NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Fact or Fiction: A “Cryle”-Baby?, Hendrick Drama & Icing Title V

Even in his older age, Jeff Gordon can still scuffle
FACT

Fans at Texas Motor Speedway were treated to a special midrace, WWE-like bout between two of the series’ most respected drivers. Following a lap 192 crash under caution in turn 2 involving Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton, the two drivers met in the middle of the backstretch for an old-fashioned scuffle.

To the fans’ displeasure, two NASCAR officials and two track safety workers were on the scene to break it up before any actual punches were thrown and the two drivers were hauled away to the Infield Care Center — in the same ambulance.

The crash caused Gordon to fall to sixth in points and Burton to 12th. However, both were already considered to be out of realistic title contention entering Sunday’s race.

Kyle Busch can handle adversity
FICTION

So much for the once heavily publicized “new Kyle.”

Kyle Busch spun in turn 1 on lap 159 and sped down pit road in an attempt to stay on the lead lap. When Busch came back down pit road to serve a one-lap penalty, he decided to fire off a “one-finger salute” to the official standing in front of his car — clearly visible to the entire ESPN audience watching his in-car camera live. In response, NASCAR issued a two-lap “unsportsmanlike conduct” penalty to Kyle. According to NASCAR’s Director of Communications Kerry Tharp, Kyle could have additional penalties levied on him later this week.

“Any time you make an obscene or inappropriate gesture to one of our officials, which he did, you’re subject to penalty,” Tharp said. “We penalized him during the course of the race. We held him two laps. But I tell you what, we’re going to go back this week when we get to Concord, N.C., and we’re going to review this situation and there could be further penalties regarding the No. 18 car.”

The tantrum came less than 24 hours after Busch stormed out of the Texas media center, using multiple expletives in both his brief post-race news conference and on his delayed post-race radio interview after finishing second in the Nationwide Series race. In that event, Busch adamantly claimed Carl Edwards jumped the final restart en route to beating his No. 18 and cruising to victory.

Another “Milk and Cookies” meeting scheduled at HMS
FACT

Back before Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus morphed into a well-calibrated machine, Rick Hendrick had to host a kindergarten-style milk and cookies meeting to patch up their at-the-time shaky relationship. Well, a similar one will have to take place if Knaus really thinks his pit crew will want to work for him this week at Phoenix.

After Johnson’s pit crew failed to perform to expectations and his HMS teammate Gordon wrecked out of the AAA Texas 500, crew chief Knaus called for an unprecedented pit crew switch. For the final three stops, it would be Gordon’s No. 24 pit crew servicing Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet while Johnson’s crew helped out behind the wall and took down Gordon’s pit box after the No. 24 retired from the event. The switch paid off, big time, as the final three stops of the race were faster than the No. 48 crew’s best time of the day.

With the frustration of being pulled from their jobs coupled with the embarrassment of being showed up in front of the entire NASCAR Nation, it should be an interesting week with the No. 48 team. Let’s just say that there better be some DoubleStuf Oreos at that meeting.

Johnson will win his fifth straight title
FICTION

After Denny Hamlin‘s win at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, he leapfrogged Johnson in the standings and now leads the championship battle by 33 points with two races to go.

The last time Johnson trailed heading into the final two races was in 2005, when he entered Phoenix second in points but left Homestead fifth. If that isn’t enough to prove the “Drive for Five” is over, Johnson also entered Phoenix second in points in 2004 and wound up losing the championship. Still need more? The driver leading the Chase with two to go has won every season since the system was implemented in 2004.

Plus, possible turmoil with his pit crew could wreak havoc down the road for Johnson. Anyone who has watched the movie Cars knows that drivers can’t win a race, let alone a championship, without a pit crew.

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