The Frontstretch: Fact or Fiction: Did McMurray Win Or Busch Lose, And Is Keselowski's Title Tarnished? by Mike Lovecchio -- Monday October 18, 2010

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And then there were three. Halfway through the Chase, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick have distanced themselves from the rest of the field, a clear trio of favorites to score this year’s trophy come Homestead.

The Chase race is now down to three

It was an up and down night for a number of Chasers Saturday in Charlotte, but ultimately a Jimmie Johnson spin that would have certainly narrowed the deficit for multiple drivers was for naught. In typical Johnson fashion, that golden horseshoe helped keep the No. 48 off the wall, helping the team rebound for a third-place finish. The come from behind performance, combined with a fourth place from Denny Hamlin (41 points back) and a top 10 from Kevin Harvick (77 behind) has distanced the top 3 from the rest of the Chase field. Suddenly, a points race that had a record eight drivers within 85 of the lead after Kansas now finds fourth-place Jeff Gordon 156 out with five races remaining.

Certainly, with half the Chase over, 156 points may not seem like a lot, and the big three can just as easily lose that edge just as quickly as they gained it – especially with Talladega left on the schedule. But consider the top three wheelmen we see now have been sitting in that position for virtually all year. Johnson and Hamlin were the regular season wins leaders, Harvick was the most consistent driver over the first 26 races, and the three have combined to win 15 of the 31 events this season. It’s possible a driver like Kyle Busch or Tony Stewart could get on a run and reel in this top trio, but at this point, the odds are certainly against it.

Jamie McMurray BEAT Kyle Busch for the win

Perhaps it’s the Chase pressure, but over the years Kyle Busch has been prone to playoff mistakes.

Add this weekend’s final restart to the list.

No question about it, Busch simply outsmarted himself on the race’s final wave of the green flag, trying to jump the start and ultimately allowing Jamie McMurray to pass by and cruise to the win. What added insult to injury was restarts were exceptional for the No. 18 the entire night up to that point, part of the reason he was able to dominate in clean air. Instead for Busch, as he found out, second-place finishes aren’t going to get it down in the hole that he’s in, gaining just ten points on Johnson despite also leading the most laps. McMurray proved once again that Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing is on the rise and he is a viable Chase contender next season, but Busch gave the race away just as much as his rival won it. It doesn’t matter what “Rowdy” does in the regular season; until he can calm down, limit his mistakes, and become more consistent over the final ten races, he won’t be a Cup champion.

It’s that simple.

Brad Keselowski SHOULD be your Nationwide champion

With his fifth win of the season, Brad Keselowski opened what will be a Nationwide Series title-winning margin of 450 points over Carl Edwards. It’s been an impressive year for the soon-to-be-champion, but he’s failed to be the most dominant driver in the series over the guy who finished sixth on Saturday night. Yes, that same guy I accused of blowing Chase races has had arguably the best Nationwide season ever, and if he had only run the full schedule could have cruised to the title himself. Kyle Busch has started five less races than Keselowski, yet has more than double the number of wins (Keselowski: 5, Busch: 12) to go along with 20 top-5 finishes.

Given Busch’s remarkable consistency – 23 top-10s in 26 starts – it’s not hard to imagine he would have made up his current 515-point deficit simply by running in the five races he missed (103 points an event). It may not matter now, and the Nationwide championship may not exactly mean what it used to; but given the series champion didn’t even have the best year himself, Keselowski’s upcoming achievement will be slightly tarnished.

Contact Mike Lovecchio

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: Charlotte-2 Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: If You’re Thinking Johnson’s Unbeatable… Hold On a Sec
Bubble Breakdown: 35th Spot Heating Up Between Front Row, Gordon, TRG
Running Their Mouth: Bank of America 500
Nationwide Series Breakdown: Dollar General 300
Carey And Coffey: Kasey On The Brink: What Is Kahne Really ‘Sick’ Of?

The Frontstretch Newsletter, back in 2014 gives you more of the daily news, commentary, and racing features from your favorite writers you know and love. Don’t waste another minute – click here to sign up now. We’re here to make sure you stay informed … so make sure you jump on for the ride!

Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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Stephen HOOD
10/18/2010 06:43 AM

How can Keselowski’s Championship be tainted because one of the competitors chose not to compete? Kyle Busch has had a stellar Nationwide year, although Brad has had a stellar year as well. Brad comes in second or third when Kyle comes in first which is not too shabby. Kyle decided not to run for the Nationwide Championship so he could focus on his Cup prospects. In hindsight, should he have focused on defending his Nationwide Championship? No.

Kyle is a tier one Cup driver and Cup should be his focus. Brad is with a tier two Cup team that in a year or so should be competing for top tens. Brad is running for the right championship considering where he is in his career. I don’t see why Brad’s title is tainted anymore than Johnson’s title is tainted because of his competitors lack of talent or maturity.

Kyle could have chosen to run for the Nationwide Championship. He didn’t. No taint.

10/18/2010 09:30 AM

Kyle chose not to run a full schedule, Brad chose to run for a championship. What might have been is not what is. No taint. If I had picked the right numbers I would have won the Powerball jackpot. Now Boyer’s win with an illegal car is another matter; that win is definately tainted.

Carl D.
10/18/2010 09:37 AM

If the Nationwide Series wasn’t tainted to start with, Justin Allgaier would be leading the points.

10/18/2010 09:47 AM

1.) True, and I have been saying it since Loudon when everyone was predicting that Homestead would see maybe 6 or 7 drivers with a shot at the championship.

2.) True, Kyle is his own biggest obstacle to winning. He is unfocused, young, and immature.

