“Rubbin’ is Racin’” has been a saying around the world of NASCAR from the very early years. It was made famous by the 1990 movie Days of Thunder when Cole Trickle (Tom Cruise) tried to explain to Harry Hogge (Robert Duval) why he was all over the track.
Harry Hogge: Cole, you’re wandering all over the track!
Cole Trickle: Yeah, well this son of a bitch just slammed into me.
Harry Hogge: No, no, he didn’t slam you, he didn’t bump you, he didn’t nudge you… he rubbed you. And rubbin’, son, is racin’.
Over the years, there have been a multitude of examples of rubbin’ done properly and more than enough examples of rubbin’ done incorrectly. Most everyone remembers Jeff Gordon making sure he made it to the start/finish line before Rusty Wallace at Bristol on more than one occasion. That was rubbin’ done properly. Meanwhile, most everyone also remembers Rusty doing a little rubbin’ with Darrell Waltrip during the 1989 Winston, where Darrell turned all of the way around – that was rubbin’ done incorrectly.
This weekend’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 had both kinds of examples.
While the racing wasn’t for position, Reed Sorenson and Juan Pablo Montoya got together and put an end to Montoya’s day at Loudon. A short time after the restart from Kasey Kahne putting oil down on the track from his FR9 engine cashing in its chips, Montoya and Sorenson found themselves racing close together. Montoya had slid back from the front of the pack due to some front splitter damage (courtesy of Clint Bowyer) that made his car handle less idealistically than it had been earlier in the event. Angry over that contact, he made it difficult for Sorenson to get past him, or at least raced like he was on the lead lap while Sorenson was a couple of laps behind the leaders. That left the Red Bull Toyota hovering inside of Montoya for multiple laps, but the No. 83 could not get clear of the No. 42. Eventually, Sorenson’s patience wore out and, entering turn 3, he took a hard right into the left-rear quarter of Montoya’s ride and sent him into the wall. While there is no telling what Sorenson’s mindset was, one thing is for sure: he rubbed Montoya’s car incorrectly and ultimately ruined his day.
A similar event occurred with Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch, although Stewart did not intentionally turn into Busch’s car. Stewart was chasing Busch for second place as the race wound down, and he drove it deep into turn 1. As he attempted to turn below Busch, the car broke loose and Stewart had to chase the car up the banking, which took him into the side of the No. 2 and slowed him enough that Smoke was able to get by. While it was effective for Stewart and it didn’t take Busch out, it was far from the ideal bump ‘n’ run – and he so much as admitted it after the race.
“That was my fault 100%,” Stewart said. “We both dove off into [turn] 1, and we both went as deep as we knew we could make it in there, but it’s my responsibility as the driver on the inside to keep control of my car.”
“I lost it, and luckily, the good news is I’m hitting flat and it didn’t knock him out or spin him out or anything like that – but it was definitely 100% my fault for losing control of my car. I owe him one.”
Compare that to what we were allowed to witness between Jimmie Johnson and Busch after the final restart, before Busch fell back into the clutches of Stewart. After the last restart of the race, Busch was behind the No. 48 and the laps were winding down. It was go time, and Busch attempted to go by Johnson by drilling him in the back bumper, pushing him up the track and driving underneath. Everything worked according to plan, Busch taking the lead and both drivers continuing on without damaged sheetmetal or cars spinning out of control.
“Just a classic, get in the corner a little bit deeper than the guy,” he said afterwards. “We didn’t just flat-out wreck them. We didn’t cut his tire. We didn’t drive over him. It was just a nice nudge that we are all used to seeing and appreciating on short tracks.”
Unfortunately for Busch, he should have waited a few laps longer before trying the move because it gave Johnson enough time to get back to him. Johnson finally got him going into turn 3 on lap 299, moved Busch up the track just enough to get underneath, and then was able to get past after running side-by-side for a lap.
“I just sat there as I put together a good lap or two, I saw that I caught him and this is going to work out just fine, I’ll get there with about one or two to go,” Johnson said. “And if I get to the bumper, I thought, ‘I know I’m going to make the turn; I’m not sure he is going to.’ I just took that approach and got in there, and of course I calmed down once I got to him, just gave him a nudge, and went on my way.”
The great thing about both bump ‘n’ runs was that they were executed perfectly, with no ill effects for either driver who was moved out of the way. In fact, both of the drivers moved hardly had to stay off the throttle as the bump occurred going into the corner, and the car was hardly nudged out of the groove. That is the proper way to execute the maneuver, and it was artfully done by two champions of the sport not once, but twice at Loudon this weekend.
“That’s what the fans want to see,” Johnson added after the race. “If I was in the grandstands, I would love to see a little bit of bump-and-run, watch the guy run him back down, and do the same to get by.”
It’s a far different circumstance from what we saw just one week earlier. The New Hampshire race had promised to be a long litany of paybacks from the crazy driving that took place at Infineon last weekend, but it never materialized as Gordon didn’t seem to be near any of the people he plowed into long enough for them to return the favor. New Hampshire’s race had only four caution periods, one of which occurred for debris and one for the oil dumped by Kahne when he blew up. With only five total double-file restarts, there were not very many opportunities for people to be side-by-side, and therefore, the chances to be near someone who wronged them during the previous week’s game of bumper cars. With Daytona looming on the horizon, there is not going to be much chance for drivers to return favors next weekend, either, so we may be waiting until the following race at Chicago before we see any paybacks from Infineon or before.
But when they finally do think about getting even, hopefully all of the drivers will watch the tape of the final laps of the race on Sunday. They can all appreciate and learn from the teachings of Busch and Johnson, two champions who know the proper method of rubbin’ and racin’.