Déjà Vu All Over Again
Regan Smith won his first NASCAR race after 105 tries at Darlington while reigning Ford 400 winner Carl Edwards finished second and increased his Championship points lead over Jimmie Johnson (photo courtesy: Geoff Burke, Getty Images Sport)
One race after Miami’s Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman squabbled at Richmond; Kevin Harvick squared off with Kyle Busch following a late crash that took both from contention at Darlington Saturday night.
Busch, Harvick and Clint Bowyer were racing three-wide after a late restart when all were trying to chase down eventual race winner Regan Smith. Bowyer was sent spinning into the interior wall. As cars spun out behind, Busch gathered his car, then veered down the track and sent Harvick spinning.
Busch slowly followed Harvick into the pit area after the race, Harvick eventually jumping out of his car and attempted to punch his rival through the window of the No. 18 car. Busch then pushed Harvick's driverless car into the pit road retaining wall and drove off.
It was an ugly way to end Regan Smith's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in 105 career races. But it's a feud that may simmer until NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend Nov. 18-20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
NASCAR’s most popular driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he couldn't wait to get "on the Internet tonight and check it out. I don't know what happened.''
High speeds and tight racing produce some on-track fireworks. Before the 2010 season, NASCAR allowed drivers the opportunity to show more emotion with NASCAR's vice president for competition, Robin Pemberton, saying, "We will put it back in the hands of drivers, and we will say, 'Boys, have at it and have a good time.'''
And there's been no shortage of confrontoations since.
At Richmond, Montoya and Newman were involved in two different on-track incidents. The first caused Montoya, the pole-sitter, to brush the wall which sent him to the pits for repairs and put him three laps down. Montoya later ran into the back of Newman, who was running eighth, and Newman vowed his payback would come after the race.
The bad blood continued at Darlington with the two meeting with NASCAR on Friday in a session which "did not go as well as had hoped it would.''
There are rumors that Newman punched Montoya during the meeting, something both drivers brushed aside later that day.
"With conflict there are varying opinions, that's what causes the conflict. I'm past it,'' Newman said.
Still, every eye at Darlington were likely on those two and things appeared to spark again when Montoya tangled with five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson less than 100 laps into the race. Montoya quickly apologized for his role. Johnson remains second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings heading to Dover. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Smith held on through a green-white-checkered finish to beat NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Carl Edwards, but the real drama was still to come as Busch and Harvick drove from the track. Busch was up against Harvick's back bumper along pit road when Harvick jumped out and rushed toward Busch's window before Busch bumped Harvick's driverless car into the interior wall.
Both were asked into the NASCAR hauler and both left composed - although with different versions of what happened.
Busch said Harvick's racing was "unacceptable racing.''
"I gave him room off of two, I didn't get the room,'' Busch said.
Harvick said he was racing hard and "things happen. That's it. What do you do?''
What do you do, indeed - except carry the dispute into Dover next week on the road to the NASCAR Championship in Miami Nov. 20.
Darlington champion Smith won't let the ugly end diminish his joy. "You know what, if that's what's talked about next week, so be it. I don't care,'' he said. "It's not going to take away from the feeling I've got right now.''
Edwards thought he knew how the final lap of the green-white-checkered finish at Darlington would play out. At the time, Edwards was beginning to catch underdog Smith for the win at Darlington. Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
“When I drove down into turn three on the last lap, I sincerely planned on driving right by him and his car stuck a lot better than I thought it was going to, so it surprised me. I really thought it was going to be a drag race to the start-finish line and he stayed out front,” Edwards said.
Although it’s been a competitive NASCAR season, a dash of bad blood will keep things interesting on road to the South Florida Championship finale Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Dover on Sunday, May 15 (12:30 p.m. ET, Fox TV, MRN Radio)—Race 11 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18-20). The Top 12 drivers in points after Race 26 qualify to contend for the 2011 Sprint Cup Championship, to be crowned in Miami on Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.