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Race Day: Eyes Will Be On Burton vs. Busch

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 6 2010

Pocono Raceway is the site of today's Sprint Cup race. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Sometimes it is not the volume or intensity of a squabble which makes news. Sometimes it is the person who is doing the squabbling.

Such as last weekend in Charlotte when Jeff Burton laid into Kyle Busch after the Coca-Cola 600.

Race fans expect angry encounters between Busch and people like Kevin Harvick or Tony Stewart or newbee-bad boy Brad Keselowski. But the sight of normally introspective Burton going after another driver and doing it with a red face and jabbing index fingers was kind of bizarre.

What’s up with that? A select group of Burton’s peers were asked just that this weekend at Pocono Raceway, site of today’s Gillette Fusion Proglide Pocono 500. Here is what they had to say:

Ryan Newman: “I won’t say I was surprised to see it. I was surprised to see it last as long as it did. Jeff is usually one to say his peace and walk on. But he came back for Round 2 and Round 3 it seemed like. Everybody has their breaking point. Everybody, especially when he had as good a car as he did; I didn’t see what exactly happened on the race track but I’ve been on the receiving end of an accidental cut tire and no matter what happens, if it was on purpose or not, it’s a frustrating deal. Either way he’ll get through it. I’m pretty sure that after Tuesday he was good with it. He’ll come into Pocono and try to win again.”

Greg Biffle: “I think there is a cracking point for everybody. The thing is, it is the longest race of the season. You have run 595 miles of a 600 mile race and a guy drives into your left rear tire and cuts it down. Anybody is going to get pissed off … anybody. He was driving straight ahead. It is hard to run into something going straight ahead, it really is. That doesn’t take any skill. If the space isn’t wide enough for your car to pull in, and you try to pull into it, you are going to have a problem. It just doesn’t work. It would be one thing if they were in the corner and he slid up a little bit and ran into each other … that stuff happens, but when you are driving straight ahead and just drive into the quarter panel, that’s another story.

“I’ve watched the replay and it didn’t look like the gap closed up. It looked like the gap just wasn’t there.  I saw the contact on TV just like everyone and the reality is that the contact wasn’t necessary, whether the tire got cut or not … that is the way I look at it.  This is our livelihood. This is how we make a living. You don’t know how hard we work all night long, and to get down to where you can see the checkered flag and have someone run into you and cut your tire down is just tough.”

Carl Edwards: “Jeff has been mad at me before, it just wasn’t on camera. We are competitors. I thought he did a good job of expressing his frustration without going too far. I think that is just part of the sport. If you go to your local dirt track there will be somebody that is mad after the race. Being nice is not what makes you go around the race track fast. You have to be a competitor.”

Fast facts

What: Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500

Where: Pocono Raceway; Long Pond, Pa.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: TNT, noon ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 2.5-mile triangle

Banking in corners: 14 degrees in Turn One, 8 degrees in Turn Two, 6 degrees in Turn Three

Race distance: 200 laps/500 miles

Estimated pit window: 28-30 laps

2009 winner: Tony Stewart

2009 polesitter: Tony Stewart

Today’s polesitter: Kyle Busch

Points leaders: 1. Kevin Harvick, 1,898; 2. Kyle Busch, 1,869; 3. Matt Kenseth, 1,781; 4. Jeff Gordon, 1,760; 5. Denny Hamlin, 1,732; 6. Kurt Busch, 1,726; 7. Jimmie Johnson, 1,694; 8. Jeff Burton, 1,657; 9. Greg Biffle, 1,648; 10. Mark Martin, 1,635; 11. Carl Edwards, 1,602; 12. Ryan Newman, 1,547.

Trivia Time

For Sprint Cup, Pocono became a two-race venue in 1982. In that year, the same driver won both races. Who was the driver who swept Pocono in 1982?

Nap time

Pocono, at 2.5 miles, is not the longest track on the schedule. Talladega is 2.66 and Indy and Daytona are both the same as Pocono.

But Pocono, with it’s triangular shape and long straights, may be the most boring track for drivers. Here is what two of those drivers said when asked if it was tough to stay focused at The Coat Hanger:

Matt Kenseth: “Yeah, there is a lot of time in the straightaways but at the end of them it is pretty exciting. Especially at the end of that front stretch, there is a lot going on there. I wouldn’t say it is boring or your mind drifts. One time I broke a transmission and we were like 20 laps down and I was just trying to stay out of everyone’s way, so I guess that was boring, but usually it is a very exciting race”

Greg Biffle: “It is. The straightaway’s are so long and you have so much time to think about it … so much time to think about how to not make a mistake.  Sometimes you over think it because you have so much time. It is a challenging place. It has three completely different corners, so it takes a lot of concentration.”

Pocono tidbits

Most victories: Five, by Bill Elliott

Most poles: Five, by Bill Elliott

Most top-five finishes: 19, by Mark Martin

Most cautions during a race: 13 (twice – most recently in 2005)

Fewest cautions during a race: 3 (1978)

Most cars finishing on lead lap: 36 (2007)

Most wins by a manufacturer: 24 (Chevrolet)

Narrowest margin of victory: .126 seconds (2000)

Widest margin of victory: 8.653 seconds (1999)

Trivia answer

Bobby Allison won both Pocono races in 1982.

Up next

The Sprint Cup series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400.

Mark Martin is the defending champion in the race. Brian Vickers won the pole for it.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 6 2010
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