three and finishing in the Top 5 in the final standings.

The Busch Series heads to a standalone weekend this week, a golden opportunity for a Busch-only driver to head to Victory Lane for the first time this year. Which “fill-in” driver among the major teams has the best opportunity to break through?

Toni: None. Simply because Carl Edwards is still going…along with just enough other Cup drivers to make it impossible.
Amy: I don’t think it'll be a fill-in…if Edwards doesn’t make a joke of another race, I think it’ll be a regular, like Jason Leffler.
Tommy: Better watch Marcos Ambrose! And Scott Wimmer.
Mike: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wimmer do it.
Toni: Wimmer has been looking good.
Matt T.: I’d love to see Bobby, Jr. win the thing. It’d mean a whole lot to him.
Tony: Wimmer definitely is due.
Vito: Meanwhile, don’t discount Toyota’s Busch teams … they aren’t half bad.
Tony: Although not necessarily with a powerhouse team, I got to believe that Dave Blaney will be strong in the No. 10 car.
Mike: I would love to see Bobby, Jr. win in Nashville, that would be awesome.
Tony: That would be, and this may be his best chance. Reutimann ran very well there in April, too.
Toni: Bowyer is a threat at Nashville. Still think a Busch guy will win?
Vito: Nah, I’m going with Bowyer.
Tony: You know, these Busch drivers could take advantage of the jet lag these Cup guys will have coming in that day.
Matt T.: David Green and the new Riley-D’Hondt team will be there, too. But honestly, does anyone NOT expect Carl to win?
Mike: As much as we’d like to think it, a Busch regular is most likely not going to win again this weekend. It happens once or twice a year, so it's possible, but not likely.

Predictions For Pocono?

Amy: Denny Hamlin threepeats.
Vito: Mark Martin.
Toni: Jimmie Johnson.
Matt T.: Kurt Busch wins it. All this negative energy only makes him stronger.
Tommy: I want to point out that I was high score in Frontstretch's fantasy racing league this week. Catapulted me all the way up to…oh, ok…29th in points. So when I predict that Kenseth will win this weekend, it should carry a lot of weight.
Mike: Here’s one you won’t hear from me very often…Casey Mears.
Vito: I like that pick, Mike.
Tony: The No. 25 car always runs well at Pocono.
Toni: Mears has done some nice stuff at Pocono, too.
Mike: Vickers was a stud at Pocono in the No. 25, and I think Mears puts it in Victory Lane this time around.
Tony: I’m going to go with Newman this week. Penske has always been strong there, and he has momentum on his side.
Vito: I wouldn’t count out Kurt either…assuming they let him race after that little stunt he pulled yesterday.
Matt T.: Runner-up twice at Pocono last season, Penske is looking much healthier these days. I like Kurt this weekend.
Vito: Hey, how about a new prediction question: Does Michael Waltrip make back-to-back races for the first time since 2006?
Toni: Or an even better question – will MWR ever get all three cars into one race?

EMail The Mirror Guys ‘N’ Gals!
Amy: Amy@frontstretch.com
Matt T.: matt.taliaferro@frontstretch.com
Mike: mikeneff@frontstretch.com
Tom: tom@frontstretch.com
Tommy: tommy@frontstretch.com
Toni: toni@frontstretch.com
Tony: tony@frontstretch.com
Vito: vito@frontstretch.com

Not Sure Which FS Writer To Trust With Predictions? Check out the 2007 Nextel Cup Prediction Standings Below:

Writer Predictions Wins Top 5s Top 10s Average Finish
Tom Bowles 10 1 6 7 8.0
Matt Taliaferro 9 2 4 6 9.1
Tony Lumbis 7 0 4 5 10.6
Tommy Thompson 10 1 4 7 10.8
Vito Pugliese 12 1 7 8 10.9
Toni Heffelfinger 12 1 5 6 11.8
Beth Lunkenheimer 2 0 0 1 15.0
Amy Henderson 14 2 5 8 15.5
Cami Starr 5 0 1 2 15.6
Mike Neff 11 1 2 4 16.8
Kim DeHaven 1 0 0 0 37.0

Are you checking out the Frontstretch Newsletter? If you’re not, you missed out on a special commentary by Vito Pugliese on Bill France, Jr., as well as another edition of this week’s Editor Power Rankings…who’s on top? Is it Gordon? Is it Hamlin? Or maybe Jimmie Johnson? You can’t find out until you click here ; and remember, signing up for the newsletter is FREE!!!

