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Talking NASCAR TV: ESPN Shines Under The Bristol Lights

The script for excitement during Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway practically wrote itself. The sports two hottest drivers, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, occupied the top two spots in the pack for most of the race. Edwards tagged Busch’s back bumper ever-so-slightly, clawing his way into the lead, and yanking victory away from the unflappable Busch. A frustrated Busch scraped against the driver’s side of Edwards’ car after crossing the finish line, which prompted Edwards to go into Cole Trickle-mode, spinning Rowdy out on the cool down lap. The post-race quotes from each driver were captivating, with Edwards admitting to knocking Busch out of the way to take the lead and Busch likening Edwards to Mr. Ed…yes, _that_ Mr. Ed. Midway through the race, a large crash included Chase contenders Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer, causing Kahne to retire from the event. Bowyer drove an ill-handling car to a Top 10 finish, renewing his Chase hopes as he crept back into the Top 12. David Ragan backed up a career-best third place finish at Michigan with a 10th place in Thunder Valley, moving him within several points of Chase contention.

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The Kyle Busch – Carl Edwards Rivalry Gains Steam; But Do The Fans Love It?

There were differing opinions on the quality of racing Saturday night; but if we learned anything from the new Bristol that everyone can agree on, it’s that the Kyle Busch – Carl Edwards battle is officially the sport’s newest rivalry. With one angry swipe on the cooldown lap – and one angry slam hit in retaliation – NASCAR’s two most successful drivers of 2008 also decided that they didn’t like each other all that much. But what the sport has yet to understand – and what they’ll be watching – is whether this is the battle fans in the stands are looking to see.

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Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2008 Sharpie 500 at Bristol

*The Key Moment:* On lap 469, Carl Edwards used his bumper to nudge the 18 car aside and do something nobody else had done all night, pass Kyle Busch. *In a Nutshell:* Kyle and Carl put on another clinic with Busch dominating, but the race is not always to the swift…. *Dramatic Moment:* Edwards “bump and run” on Busch was surgical but the two drivers saved the fireworks for the ironically named cool down lap. It wasn’t until then the massive Bristol crowd finally really got into the game. *What They’ll Be Talking About Around the Water Cooler This Week* *Was Edwards brushing Busch aside fair?* Hey, if they ban that sort of move they might as well stop the sport of stock car racing. Compared to the revered Dale Earnhardt’s pass of Terry Labonte late in the 1998 race, that was a church square dance. Were Busch’s post-race antics understandable? Hell, yeah! You lead 415 laps and get brushed aside late in the race and its natural to be angry. Edwards had no choice but to retaliate to let Busch know he wasn’t going to be pushed around especially with the duo heading into the Chase as the favorites. The altercation took place at slow speed and involved two drivers belted safely in their race cars, not on pit road with innocents at risk. If either driver is fined or penalized, I might just quit the sport. We need more of this, not less. In fact I wish the two drivers had continued knocking into each other until their cars wouldn’t move anymore and then gotten out and brawled to settle things. Even if the post-race antics were subdued by the standards of the ’79 Daytona 500, the best part is the “To Be Continued” comments expressed by both combatants post-race.

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Ten Points to Ponder… After the 2008 Bristol Night Race

*Knowing Your Competition:* Carl Edward used his No. 99 Roush Fenway Ford front bumper to execute a “bump and run” pass on the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch on lap 470 of the 500 lap Sharpie 500, a maneuver that proved to be the winning move of the race. “It’s one of those deals where I couldn’t get by him, I couldn’t get by him, and I just had to ask myself, ‘Would he do that to me?’ And he has before, so that’s the way it goes.” Kyle Busch, before hearing Edwards’ explanation of the aggressive driving, predicted that Edwards would say, “He didn’t mean to do it and is sorry.” Apparently Carl felt no need to be apologetic...Kyle.

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Sprint Cup Rookie Report: Aric Almirola Amazes Again at Bristol!

