The Frontstretch: Edwards And Busch... Like Mayfield And Earnhardt by Tommy Thompson -- Wednesday August 27, 2008

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Edwards And Busch... Like Mayfield And Earnhardt

Thompson in Turn 5 · Tommy Thompson · Wednesday August 27, 2008

 

The bump-and-run maneuver — as demonstrated by Carl Edwards Saturday night in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol to gain the win — is without a doubt the sorriest, most low-rent passing tactic in the book. The maneuver requires very little skill, but lots of brashness coupled with minimal regard for sportsmanship. However, for only the second time in over 40 years of following the sport of stock car racing, I applaud the culprit and simply write it off as poetic justice.

Edwards’ move on Kyle Busch — in which his rival was sent up the track while the No. 99 streaked into the lead — is “race ‘em like they race me,” “tit for tat,” “live by the sword, die by the sword,” and “just reward” all rolled up into one neatly wrapped package. There is no doubt that Carl Edwards wanted to win the race. However, the fact that the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota was in front certainly played a huge part in his decision making process as to what is and isn’t appropriate in attempting to take the lead. You can bet had a well-respected Mark Martin or Jeff Burton been ahead of him, Edwards would have finished second or won a hard fought victory with a daring side-by-side pass, at most possibly exchanging a smattering of door paint with his adversary.

In other words…he would have used good, hard, and clean racing instead!

But of course, it wasn’t a driver with a squeaky clean reputation that Edwards needed to pass to secure a victory — but a driver known for doing whatever it takes to win, sportsmanship be damned. This was something that Edwards knew firsthand, and even considered before choosing to seal Busch’s fate.

“I just had to look at his back bumper and decide, ‘Would he do this to me?’” Edwards said in the quote heard round the NASCAR world. “He did it to me before, so it was real simple…”

“I’d do it again.”

It was a bold, confident statement in which Edwards refused to back down … similar to the only other instance that the bump-and run maneuver has met with my approval in the Cup Series. That came in May of 2000 at Pocono, when Jeremy Mayfield — then driving the No. 12 for Penske Racing South — put the “chrome horn” to the back bumper of race leader and NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt in the famed black No. 3 Chevrolet on the final lap. Mayfield went on to win the race that day, while Earnhardt had two more competitors pass underneath him, falling to fourth by the time the checkered flag flew.

Neither Kyle Busch following Saturday night’s “dumping” nor Earnhardt more than eight years ago was pleased with their respective competitor for the “cheap shot” that snatched victory from them. Likewise, neither Mayfield nor Edwards showed any remorse for their questionable racing ethics, and in both cases, seemed to have at least the tacit support of other peers in the garage.

For example, following Mayfield’s victory Earnhardt — obviously irate at the audacity of the junior driver — drove alongside him and gave him the old “you’re number one” finger wave. But Earnhardt soon learned that a large number of drivers and team members along pit road were applauding the young upstart and flashing him the “thumbs up,” signaling their support for his decision as he made his way to Victory Lane. Mayfield later sarcastically and unapologetically explained the race-winning pass by stating, “I just wanted to rattle his [Earnhardt’s] cage…” and just like that, there was nothing the seven-time champ could do.

Similar to the way Earnhardt reacted then, the 23-year-old Busch — displeased with Edwards for his aggressive driving — showed his displeasure Saturday night by hitting the Edwards’ No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford on the cooldown lap. Both frustrated and focused on revenge, the point leader vowed shortly thereafter that “we’ll race him like that in the Chase if that’s what he wants.”

But that’s somewhat of a hollow threat on Busch’s part, as in Edwards’ opinion, that’s been how the young Las Vegas native has been racing all along — from time to time crossing the fuzzy line between aggression and overaggression. It’s left Edwards satisfied with the ultimate outcome of Saturday night’s event, looking towards the future instead of reflecting on the past.

“Let me make one thing clear,” he said once the race was over. “I’m not apologizing for it, and that’s the way it is.”

Carl Edwards served notice to Kyle Busch Saturday night that the rest of the Sprint Cup field also has a front bumper… and a photographic memory.

So, what Edwards served up at the Sharpie 500 — just like what Mayfield dished out at the Pocono 500 — was nothing more than giving a competitor “a taste of his own medicine.” And it is only coincidental that the elixir of choice in both happened to be the bump-and-run. Drivers have numerous ways both on and off the track of exacting revenge and sending a message of displeasure with a fellow driver’s past actions; but certainly, snatching a victory from them using the deplorable passing tactic is a message that is sent loud and clear.

Considering this impact, why more drivers will not do what Mayfield or Edwards understood should be done is puzzling. As long as a driver such as Kyle Busch believes that the rewards for overly aggressive driving far outweigh the consequences, there is little reason for them to rethink their on-track demeanor and pass competitors… not drive through them.

Take the aforementioned Earnhardt as an example. The man is without question one of the most talented drivers in the 60-year history of NASCAR, of a raw natural talent that would have set him apart from the pack had he not stooped to the use of what became known as the “patented Earnhardt move,” pushing a driver up the track in order to take a position away. He used the maneuver frequently on short tracks, but had no qualms of employing it on a superspeedway as well. His willingness to utilize the bump-and-run gained him far more wins than losses as a result of retaliation from competitors for his misdeeds.

