The Frontstretch: Fact Or Fiction: Chase Clinching, Shifting Gears And Point, Kyle by Thomas Bowles -- Tuesday June 14, 2011

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As NASCAR shifts gears from Pocono to Michigan this week, one of the sport’s big question marks is whether Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick can finally shift the focus away from their feud. Who came out the winner in their latest scuffle? That’s just one of several Sunday storylines tied up in this latest round of Fact or Fiction.

Kevin Harvick and Richard Childress should have left Pocono smelling like roses. So why was it Kyle Busch who seemed to transform into the classier-looking flower after Sunday’s race?

FACT: The Latest Twist The Busch – Childress Saga? Point, Kyle

Just days after punching Kyle Busch, Pocono should have been the weekend where Richard Childress came out smelling like a rose. While Busch was on his heels, playing defense for 15 minutes in the media center Friday Childress issued a small statement, a 45-second climax of the most hastily called non-presser in history and then pressed the button marked, “I’m done.” For the rest of the weekend, he stayed in the background and let others do most of the talking, like the heartwarming support of grandson Ty Dillon and driver Clint Bowyer who talked about RC’s “passion” and “love.”

But in the midst of Childress coming out all warm and fuzzy, something intriguing happened on the Kyle side of the arena: he was holding his own. Answering every prying question with confidence, not cockiness Busch went about his business of trying to move forward while seemingly taking advice his brother had given him earlier in the week.

“I just told him, don’t waver to what’s gotten you to this point,” said Kurt Busch. “Stay true to yourself. Stay firm with how you’re racing on the track. Don’t change. At the end of the day, just try and smile more.”

“Ultimately, that’s what we’re all worried about, how the car performs and we want to win. Then there’s the identity that you create, the icon that you become, the role model that you are to kids. There are so many different hats that you have to wear at this level. But at the end of the day, it’s just a matter of making that car fast and trying to get it to Victory Lane.”

Such advice proved perfect timing for a track that’s left Busch in tatters even during the best of times. With just two top-5 finishes in his first 13 Pocono starts, in theory it was shaping up to be another difficult weekend for Kyle: on Saturday, he qualified just 34th. But there was something about the way he conducted himself this weekend, zoning out in the face of constant criticism – heck, everywhere you turned there were stories on drivers hating him, fans despising him – while staying focused on charging that Toyota towards the front. And you know what? By the checkered flag on Sunday, no RCR car could say they finished in front of Kyle; Busch had a podium finish, third on a day where the best his car owner rival could do was Kevin Harvick running fifth.

But there’s more. Harvick bullied the No. 18 like his personal pinball Sunday, running the M&M’s Toyota all over the track whenever both cars were within 50 feet of each other. It got to the point NASCAR issued a warning, which finally made things settle down until Harvick piped up with some cryptic comments after the race.

“He knows he’s got one coming,” was Harvick’s mantra after finishing fifth at Pocono Sunday, two spots behind Busch. “I just wanted him to think about it.”

Hmph. Not exactly the most endearing comment when all you have to do to keep the fans on your side was… well, nothing. Sensing an opening, Busch played it perfectly by maximizing the opportunity to make someone else the bad guy.

“I was running my own race,” he said. “Seemed like he (Kevin Harvick) was trying to make it awfully difficult on me. There’s a couple times where I just had to back off and wait, got back to him and tried to pass him again. Maybe kind of shows his character and who he is, how he feels he needs to race on the racetrack. But it’s not my fight. He’s trying to turn it into one.”

That’s right; in a heartbeat, the man besieged with blame had a chance to throw that anchor on someone else. And now, with a car owner fine and NASCAR watching him closely it’s Harvick who’s finding himself in a rather difficult position. Inexplicably, RCR handed this latest round to Busch.