*Rookies in the Starting Lineup:* Regan Smith (4th), Aric Almirola (23rd), Sam Hornish, Jr. (35th) *Unofficial Finishing Positions:* Aric Almirola (13th), Regan Smith (14th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (37th) *Rookie of the Race: Aric Almirola.* For the second time this season, Almirola was behind the wheel of the No. 8 DEI Chevy at the Bristol Motor Speedway. The rookie came into this weekend on a mission: hoping to duplicate the Top 10 run he turned in at the half-mile back in the spring. "Bristol is my kind of track. You bump, you grind, and just battle for 500 grueling laps. It's a blast,” remarked an enthusiastic Almirola leading up to the race. As it turned out, the weekend's events would leave this driver just as excited.

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Bubble Breakdown: Regan Smith Builds Cushion With 14th Place Run

Once again, the half-mile bullring that is Bristol Motor Speedway proved to be too much for the teams sitting around the bubble. Only one driver ranked between 29th and 37th finished in the Top 25; and for that same group of nine drivers, the average starting position was 29th and the finishing position 31st. To add insult to injury, six of those nine cars were also involved in wrecks. With that list of poor performers, which lone driver was able to stand out and take advantage of the others' misfortunes? Read on to find out in this week’s edition of the Bubble Breakdown. *Biggest Winner* This week’s biggest winner is easily the No. 01 DEI Chevrolet driven by Cato, NY native *Regan Smith*. Smith had a great qualifying run that saw him put the car on the outside of the second row to start the race. The team did have some problems finding the handling on the car from there, however, and was twice the beneficiary of the Lucky Dog award on separate occasions.

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Nationwide Series Breakdown: 2008 Food City 250 at Bristol

*In a Nutshell:* Friday night was the night Clint Bowyer was looking for. After enduring weeks of poor-handling race cars and seeing his points lead diminish, Bowyer and the No. 2 team found themselves amongst the class of the field. By Lap 106, they took the lead and never looked back... that is, until Lap 227. Bowyer -- in the lead with no surrounding lapped traffic -- got loose exiting Turn 1 and slipped up the race track, opening the door for Brad Keselowski. Finishing off a charge to the front from his 37th starting spot, Keselowski flew by Bowyer and led the remainder of the race, scoring his second Nationwide Series win of the season and of his career -- all the while making up more ground in his chase for the series title. Bowyer held on to finish in the runner-up position, followed by Greg Biffle, polesitter Cale Gale, and David Stremme.

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Tony Stewart And Ryan Newman Should Enjoy The Honeymoon While It Lasts

A two car team with established veteran drivers behind the wheel, quite a few wins between them, one a former Cup champion. Sharing engines and chassis with one of the top outfits in the business. Luring away a capable mechanic from Hendrick Motorsports, a fellow who performed more than adequately sitting in as a crew chief during the full-time crew chief’s suspension. And the support of a couple of big name sponsors. It seems as though the future is bright for Stewart-Haas Motorsports.

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It’s a Mix of Cheers and Boos for NASCAR’s 2009 Schedules

NASCAR released the 2009 schedules for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and truck series this week, and there were a few changes for each circuit as the sport moves forward. On the truck calendar, NASCAR hit a home run, and the Nationwide circuit was a stand-up double. The Sprint Cup schedule, however, was more of a weak ground ball to second base for the first out of the inning.

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Driven To The Past: An Uneasy Feeling

People seemed to get a kick out of it when I talked about being a little apprehensive (OK, scared) while working on pit road back in the day. Lemme tell ya about a day at Salem, Indiana when things happened so fast I didn’t have time to get scared. It was 1963, and I was standing on the inside of the second turn of that high-banked half-mile during the feature, when a car suddenly bounced off the outside wall and then skidded down to the apron. I could see heat waves, or alcohol flames, coming off the tank and the left rear tire where fuel had apparently spilled, but a fireman standing nearby apparently hadn’t been told that alcohol burns with a colorless flame.

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