3.) False, sure Kyle could be leading the points if he had run the entire schedule, but his decision isn’t what is tainting Brad’s NNS run at the title. The last decade of Cup regulars coming down to choke the series to death, is what is tainting his championship run.
It’s kind of sad in a way, because Brad is the driver that could already have won a championship or two in NNS, had the Cup guys not stolen his, and now he feels justified in stealing someone else’s title.

10/18/2010 10:17 AM

Please Kyle haters get the facts straight. Joe Gibbs told Busch he could not run the entire Nationwide schedule. Early on Kyle said in an interview that he thought he could win another championship but “ I do as I’m told”. Would someone tell me how you can be so vindictive and hateful toward someone you don’t even know. How can you assume you know how someone you don’t know feels and thinks.

10/18/2010 10:42 AM

ladywriter, I am confused. Where is there even ONE hateful, hurtful, or mean word said about Kyle?
If you are referring to me calling him “unfocused, young, and immature” those would all be provable facts, and not hateful comments.

Perhaps your affection leaves you a little too sensitive towards any comments made about Kyle. But that doesn’t make the people saying things “haters”.

10/18/2010 11:46 AM

ladywriter….Just to set the record straight, I HATE kyle bush, toyotas, and everyone who does like them!! Now you have something to complain about!!

10/18/2010 12:27 PM

“Jamie McMurray BEAT Kyle Busch for the win

Wrong. If NA$CAR hadn’t thrown the last “debris” caution, Jamie would have passed Kyle anyway. His lap times were faster, period. He opened up a big lead after he passed Kyle on the restart, period. Even Kyle in the post-race interview said that Jamie was just faster, period.

10/18/2010 01:03 PM

Brad is the champ, that’s it. Interesting that the top N-Wide regular is Justin Allgair, Brad’s teamate. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, nope, Brad is champ and so is Dodge.

10/18/2010 01:39 PM

So the chase is down to three with five “races” to go. Who wants to bet it’s down to two with one “race” to go and who the winner will be? Just like in the old points system.
Emperor Brian is giving Hendrick what he’s paid for.
Guess which Hendrick car will not have any “gremlins” during the chase?

10/18/2010 01:42 PM

@ glenn:

Yes, Brad is going to be the champ. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t tainted. Just as the steroid scandal in baseball taints the homerun records, but doesn’t actually alter them, so too does the presence of Cup drivers in NNS taint their records.

As for Dodge being the champ, PROBABLY NOT! I couldn’t find the current manufacturer’s standings easily, but with Toyota having won more than half of the events, and Dodge being under-represented on the track, Toyota will more than likely win that honor. I’m not even sure if Penske will win the owner’s championship.

Kevin in SoCal
10/18/2010 02:25 PM

Are Richard Petty’s 7 championships tainted because David Pearson didnt run a full schedule every year?

10/18/2010 02:51 PM

Lady writer You appear to be the one using the hate word. Your man/boy has acted in an arrogant & disrespectful way since he got to cup. Sorry thats what I’ve seen. He’ll grow up & acheive greatness I’m sure but for now “Talented Donkey”

10/18/2010 03:31 PM

Thank you all for the expected response. I have no affection for Kyle Busch or anyone else I don’t know. Jacob as far as nasty names how many people have you called stupid, ignorant and ADD.
JohnBoy….what can I say about that comment. Except so long it’s been good to know you Frontstreth.BYE.

10/18/2010 03:42 PM

Are Kyle Busch’s wins in the NW tainted because he runs superior equipment compared to 30 other drivers each week. No, in fact they are combined with his Cup wins by the media to somehow make it sound more meaningful than it really is.

So no, Brads championship is not tainted.

10/18/2010 05:53 PM

ladywriter, are we supposed to miss you? Why assuming so, would be just plain IGNORANT. Buh-bye

10/18/2010 07:46 PM

The Nationwide championship is not tainted. JGR and K. Busch chose not to run the full season. The championship should always go to a driver that runs the full schedule. That is a NASCAR principle dating back to the early 1970s. They get the owners championship.

Brian France Sucks
10/18/2010 09:08 PM

McMurray won the race straight up. He was consistently faster over the last 60 laps. Busch d!cked up the restart, but he didn’t come close to running McMurray down. I know you needed something to fill up the article, but c’mon.

A suitable replacement could’ve been: The racing this year has been absolutely enthralling to everyone not named Brian France or Mike Helton. FICTION

Or Brian France is the most inept commisioner/leader of all professional (and I use that loosely) sports organizations. FACT

10/19/2010 07:45 AM

Mike, you can’t say Brad’s championship is tainted and all I have to do is point to Daivd Pearson’s three Cup titles to make my point. David won 3 titles running a part time schedule, While Brad may not have had the most wins, as you point out he had to be close enough to Kyle in those 12 wins Kyle has to still have a 515 point lead after all is said and done. Look at it this way, Brad stayed close enough to Kyle when Kyle won that in 5 races he was able to overcome the points he lost in the races Kyle won and still build a 515 point lead. Again, I point to David Pearson and his 3 championships running a part time schedule, his first championship running only 42 of 49 races. No slight on Brads part here.

x-na$car fan
10/19/2010 03:18 PM

Na$car has tainted the Nationwide series by being so money hungry. If they let the series be what it was designed to be the Buschwackers wouldn’t be dominating the series. They come with better equipment & better backing leaving the NNS regulars hanging in the wind. Na$car thinks they are bringing in more money(which is all they want) by allowing the buschwacker in and in a couple years, there won’t be any new drivers left.Allgier is the best NNS driver & he’s not even going to have a ride next year because of Na$cars greed by limiting his sponser – Verison.

Contact Mike Lovecchio