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Wreck And Roll Show Heads to Darlington

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 7 2011

Some drivers may be tip-toeing lightly around Juan Pablo Montoya tonight at Darlington Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Welcome to a special Track Violence edition of Race Day.

Actually, it really wasn’t planned out that way, but in the wake of last week’s race at Richmond and tonight’s race at a Darlington track which is equally prone to producing violence, it just kind of happened.

Much of the talk in the garages at Darlington this weekend has been about the testiness which plagued last weekend’s race. Testiness on the track, on the radio and in the pits.

On the track, it was Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman – two men with, as they say, a history – going at it.

They both said during media sessions on Friday that last week was last week and that this week, it’s back to business a usual. But, business as usual between these two could mean more testiness and more wrecks.

Each was asked if last week was isolated or pro forma between them and will they forgive and forget?

Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet: “It just adds up. It gets to a point

This was not a victory burnout by Ryan Newman at Richmond last week. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

where too much is too much and I felt it had to stop, you know what I mean? I could have done it a lot more aggressively and completely knocked him out of the race but that wasn’t really the plan. I just felt he could have given me about an inch and nothing would have happened but over and over and over has been the case. I’ve been wrecked by him a couple of times. I didn’t mind so much that he did it, I minded that at this point we both need the points and I didn’t feel I was being treated fair. Do what I do, what I had to.”

Ryan Newman, No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet:   I don’t think once you have an issue it’s over in what we do.  Even when you think you’re over it with somebody else, it can reflare really quick.  I’m not sure if that was something of what happened at Richmond.  But either way, I’m still not happy about it, let’s put it that way.

On track sniping can also affect innocent bystanders in racing.

A couple of drivers were asked if they were nervous around the known-offender fender bangers.

Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet on staying away from trouble: “Usually if there is a situation you are around and you see it you need to be on your toes or something is going to happen. I wasn’t around that situation so I really didn’t know what was happening. They were just kind of giving me play by play on the radio.”

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: “I knew last week to stay on the inside of the

Big wrecks, like this one from last week, can even occur at short tracks like Richmond. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR)

No. 22 car. I was doing Joie Chitwood impersonations all race long and I was pretty sure that right rear tire wasn’t going to last a whole lot longer so I knew not to go to the outside of him, but there was only an inch between him and the wall all the way around the track so I couldn’t go to the outside. Other than that, I was aware….

“You know usually my spotter will tell me hey I don’t know what’s going on but this guy seems to be making it hard on everybody as they come through there or this car is going backwards and not real happy about it. So sometimes you can see it and tell and other times you can’t. Most of the time if there’s two guys involved that you see them racing really hard and bumping and banging. If you’re in site of it you’re obviously aware of it and you want to get away from it or by it as fast as possible.”

Then there was the over-the-radio testiness. It featured Kurt Busch screaming at his crew and Martin Truex Jr. doing the same and threatening to fire everybody.

Making the situation interesting is the fact that everybody at the track who has a scanner – and that includes the media – was listening at the keyhole.

The issue is, remaining calm on the radio.

Carl Edwards, No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “I think everybody is different and everybody expresses their frustration in different ways. In the heat of the moment, at least for me, it’s easy to say things that you sometimes go, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have said that,’ but I think that’s just part of the sport

Kurt Busch and 'his guys'. Not exactly winning and losing together. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

and I don’t know if that will ever change.  I think at the end of the day caring enough to be upset about something is part of competition.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet: “It ain’t whether I like it or not. That’s the way it is and you’ve got to keep it nice.  That’s the way it is when you are upset. We don’t always do that. But, it’s just the way it is whether you like it or not.”