FICTION: Drivers Should Never Be Penalized For Being Too Low In Post-Race Inspection

It’s one of the sport’s most controversial penalties, its actual advantage on certain tracks debatable at best. So measuring in too low, especially after passing pre-race inspection has never resulted in a killer penalty from NASCAR officials; under the old point system, it was 25 points and a $25,000 fine for the crew chief almost automatically. NASCAR kept that fairly consistent, socking Busch with a six-point deduction and handing Rogers that $25K fine after the No. 18 Toyota didn’t match the templates Sunday night.

Some thought the penalty was harsh, particularly because Busch passed pre-race inspection and suffered a significant amount of body damage during the race. But to establish consistency, NASCAR must stick with precedent on penalties and you never know what type of contraptions these crew chiefs have set up for in-race “strategy.” Note that JGR hasn’t chosen to appeal this decision; they not only accepted it but “notified NASCAR” of their findings upon getting back to the shop. Sounds like a team that knows they were playing a little outside the box, right?

That’s proof, more than ever that penalties are justified whenever a car falls outside the templates. Too low, too high, or too sideways everyone needs to be judged by the same rules, consistently; so NASCAR was right on this call.

FACT: Pocono Shifting Is Here To Stay

Tony Stewart gave a rather nasty “thank you” to NASCAR over the radio Sunday,
angry over shifting that left his transmission dropping 3rd gear in the race’s second
half. Stewart wound up 21st, one of five drivers with this type of problem in the first race where new ratios allowed that wrinkle to come back into play. Is that enough for NASCAR to change back the rules?

I say no. As tough as Pocono was too watch at times Sunday, can you imagine how nap-inducing that race would have been without the unpredictability of mechanical failure? It’s so rare these days we run the risk of DNFs, teams mastering the art of running 500 miles with all their parts and pieces instead of blowing an engine, brakes, or some sort of rear end part every other week. Can we go old school, allowing for durability to come back into play even if it’s only twice a year?
In reality, Stewart wasn’t so mad about the shifting, of course as he was frustrated his car couldn’t hang on for 500 miles. The timing and way those drivers used it allowed for more ways to get by people (Clint Bowyer jokingly referred to it as a “Push To Pass” button) and serves as a driver aid on everything from restarts to rhythm. So Smoke, you’ll have to swallow hard and get used to it; changes appear highly unlikely, in my opinion for August or even for 2012.

FACT: Jeff Gordon Has Clinched A Chase Bid

Could you believe the nerve of that Jeff Gordon, insinuating he hasn’t clinched a Chase bid on the heels of two victories? Let’s get real, buddy; you may be turning 40, but that doesn’t mean you have to be overly courteous to all those young whippersnappers fighting behind you. Let’s check out the stats:

- No driver inside the top 20 has one win, let alone two with twelve races left. That means two drivers would have to both win twice, then finish higher than Gordon in the season standings for him to fall out.

- Gordon, at 11th in points has over a full race’s worth of cushion on 21st. So barring an epic collapse, he’ll be within the top 20 cutoff to use those victories.
For me, that’s ‘nuff said; Gordon joins Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson in “lock” territory after Sunday.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
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06/14/2011 08:35 AM

Some guys were meant to where BLACK and the BLACK HAT… Kyle Busch is not on of them. Dale Sr was, as was DW. So are Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. As much as Kyle Busch wants to be on the Dark Side, he is not wanted here… and that is why most fans are siding with RCR. Sorry Kyle, like you’re brother said… you must embrace who you are…

Sue Rarick
06/14/2011 09:47 AM

Kyle has shown time and time again that he doesn’t really care what most people say or think about him. The exceptions being Joe Gibbs, his wife, his brother and since becoming an owner, his sponsors. He is almost consumed with winning. On the other hand you have RCR who now seems more consumed with ‘getting Kyle’ than they do winning. To me the loser in this game is RCR. Bumping Kyle was more important to Harvick than winning a race? Keep this up and it will be 17 years since RCR won a championship.