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Did You Notice? … Breaking Down A Sprint Cup Season Eight Races In
Beyond the Cockpit: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. on Growing Up Racing and Owner Loyalties
The Frontstretch Five: Flaws Exposed In the New Chase So Far
NASCAR Writer Power Rankings: Top 15 After Darlington
NASCAR Mailbox: Past Winners Aren’t Winning …. Yet
Open Wheel Wednesday: How Can IndyCar Stand Out?
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Melissa
06/06/2007 03:16 AM
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Go Vito! I totally agree with your take on Tony Stewart. Why does NASCAR keep letting him get away with wrecking people? Mr. “Give and Take” only knows how to take. Tony should practice what he preaches, but he never does.

RJ
06/06/2007 05:57 AM
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Amy, Lighten up. Tony is the dirtiest rotten driver on the circuit. He always preaches give and take, but all he does is take!
Tony had been beating and banging the 2 car all day and Kurt finally had enough and took care of it. Good for Kurt. I bet you wont see Tony screwing with KB again!!!

James
06/06/2007 06:37 AM
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Hey Tommy, sorry man but you blew that call on the #1 team coming up from busch with Martin. Can we say STEVE PARK? he ran the number 1 penzoil for DEI and even won one or two races. Truex ran and won the busch championships (2) in the blue AC Delco car for DEI. I do believe the number was 3 then, but i’m not sure

Toni
06/06/2007 07:55 AM
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Actually the No. 1 team of Steve Park (which won two races—Watkins Glen and Rockingham) and the No. 1 team of Martin Truex are the same in number and ownership only. After Park’s and Pennzoil’s departure the team on the Cup level was mothballed. Truex, meanwhile, was winning his Busch championships under the Chance 2 banner (part of DEI owned jointly by Jr. and Teresa) in the Number 8 Bass Pro Shops car. When he was promoted to Cup, the entire team was moved up with him and the No. 1 team was reborn. The No. 8 Chance 2 entry in Busch is now defunct.

Aubrey Samples
06/06/2007 08:37 AM
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about kurt bush being fined&supended,have people forgot when carl edwards ran upbeside dale jr. after a bush race into the side of his car with jr’s arm outside this could have very easy took his arm,no word,,no fine or peantly nothing. will this be another case of nascar play favorites? like i read, nascar is trying to play god. get over it.

James
06/06/2007 10:33 AM
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Thanks Toni, didn’t realize that

Laura
06/06/2007 10:49 AM
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I think Amy did not actually see the race. If she had, she would have seen Tony wreck Kurt and then speed up and ram him for final insult to injury. I agree that Kurt should not have gone down pit road, but let’s be honest, he showed tremendous restraint in not getting out of that car and punching the lights out on Tony. Tony pulls this crap every week, and has wreck Kurt three times this year – anyone remember Daytonna?? Tony cries for everyone to give and take but he’s a hypocrite! At least Kurt knows how to admit when he’s worng. Kurt is the best driver in NASCAR! NASCAR needs to get their act together and set the standards consistenetly. Otherwise, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon all need to be suspended for their retaliation bad moments. Let’s move on to Pocono.

Joe J
06/06/2007 12:10 PM
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Tony didn’t speed up to hit Busch and ram him. Why did Tony come straight to pit road after the wreck, because he had no breaks once Kurt pushed him up into the wall. Hmmm, maybe that’s why he ‘rammed’ him.

I also believe I read a quote from Kurt, where he said he was 90% clear of Tony when he went up the track – Well look you bone head, if you knew you wasn’t 100% clear, why did you move up?

I’ll admit I was busy while watching the race, but I really don’t recall the 2 & 20 running around each other all day, just a few laps before the incident Tony was running 5th, and was doing a lot of that ‘giving’ to get back to where Kurt was.

Bottom line the penalty Kurt receives is because of his actions on pit road, not the racing incident. He had to see the pit crewman as he was about to hit the 20, and he didn’t even try to turn away – In that case he deserves everything they throw at him.

Ed
06/06/2007 01:46 PM
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Unfortunately, amongst all of the great things Bill France left us, there is a legacy that foretells impending doom: Brian France. That is worse than all of the little weekly driver spats and the susequent arguments they create. It’s obvious that too many fans (and writers) have too much time on their hands.

Mel
06/06/2007 02:07 PM
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Anyone who says Tony caused that wreck is an idiot. Here is Kurt’s quote: “I was 90% clear”.

He was not 100% clear when he tried to pass Tony. He came up in front of Tony without being clear there for it was his fault.

Dawg
06/06/2007 02:52 PM
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It was clearly Tony’s fault. And I am not an idiot!!!

Mel
06/06/2007 03:05 PM
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Dawg, Kurt said he was 90% clear of Tony. Do the math. There is still 10% of that space taken up by Tony. Tony was all ready as high as he could basically go and Greg was right on Tony’s butt so Tony couldn’t lift. Kurt was not clear of Tony but still came up into Tony. So it was ALL of Kurt’s fault.

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