Fast facts

What: Showtime Southern 500

Where: Darlington Raceway

When: Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 1.366-mile oval

Banking: 25 degrees in corners 1 and 2, 23 degrees in corners 3 and 4

Race distance: 367 laps/501 miles

2010 winner: Denny Hamlin

2010 polesitter: Jamie McMurray

Tonight’s polesitter: Kasey Kahne

First Cup race: The Southern 500 in 1950

First race winner: Johnny Mantz

First pole winner: Curtis Turner

Points leaders today: 1. Carl Edwards, 335; 2. Jimmie Johnson, 326; 3. Kyle Busch, 305; 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 301; 5. Kevin Harvick, 300; 6. Kurt Busch, 289; 7. Clint Bowyer, 284; 8. Ryan Newman, 277; 9. Matt Kenseth, 276; 10. Tony Stewart, 275.

From the engineer

Howard Comstock, Dodge Motorsports Engineer, talks key issues at Darlington:

Two or Four:  “It might be a whole new tire game this weekend.  Last year, we saw that two-tire stops were the right call, especially late in the race.  I think it’s going to be two days of looking at tire wear and gauging how much (tire) fall-off there is and how long the left-sides will go.  You can always change two tires on a fuel stop with the new fueling system, but it may be unnecessary to put four on, especially late in the race.”

Old vs. New: “The “new” Darlington is not exactly like the “old” Darlington.  Yes, it’s still tough.  Yes, the corners are still similar.  Yes, you still have to understand the track and you have to race the track.  But, we’ve proven over the last two years that with the new track, surface you have to race the other competitors as well.  Pit strategy is important.   When you pit for tires versus the competitors is important.  While this track surface still has a lot of grip, you’re going to have to race the competitors as much as you race the track.  It’s not so much just racing ‘The Lady in Black’ as it use to be.”

Contract talk

Carl Edwards’ contract is up at the end of this year and you know what that means. It means that

Points leader Carl Edwards better be girding for The Question every week. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

every weekend in a press conference some “bulldog reporter” is going to ask him how negotiations are going.

This week, the answer was: “I don’t have any timetable, and, like I said at the beginning of the year, I don’t really like to talk about that stuff in the media.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to take care of it behind closed doors, but it’s all going well.  We’re just working on it.”

Trivia time

Darlington is a track which has the reputation of being easiest to win from the pole. Probably because in 19 of 107 races, the polewinner has been the race winner. When was the last time a polewinner won the race?

Cheers

With Mothers Day being Sunday, it sounds like Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have a happy one.

Earnhardt was asked on Friday if it was true that he drank beer with his mom.

“She’s like that,” he said. “Well, she drinks wine basically but she’ll drink a beer. She’s cool, man.”

Track tidbits

Most victories: 10, by David Pearson

Most victories by an active driver: 7, by Jeff Gordon

Most poles: 12, by David Pearson

Most top-fives: 25, by Richard Petty

Oldest winner: Harry Gant, (51 years, 7 months, 22 days)

Youngest winner: Kyle Busch (23 years, 0 months, 8 days)

Most DNFs: 34, by Buddy Baker

Most cautions: 17 (in 2009)

Fewest cautions: 0 (in 1963)

Narrowest margin of victory: .002 seconds

Best average finish: 6.6, by Denny Hamlin

Trivia answer

Dale Jarrett was the last polewinner to win the Cup race at Darlington. He did that in 1997.

Up Next: Dover

Last year in the Dover spring race, Kyle Busch won the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Hershey’s

Kyle Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers were winners at Dover last year. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Milk & Milkshakes (42nd Running), his 18th victory in 198 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

Jeff Burton (second) posted his 14th top-10 finish in 33 races at Dover International Speedway. It  was his fifth top-10 finish in 2010. Matt Kenseth (third) posted his 15th top-10 finish in 23 races at Dover International Speedway.

Busch took advantage of a rare mistake by four-time champion Jimmie Johnson to pull away for an easy win.

Busch and Johnson waged quite a battle on the high-banked, 1-mile track, the lead see-sawing back and forth between the two each time the race resumed following five caution periods and assorted green-flag stops.

But when Johnson was flagged for speeding while exiting the pits during a round of green-flag stops on Lap 363 and forced to return to pit road to serve a drive-through penalty, the battle was effectively over.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 7 2011
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