Carl D.
06/14/2011 09:48 AM

To be honest, I’m not sure what Harvick was trying to accomplish at Pocono. We all know he wasn’t going to wreck Kyle while he’s on probation. Was he just trying to rattle his cage a little bit? Please… this is Kyle Busch we’re talking about. The real test will be when both drivers are off probation, running at close quarters in the chase. This was just grandstanding by Harvick, and it came off as petulant. I’m not taking Kyle Busch’s side in the rivalry; he is reaping what he’s sown over the years. Still, I agree that Harvick’s actions at Pocono seemed to work against his side in the ongoing feud.

06/14/2011 12:30 PM

I agree, the RCR camp seem obsessed with payback while Kyle continues with his obsession for winning. While I’m not a fan of either team, Kyle, intentionally or not seems to be playing a smarter game and continues to make harvick and childress look petty and pretty foolish in my book. As this looks to be great fun, I just might have to start watching races again after the imminent fuel millage race that is Michigan. Certainly Harvick, unlike Edwards, is smart enough to see past the rage and know not to wreck someone at a superfast track like Michigan… or maybe not.. this IS the same guy that Kyle suckered into climbing out of his car on pit road and trying to punch him while he still had his helmet on. I might just have to surrender my moniker if Kevin wants it.

06/14/2011 12:45 PM

I love how Kyle starts it all and then when he has to deal with a little retribution, he questions the persons character publicly like he has done nothing to deserve it. He has a hard time getting through a race weekend without ticking someone else off, so questioning someone elses character makes him look pretty stupid, considering he has plenty of character issues of his own.

Don Mei
06/14/2011 02:17 PM

I’m not a fan of either driver but I do find Harvick to be, as Carl said, “petulant”. Hell, I thik he a sneaky, reptilian jerk. I love how he provokes fights in his helmet. DUH! As to Mr. Childress and his antics, all I can say is all you RCR supporters giving out attaboys to Childress for punching out Busch would be howling your heads off if Busch had decked him…Imagine the headlines, “Busch punches out 65 year old guy!” The kid was in a no win situation and, to my mind, handled it very well under the circumstances..

AB in KY
06/15/2011 07:55 AM

Yea but he didnt hit him, because he is a big boy in a 3500 lb race car, but a sissy outside of it. I have raced local dirt tracks, and if you run over someone you better be ready when the race is over. If hes gonna be 10 feet tall and bulletproof on the track, hes gotta learn to deal with retribution after. He needs to be a little less agressive on track because hes a sissy in the garage. If it would have been Harvick he would have got the same whippin because he dont have the bal*s to stand up for what he done. Age has nothing to do with it!

Don Mei
06/15/2011 11:30 AM

Dont be stupid, Ab…he didnt hit him because hes on probation and you and all the other Harvick ass kissers would have screamed for his head and his suspension for violating his probation. You may not like him but hes not stupid.Spare me the local dirt track fables, ive got more than thirty years racing experience…doesnt mean if i was 20 I was going to throw a punch at an old guy like Childress.

AB in KY
06/15/2011 11:41 AM

Ur dreamin Don! If somebody tore up your car and you spent half your paycheck to get your car to the race, age doesnt matter. Im not a Harvick azz kisser, its a fact that he cant back it up when hes out of the car. Itll happen again with someone else and I want you to think about me when he cowers away AGAIN! You dont remember when Steven Wallace punked him out after a nw race? Face it, hes a sissy!!!! By the way, I admit he can drive the hell out of a race car, so dont give me that ‘your a hater’ crap. He just reminds you of a spoiled kid.

Don Mei
06/15/2011 12:47 PM

You really think Childress would spend more than pocket change to get the dent out of the side of that truck? Wish I could drive as well as that “sissy”. Matter of fact, I’ll bet Harvick does too. Last I knew, what matters on a race track is who can drive best, not who is mr tough guy.Its all BS.

06/16/2011 08:32 PM

Too bad Richard didn’t kick him in the nuts.
I guess it’s hard to find those on a squirrel.

AB in KY
06/17/2011 06:06 PM

LOL! so true, so true!!!!


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