Like Earnhardt, Kyle Busch races to win, and more often than not wins fair and square — executing skillful passes and simply outrunning the rest of the field. But unlike the majority of his peers Busch, like Earnhardt before him, has very little hesitation to “steal” a win — and he will continue to do so as long as the rewards overshadow the risks. Of course, Busch has taken great equipment and his phenomenal abilities to new heights in NASCAR this season. But along the way, he has left some competitors in the sanctioning body’s three top series questioning, like Edwards, just how much they are going to take as Busch steamrolls through the record books.

In truth, this isn’t just about Busch slamming Edwards at Richmond during the May Nationwide event — it is about numerous instances involving a growing list of big name drivers, as well as up-and-comers that have been victims of this man’s “win at all cost” approach to stock car racing. Winning is always the goal; but Kyle Busch’s victories sometimes fail to stay within the bounds of respect for the sport and fellow competitors.

And that makes him vulnerable to some sort of retaliation — although unlike Busch himself, the driver who did it didn’t confuse rough driving with a lack of off-track respect. There was no blustering and posturing on either Mayfield’s part at Pocono in 2000 or from Edwards at Bristol once the race was over. They simply raced the driver in front them as they had been raced by that driver, and let the consequences fall as they may. In both cases, the bump-and-run — as dastardly a maneuver as it is — had become appropriate and justified.

Still, the burning question for me, as it was in 2000, is this: What took so long for a driver to step up and do what needs to be done?

And…that’s my view from Turn 5.

Contact Tommy Thompson

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Mike In NH
08/27/2008 07:29 AM
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Maybe a further analysis you need to make to answer why the chrome horn isn’t done more often, is to ask yourself where the career of Mayfield has gone since that bump and run incident. Sure, a competitor got his digs in at a top-caliber racer, but that one dig didn’t exactly launch his career to professional brilliance. On the other hand, guys with talent can deal with having not being as aggressive by winning in other ways. Dale Senior didn’t win all the races, after all, so somehow other less aggressive racers got the job done too, right?

The other thing is: this was Bristol, and things like that just always happen there. It’s the Boston traffic stop of the NASCAR tour (anyone who has driven in or near Boston knows what I’m talking about here – the idiot driving is legendary). You don’t see that as much at Pocono, which makes the Mayfield incident a bigger deal.

Just because others in the garage approve of the move doesn’t mean any of them are willing to incur the enmity of a known aggressive driver when some critical races are coming in the future.

Finally, the way Edwards drove away from Busch after the bump and run, it was obvious he had the faster car. Busch should have gotten out of the way, it wasn’t like it was the last lap or two of the race where you can almost understand blocking to hold on for the win.

Johnboy60
08/27/2008 10:43 AM
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Mike after reading and rereading your post I can only assume you think all the other drivers are scared of Kyle. I think the other drivers ….who have had a chance to get bush….should bow down to Carl for a job well done. Personally I would have like to have seen him (bush) in the wall!! And judging from the poll on this page you are wrong!!

L Taylor
08/27/2008 12:23 PM
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I don’t know what the big deal about the Edwards/Busch dustup is about. If you like short track racing you should know that bumping and grinding goes on all through the pack. It’s only when it happens up front does the bump and run get any press.

When racing on a small track a slower car is not simply going to let you pass, especially in the late stages of the race.

Edwards was able to catch Busch, therefor he was faster. He passed Busch then drove away.

That’s how you race on a short track. Love it! Need more of it.

keith39
08/27/2008 02:01 PM
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I don’t know why people think the bump ‘n’ run is a sorry maneuver. I think its great, as long as it does not cause a wreck. NASCAR would be so boring if every pass was clean. The bump n run has been used at every short track in America ever since stock car racing became a sport. Obviously, the writer of this article is not a fan of local short track hardcore racing, or he would not have a problem with a little bump n run. Now a bumpnrun at Michigan or California is different, but Bristol or Mville. Come one. GET off you high horse.

Marty C
08/27/2008 02:07 PM
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Finally, someone who feels the same way about this as I do. The only thing I can add is NASCAR brought this whole problem on themselves when they kept letting Dale Sr. get away with it. Now everyone thinks if it was ok for him then it’s ok for me. NASCAR should have made an example of him back then and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion now.

racinsince55
08/27/2008 07:06 PM
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Bump and run has been a part of racing since I raced in the 50s.

Bump and Wreck was the trademard of Earnhardt Sr.

The only driver in NASCAR today that anyone is afraid to bump is Earnhardt Jr.

Steve Roberson
08/27/2008 07:57 PM
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Kyle “BABY” Busch got he feathers ruffled. I think what Carl said was True to the “T”. If the shoe was on the other foot, Cry Baby would have done the same thing. I do beleive that Carl would have had more class and talk to him after the race. Not mess up to good cars. This isn’t Days of Thunder. I do say Kyle can drive a car or truck. But this isn’t Hollywood. I hate bring up another Busch but, Look at the Spencer and Busch Drama. I think someone learned the hard way with a pop in the nose. I’ll leave with that being said….

PS: Kyle will never ever come close to be “SR”… “3 LIVES ON”!!!!!

Callaway
08/28/2008 09:08 AM
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I know it seems like everyone is in love with the Chase and all it’s glory but with the whole field is now too busy calculating points and positioning to make the Chase. Drivers are well aware that by not making the Chase you become an “unmentionable” sponsors leave and seats open up. With that theory it reduces aggressive win at all costs style driving that made the sport what it is today. I think deep in their heart of hearts Nascar even knows with all of it’s attempts of political correctness and fines/penalties the racing isn’t what it used to be. Dump the Chase and all it’s phony hype and you will see more races like last weeks Bristol where a rub here and a rub there wins the race not your fuel mileage.

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