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Richmond Finish Won’t Pollute Gibbs’ Chemistry

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, April 25 2016
Carl Edwards pulled away from teammate Kyle Busch at the end of Sunday's race in Richmond. He pulled away after elbowing Busch out of the lead. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Carl Edwards pulled away from teammate Kyle Busch at the end of Sunday’s race in Richmond. He pulled away after elbowing Busch out of the lead. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Race teams, as do most other teams, meet and debrief in the days following the sporting events in which they were involved. This week’s meeting at Joe Gibbs Racing could be a beauty.

On the final lap of Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event at Richmond International Raceway, JGR driver Carl Edwards caught and pushed the race-leading car of teammate Kyle Busch out of the way.

Edwards moved under the wobbling Busch car and sprinted to the victory at the Richmond .75-mile oval.

In his series-mandated post-race press conference, Busch bit down so hard that bullet shavings oozed out from between his teeth.

The first person to pose a question to him was the friendly-by-design moderator of the presser. What about that last lap?

“Our Banfield Camry was really awesome today,” Busch monotoned. “We had some real good speed.  Adam and the guys made some great adjustments.”

Then a reporter gave it a whirl.

“Our Banfield Camry was real awesome today,” Busch re-monotoned. “We had a great racecar.  My guys made some awesome adjustments to it.”

The next questioner tried a side-door approach, asking something about both drivers already having Chase-securing victories.

“My guys give me great racecars each and every week. We continue to have fast Camrys,” Busch said, in, yep, monotone but for some reason leaving out his sponsor’s role.

An hour or so later, in the winner’s post-race press conference, Edwards and team-owner Joe Gibbs pulled up chairs and sat down to face the media. The tone was anything but mono.

Edwards, obviously knowing that his teammate undergoing major seeth on his way out of a city that hosted some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, opened with humor.

“First off,” he said, “if my cat ever gets sick, I don’t care how much it costs, I will take it to the Banfield Pet Hospital if that helps.”

Edwards then went on to try to put the final-lap goings-on into racing perspective.

“There’s no time to consider much,” Edwards, now a two-time winner in 2016, said. “Really, to be honest, the last, what, 30 laps or something, I was just head down driving as hard as I possibly could.  The first opportunity I even got, you know, to get that close to him was the last lap and really the last corner.

“You’re left as a racecar driver, What do we do here?  We’re here to win the race.  You can either finish first or second.  It’s a tough decision.  At this point in the season, we both got wins.  Really it’s about just going out for trophies and having fun.  We still finished first and second.  Nobody got wrecked.

“But you can’t just sit there.  I wouldn’t expect Kyle — if the roles were reversed, I’d expect him to bump me the same way.  That’s hard racing.”

Funny thing about racecar drivers: They are not really good at things like empathy, role-swapping or driving three-quarters of a mile e in somebody else’s shoes. Victimization is as much a part of their psychological make-up as hand-eye coordination is to their skill set.

Apparently Tuesday will be debrief day at JGR. Gibbs, aka The Coach, has been through many hundreds of debriefs. Some in football, some in racing. Many with athletes in whom the victimization gene is dominant.

Gibbs was asked about this week’s meeting. He’s been around too long to give anything but a soft answer.

“I think when something like this happens,” Gibbs said, “I don’t think there’s a game plan for it.  You have no real organized way of handling it. What you do is you start out and work your way through it.  That’s what we’ll do.

“So, you know, it’s a tough thing because it’s certainly painful for one side.  You’re on such a high with the other side.  It’s a tough thing.  You kind of know what we’ll do is kind of go to work and work our way through it.”

Edwards said, yes, tactful words will be the weapon of choice this week.

“We just talk about it.  That’s it,” he said. “I don’t know.  We haven’t talked yet.  We’ll talk about it.  I can say this.  My teammates have been spectacular.  They truly have been.  Not just helping with things we need help, but from a motivational standpoint.

What Kyle was able to do particularly last year I think raised everyone’s game.  So I’m very grateful to have my teammates and to be a part of it. Yeah, we’re going to have times like this when you’re running like this.  We’re racing each other for wins, which is really, really good.  So hopefully it all works out fine.”

Until the next time.

JGR has a good thing going right now. The team’s drivers have won five out of the first nine races. Edwards and Busch have won multiple races and Busch is the defending series champion. It would be a pity of any one of the drivers put a torch to all that by a failure to empathize.

The bet here is that the new-found maturity on the part of Busch is not just media over-analyzation and that he will get right with Edwards on Tuesday. Edwards’ cat probably hopes so, too.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, April 25 2016
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