The spring short track season ended with a bump-and-run move at Richmond International Raceway when Carl Edwards moved teammate Kyle Busch out of his way en route to the win. Is the bump and run for the win a legit move, or does it sink into the waters of dirty driving?
Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: When it’s done right, like Carl Edwards did it at Richmond, and on the last lap for the win? Absolutely, 100 percent legit. When it crosses a line is when the bump-ee ends up in the wall. Otherwise, for the win, the bump-and-run is racing — maybe not squeaky-clean, but certainly not dirty pool.
Matt McLaughlin, Senior Writer: As I see it, a move like that is totally legit. This is stock car racing not lawn croquet during a champagne brunch at the club. I’d guess that Edwards’ last-lap move will sell more tickets to the Richmond fall race than all the inane advertising NASCAR does promoting the Chase field being set.
Sean Fesko, Staff Writer: It’s a legit move, so long as the driver who got bumped doesn’t spin or hit the wall. Close contact is a part of this sport, and to say that rubbing fenders is okay but not moving someone out of the way (especially to win) isn’t OK seems a little hypocritical. Many of the great finishes in NASCAR have involved a bump-and-run – and NASCAR uses them to promote the sport, as it should. If NASCAR frowned upon it perhaps we’d need to have a different discussion, but it doesn’t – and neither should we.
Mark Howell, Senior Writer: As the late Malcolm X said back in 1964, “by any means necessary”. A bump-and-run is not only appropriate for a win, but I believe it can (and should) be used whenever a driver feels the need to do so. That’s one advantage we enjoy be running cars with fenders. Such a tactic can be fatal in open-wheel competition, but in NASCAR it’s totally acceptable.
Bryan Gable, Staff Writer: There is nothing wrong with a little bump to move another competitor out of your way, especially on the last lap and for the win. Moves like that are a part of high-intensity racing that most fans want to see. There’s a huge difference between a well executed bump-and-run and spinning/wrecking another driver, and Edwards’ move fell well within the bounds of acceptable racing.
Fans have been vocal about Sprint Cup drivers running (and winning) XFINITY Series races, but there was little outcry after Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the NXS race at Richmond. Many cited the reason as the driver only runs a handful of lower series races, in his own equipment. Is there a difference if a driver runs fewer races, or did it have more to do with who the driver was?
Howell: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. can do no wrong when it comes to about 80 percent of NASCAR Nation. Just think about his 13-year streak as Cup’s Most Popular Driver — granted, it was cool to see him win in a limited appearance driving his own equipment, but why give Junior a free pass when drivers like Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick race (and win) in cars from their own shops? The lack of criticism was because it was Earnhardt driving a JR Motorsports entry backed by Hellmann’s Mayonnaise — and on the heels of his banana-and-mayo-sandwich fundraising campaign, no less.
Gable: It definitely has to do with the driver himself, but that does not mean that other factors don’t come into play. I always liked the idea that drivers who manage and race with their own teams make an investment in the series and therefore have have greater justification for running those races. That said, Earnhardt has such immense popularity that fans will give him a pass for the occasional XFINITY win, particularly as long as it remains occasional.
Phil Allaway, Newsletter Editor: I’ll argue both here. No one is going to argue against the idea that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is the most well-liked driver in all of NASCAR, because it isn’t close; he can seemingly do whatever he wants and still get praise. That more than likely plays a role here. However, yes, he drives his own stuff and only does a couple of races a year. It’s a treat when he runs in the XFINITY Series. It’s not like Kyle Busch running 25 races a year and winning nine of them with what is by far the best team in the series.
Henderson: Who the driver was absolutely had something to do with it; nobody should be under any illusion otherwise. But I do think the number of races Earnhardt runs vs the number that Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano or Brad Keselowski run. If they all only ran two or three NXS races a year, it probably wouldn’t be a big deal to a lot of fans. I think that’s why fans weren’t as vocal when Mark Martin was running—he ran maybe half the races most years, and regulars were winning about half the races in a season as well, with the Cup guys taking the other half. More recently, it seems like not only are regulars winning fewer races, but fewer different regulars are winning, and that’s not very compelling.
Dustin Albino, Contributor: Fans cry when Kyle Busch runs in the XFINITY Series because lately all he does is win. There is never more outrage than when Busch wins an XFINITY race compared to all the other Cup regulars. So for that reason alone, I think it has to do with who the driver is. NASCAR has a tough call on restricting Cup drivers from running the races because it can sell tickets. If you’ve locked on the television, the XFINITY crowd is already very slim.
The Cup Series lines up for the second restrictor-plate race of the year Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Can fans expect drivers to mix it up as they have in races so far, or is it more likely to be a calm affair until the final laps?
Gable: Restrictor-plate races have become much like the championship battle itself — what really matters is the closing stages. Drivers are going to plan their race strategies around positioning themselves at or near the front of the field in the late laps. Whatever happens in the first 150 laps, the intensity will only ramp up from there to the end.
Allaway: You really never know at Talladega. The track being approximately 8 feet wider than Daytona means that you get a different kind of racing: a more competitive form of racing. It might be calm for a little while, but not for that long.
McLaughlin: I expect what we’ve seen at most plate races lately again on Sunday: drivers cruising in an orderly fashion, perhaps with the Gibbs quartet breaking trail up front until the final 10 laps. While it seems you really only need to see the last 10 laps of the races this year to catch the real action, Talladega is even more likely to have that sort of finish. Coming soon, NASCAR’s new title sponsor: YouTube.
Fesko: I think we’ll see some mixing it up at the front of the pack as drivers try to lead, but the back of the pack will be biding their time and waiting until the final laps to try and score a (nearly) Chase-clinching win.
Speaking of Talladega, it does present an opportunity for someone unexpected to sneak in a win (and snag a Chase spot). Who’s most likely to steal the thunder on Sunday?
Allaway: It’s actually pretty hard to pick someone to do that since it’s gotten harder (especially at Daytona) for smaller organizations to sneak into the top 10. That said, I think the most likely person to surprise on Sunday is Landon Cassill. He’s done well at Talladega in the past when he was with Hillman Racing. There’s no reason that he couldn’t put himself in the hunt.
Albino: There are so many that could shock the world and end up in victory lane Sunday: Austin Dillon, Casey Mears, David Ragan and Trevor Bayne, to name a few. However, Ryan Blaney is going to be one of the drivers to beat this weekend. He was strong in Daytona until the end where he faded and he had a top-5 finish last season in this race. It would not be surprising at all to see him get his first W in the win column this weekend.
McLaughlin: As well as Chase Elliott ran at Daytona, winning the NXS race and running strong on Sunday until his mishap, he certainly has a shot at posting his first win Sunday–or more likely, Monday, given the weather forecast for this weekend. Or he could end up upside down and on fire. I hate plate racing.
Fesko: I’m looking at Landon Cassill to take an underdog victory. He’s run well at the track before and his team has been known to flex its muscle at the plate tracks. David Ragan, likewise, has the ability to win here, and BK Racing is on its way up. Could you imagine how huge it would be for either team to make the Chase with a win here?
Howell: I’ll be watching Ryan Blaney and Landon Cassill at Talladega on Sunday. Either of these two could wind up in victory lane. It’ll take some good luck, but when doesn’t a win at ‘Dega require a little positive mojo?
Gable: Ryan Blaney had a nice showing at Talladega last year; he and the Wood Brothers could be in for another strong run. Don’t overlook Landon Cassill or David Ragan either.
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