Officials crowd around Jeff Gordon, top left, after getting in a fight with Matt Kenseth (in front ot the #17 car) at the end of the NASCAR Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday, March 26, 2006 in Bristol, Tenn. Kenseth spun Gordon out who was running 3rd on the final lap. Gordon finished 21st.
Darrell Waltrip, who has done his share of driving at the Bristol Motor Speedway and is the all time winningst driver at the track with 12 wins, now a NASCAR commentator for FOX Sports has often said: "Bring your feelings to Bristol you just might leave with them hurt." I think its safe to say that you can take the "just might" out and replace it with "will."
It was a wild ride at Bristol the cars looked more like they had been in a demolition derby instead of a race and the drivers tempers boiled over to make them act more like professional wrestlers of the WWE than race car drivers with their post race behavior. The only driver with a smile on his face was Kurt Busch who picked up his 5th Bristol victory on another controversial bump and pass. But what do you expect after 500 miles and over 5 hours of smashing, banging, bending metal, and wrecking cars that lead to cursing, shoveing, displeasure and frustration between drivers. They don't call the Bristol Race sheet metal mayhem for nothing.
So how did we get to this point and who is mad at who??? In no particular order:
Matt Kenseth is mad at Kurt Busch: Busch pulled the old Bristol bump and pass on for the lead and the win. This almost caused Kenseth to spin out with about 5 laps to go. Kenseth was being held up by Dale Jarrett who was battling to stay on the lead lap. Afterward, Busch thought his former teammate would be OK with the bump-and-run. Kenseth was unamused and called the move a "cheap shot.''
"The only thing I know for sure is that if the roles would have been reversed, I absolutely would not have done that to him,'' Kenseth said.
But hold on a second...If that is the case then Kenseth needs to explain his bump and run on Jeff Gordon 4 laps later. Which leads us to:
Jeff Gordon is mad at Matt Kenseth: Kenseth lost 2 spots saving his car after being bumped by Busch. Gordon was running in third and passed Kenseth. Kenseth tried to get the spot back and bumped Gordon out of the way. Gordon spun out, and went from having a 3rd place finish to having a 21st place finish. After the race Kenseth went over to Gordon on pit road in what he says to apologize for the accident. Gordon, still in his helmet, uncharacteristically shoved Kenseth knocking him back on his heels before the pair was separated. Fines for his road rage are sure to follow - but I'm sure Gordon's check is not going to bounce.
"I showed him my displeasure," Gordon said of the shove. "I get fired up, too." Yes, even the Rainbow Warrior can morph into the "Road Warrior" under the frustrations of Bristol.
Kevin Harvick is still mad at Kurt Busch: Of course Harvick was mad at Busch since last weeks altercation at Atlanta. In a press conference this week, Harvick said he wished he could "whup" Busch's ass, and then said he shouldn't have said that. Harvick shot back at the press conference and commented that Roger Penske would regret hiring Busch saying that Busch would make a fool out of him before the year was over, which he then followed by saying he shouldn't have said that. At the end of the race, Busch beat Harvick to the line. It left me wishing there were about 10 more laps left to see what would have transpired... Harvick said after the race"I'm not going to take it out on the race cars when we are on the track," Harvick said of Busch, still seething about being taken out by Busch last week at Atlanta. "If I have to, I will take it out on him. He took a cheap shot at me last week, and that isn't something that goes over well." I still think it would have been different with 10 laps to go.
But even with his second-place finish, "Happy" which is Harvick's nickname seemed to be lacking in the smiles department.
Martin Truex Jr. is mad at Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart: Truex, a rookie, was a lap down and was not yielding to Gordon, who was on the lead lap. The situation was stacking up traffic, so Gordon bumped him out of the way. Truex spun and had to pit.
After he was back on the track, Truex met up with Gordon again. The two traded paint side by side as it appeared that Truex was trying to even the score with Gordon in front of Stewart for a couple laps. Both nearly lost it a couple times. Apparently fed up with their grudge match and with traffic stacking up behind them, Stewart put his bumper to Truex, and sent him crashing into the wall. Truex and his crew chief made some vulgar comments on the radio that FOX had to apologize for and I will not repeat here.
After the race, Tony Stewart gave my favorite comment of the day. "If [Truex] wants to settle it, [we can] settle it in the bus lot later on," Stewart said of Truex's attempted retaliations.
What we saw at Bristol this weekend is what use to be your usual Sunday drive in the NASCAR circuit. This is what racin use to be like and it is what Bristol is and always will be. It's been that way ever since Jack Smith won the first race at Bristol Motor Speedway nearly 55 years ago under controversy because he was relieved half way through the race by Johnny Allen.
Sunday we had Kurt Busch win on a controversial bump and pass. But the bump and pass at Bristol is almost as legendary as the track itself. In recent years Jeff Gordon did it to Rusty Wallace in 2002 and the late Dale Earnhardt did it to Terry Labonte in 1999 on the last lap.
"I wasn't trying to wreck him, I just wanted to rattle his cage a little bit,'' Earnhardt shrugged that night.
The Gordon and Earnhardt bumps are hardly isolated incidents, but no driver has received treatment the way Busch has for doing the same thing. Kurt Busch's problems in the past and his reputation as arrogant and unlikeable, is held to a higher standard than everyone else. But no matter how sarcastic or whiney he can be, and no matter how much you dislike him, and it is no secret that I do. It's unfair treatment. On this particular Sunday Kurt Busch did everything right, and he's got the trophy to prove it.