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Pedley: Bad Brad Vs. Rowdy Is A Racing Thing

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 22 2010

Neither Kyle Busch nor Brad Keselowski backed down in Saturday's Cup race, but neither did they do anything dumb. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

A look back at race day on Race Day Plus One:

Sides clearly were picked when the day dawned at hot old Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday. Fans, media and even some other competitors had aligned themselves in the boiling feud between Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.

When the green flag dropped for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, you

Not everybody was booing Busch at Bristol. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images)

were either a Kyle Guy or a Brad Guy.

And the guess here is that it will continue to be that way for as long as these two guys are on the same track at the same time.

Where is the proper place to line up in the Battle of the Brats?

How about right in the middle? That is, you’ve got to love ‘em both. Neither heroes and neither are villains. They are both just great competitors.

You can’t be a NASCAR fan and not respect the way Kyle Busch wheels a stock car. He’s equal parts Pearson, Earnhardt and Yarborough. Tough and talented. Yes, he’ll use his bumper on you but the guy is no torpedo.

David Reutimann, who finished second to Busch in the Cup race on Kyle Busch Weekend, nailed it when he said without a trace of whine, “We got together, but we were just racing. It’s no big deal. That’s part of the deal. And if you race Kyle, you know you’re going to get run into at some point. That’s just kind of the way it is.  So it’s no big deal, we’re just racing.”

Keselowski’s driving skills are not as polished as Busch’s. Not in Sprint Cup cars, at least. But the young guy from Michigan who is competing in his first full season in the series is an identical twin to Busch when it comes to race-day demeanor. He is Kyle Busch in 2005.

Ask either of them about points racing and they will ask you right back: What’s a points race?

Bad Brad didn’t need to win Friday night’s Nationwide race at Bristol. That title’s all but locked up and if it does end up slipping away from him it will be because he took chances to win races instead of pile up points. Big picture-wise, he only had things to lose as he pounded away at Busch over the final laps.

Busch didn’t need to win on Saturday. He is all but in the Chase. He already had enough bonus points in his pocket to get off to a healthy start in the Chase.

No, neither driver needed to win at Bristol – accept that both drivers needed to win at Bristol.

And if you can’t understand that, maybe soccer is the sport for you.

Not this year: The way it looks right now, Mark Martin does not have to worry about the agony of finishing second yet again in the Sprint Cup standings. You have to be in the Chase to finish second and Martin keeps picking up downward momentum in the standings.

Martin has just two top-12 finishes in his last 10 races. At Bristol, he started 13th on the grid and finished 23rd. He slipped from 13th in points to 14th. With two races remaining before the Chase, Martin is 101 points out.

Worse, several other drivers have crept up behind him and all of them are hot while Martin is not.

Next up is Atlanta, a place where Martin has not won since 1994. After that, it’s on to Richmond where Martin has not won since 1990.

And make no mistake, Martin needs at least one victory in the next two races just to put himself in position to finish second in points again.

Unfortunately, it looks like if Martin is to retire with a championship ring, he will have to earn it in that just has to be his final full-time season.

Or not. One prominent Cup team boss told me last week that Martin could be that rare breed which can win races and championships well into his 50s. Would that guy hire him after Martin’s contract runs out with Hendrick?

“Heck yes,” the boss said.

Locked in: Jeff Gordon’s hopes for a fifth Cup championship remain strong, however.

Gordon locked himself in the playoffs by finishing 11th at Bristol.

If a driver with zero season victories is going to win the championship this year, and that is stacking up as a very real possibility, Gordon could be the guy to do it.

“We’ve had a heck of a season,” he said. “Very consistent runs and strong runs. We haven’t won yet, I still think we have a heck of a shot at the championship. I am really happy to be in the Chase again. Right now we are focused on wins and bonus points and I am a little disappointed with an 11th place finish tonight but it wasn’t from a lack of effort, that is for sure.”

Locked out? Then there is the anti-Gordon, Jamie McMurray.

For weeks it has looked like the winner of the two biggest events of the season – the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 – would have zero chance of winning the championship. McMurray, it appeared, would miss the Chase.

He probably still will, but after Bristol, he at least put himself in a position (100 points out) to where people could ask him his thoughts about making the Chase. Like:

Question: Can you do it in 12 races?

McMurray: “I don’t know everybody worries about points but every time I do we struggle.  I appreciate you telling me how far we are out but it is really irrelevant.  We have had a great season and in two races a lot can happen. And fortunately there is only one guy you have to beat now and when you have four or five in between you it makes it a lot harder but that is cool, the cars are fast right now.”

Question (kind of): You’re now in 13th.

McMurray: “Yeah, I let Bono worry about the points. He’s really worried about that and I haven’t paid any attention to it. That’s a lot of stress that you can put on yourself when you’re worried about points. So I’ll let Bono and those guys worry about it and we’ll just worry about racing the car.”

Bubble dude: It looks like only one driver can fall out of the Chase in the final two races this year and that’s Clint Bowyer.

Bowyer is 12th in points and has four guys breathing hot air on him.

But if Bowyer drives the rest of the season the way he drove at Bristol, where he survived all matter of adversity to finish fourth, he could win his first series championship.

“I messed up in the pits and got us a pit road speed penalty,” Bowyer said. “But the guys responded good. We had a good weekend with the Hamburger Helper Chevrolet and I’m just proud of our effort. This is exactly what we needed and the boys did a good job.”

Of course to win a championship, Bowyer will have to deal with the triple Bristol winner.

“Kyle Busch? Little turd. Three races right here at Bristol; that’s pretty cool, love him or hate him,” Bowyer said.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 22 2010
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