A rivalry heats up on the road to Miami

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Tickets are on sale now for Ford Championship Weekend 2008, Nov. 14-16 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights. To secure individual or group tickets for NASCAR's finale, call (866) 409-RACE or visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com.–

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Whomever said rivalries were dead in NASCAR wasn't watching Saturday's race.

Carl Edwards suggested after Saturday night’s Sharpie 500 that a rivalry with series points leader Kyle Busch might have been born at the .533-mile short track.
 
“They keep talking about rivalries -- we might have one now,” Edwards said after beating Busch to the finish line by 1.969 seconds. He led the final 31 laps after executing an adroit bump-and-run to pass Busch through Turns 1 and 2 on Lap 470. From that point, Edwards pulled away for his second consecutive victory.
 
“That was one of those deals where I couldn’t get by him,” said Edwards, who combined with Busch to lead 499 of the 500 laps. “I had to ask myself, ‘Would he do that to me?’ And he has before, and that’s the way it goes.
 
“I just kind of ran into him. That’s what happened ... I have a lot of respect for the guy, and he was real fast, but we can’t give up points when they’re right there for us to take.”
 
Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon, as all three drivers posted much-needed top-five finishes to solidify their positions in the top 12 in the points standings with two races left before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set Sept. 6 at Richmond.
 
With the win, his sixth of the season and the 13th of his career, Edwards secured a position in the Chase and trimmed Busch’s bonus points margin to 30. Unhappy with the way Edwards passed him for the lead, Busch bumped Edwards’ No. 99 Ford after the checkered flag.
 
Edwards bumped back, and Busch’s No. 18 Toyota went spinning. To make matters worse, NASCAR summoned Busch to the sanctioning body’s transporter after the race. Busch said it made no difference that Edwards admitted bumping Busch to win the race.
 
“No, because he does that, and he’ll always come back and say he’s sorry,” said Busch, who finished second to Edwards for the second straight race. “He did it at Milwaukee (in the NASCAR Nationwide Series), and he’s done it a few other times. It’s just his normal fashion. That’s fine. I’ve grown to know that.
 
“I tried to get him back, but I thought better of it and tried to pull down and pass him back. But I didn’t have a good enough car to stick, and Denny got to his outside, and he got by me, and then I had to battle with him (Hamlin) toward the end.”
 
On Lap 216, contact between the No. 5 Chevrolet of Casey Mears and the No. 55 Toyota of Michael Waltrip -- an accident Mears blamed on misinformation from his spotter -- ignited a multicar wreck in Turn 1 that had significant implications for the Chase.
 
Running at the front of a large pack of cars, Mears moved up the track near the entrance to Turn 1 after being cleared by his spotter, clipped the nose of Waltrip’s car and slammed into the outside wall. Unable to avoid the wreck, Clint Bowyer hit Waltrip with the right front of his Chevrolet but was able to continue. Bowyer rallied to finish seventh and move back into the top 12, 12 points ahead of 13th-place David Ragan, who finished 10th after starting

43rd in a backup car.
 
Kasey Kahne wasn’t as lucky. Unable to dodge the melee in front of him, Kahne plowed into the middle of the wreck and ultimately retired from the race after attempts to repair his No. 9 Dodge proved fruitless.
 
“I like my spotter -- he’s a good guy -- but, man, this is ridiculous,” said Mears, who earlier in the day announced he had agreed to drive a fourth car for Richard Childress Racing next year.
 
“We took a bunch of cars out for no reason. I was just running along, heard, ‘Clear, clear, clear,’ and went up -- and there was someone still there. We just took out a bunch of cars for no reason -- and ourselves.”
 
The wreck did considerable damage to Kahne’s Chase hopes, dropping him out of the top 12. Kahne fell three spots to 14th and trails Bowyer by 56 points.

“We had a good racecar, and it’s a shame we got caught up in that mess,” said Kahne, who finished 40th. “I just saw cars wrecking in front of me, and there was nothing I could do.”
 
Notes: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lost a lap early because of a penalty for jumping the start of the race. He never regained the lap and finished 18th but passed teammate Jimmie Johnson for third place in the standings. Johnson tore the right front of his car after contact on Lap 26 with the Chevrolet of Sterling Marlin and finished 33rd, 18 laps down. … Edwards and Busch have run 1-2 in five races this season, with Busch finishing first at Darlington, Dover and Daytona (in July).

 [photo courtesy of gettyimages.com]
[story courtesy of NASCARmedia.com]

Tickets are on sale now for Ford Championship Weekend 2008, Nov. 14-16 on Homestead-Miami Speedway's 1.5-mile oval, as the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series all crown champions under the lights. To secure individual or group tickets for NASCAR's finale, call (866) 409-RACE or visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com.–

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