Kevin Harvick Wins Wild One At Richmond
Sprint Cup: Beatin', bangin' and high drama
This was old-school NASCAR at its best. The bangin'. The fightin'. Oh, and the lights-out racin'. It was Saturday night short-track racing, and Richmond didn't disappoint.
Richard Childress Racing began the weekend at Richmond International Raceway in the jailhouse (see Nationwide Series rundown) and finished it in the penthouse.
Three-time champion Tony Stewart watched another potential solid finish turn into another poor finish and another postrace tirade.
Kurt Busch got into Matt Kenseth and Stewart, who in turn pushed Busch -- all on the postrace cool-down lap that was anything but cool -- and Martin Truex Jr. probably would have slammed Busch if he was close enough.
As Darrell Waltrip said from the television booth before Saturday night's Sprint Cup race, this is the NASCAR the way he remembered it, the way fans loved it, when he was driving.
He noted the fighting.
The great racing and intensity.
The weekend had it all.
But that's the way it has been for much of this season. Who won the race has been almost secondary because of all the other drama, whether it's a team being accused by NASCAR of bending the rules or a driver upset with the way he was raced.
Amazingly, as third-place finisher Joey Logano noted afterward, he wasn't involved in any of it during a season in which he has been in the middle of most of it.
"You're telling me,'' second-place finisher Clint Bowyer said in his postrace interview with Logano. "A new record.''
Most of the postrace drama on this full moon night surrounded Busch, the 2004 Cup champion trying to rebuild his career and make a name for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing.
He ran in the top five much of the night, and led 36 laps after leading only one in the first eight races.
Then on Lap 346 of the 406-lap event, Busch spun Truex, who he felt came down on him earlier and put him in a bad position. It turned a top-5 day for Truex, who has been on the verge of winning lately, into a 17th-place finish.
"He didn't need to do that,'' Truex told reporters afterward. "He was kind of driving over his head, trying to get a win, I guess.''
Busch was running third behind leader Juan Pablo Montoya and Harvick when the final caution came out with four laps remaining in regulation because Brian Vickers wrecked the No. 11 car normally driven by Denny Hamlin.
When Busch exited pit road he was 10th, setting the stage for what he later described as a free-for-all.
"I mean, everybody's slamming everybody,'' Busch said. "I'm getting hit from behind. I got shoved out of the way, too. There's rubber built up in the outside groove, there's cars sliding up with old tires, so I don't know what the 14 [Stewart] was upset about. I got hit from behind. I got hit every which way, so did he. Kenseth moved us up out of the way at the end, so that's why I was upset with him.''
Stewart was upset because this has been a miserable season for him. He went from a potential top-10 finish, maybe top-5, to 18th that left him buried at 22nd in points. It's similar to the reason Stewart was upset with Logano after the California race in which he went from a chance to win to 22nd in the closing laps.
Only this time Stewart didn't cut Busch off on pit road -- NASCAR officials made sure that didn't happen -- and physically go after him as he did Logano at Auto Club Speedway.
This one ended with Stewart and Busch exchanging heated words in the garage, where they were parked next to each other, and Stewart walking away upset.
"He just rammed right into us there at the end," Stewart said in his team release. "It hadn't been a great weekend, but we had made some adjustments and were actually going to leave here with a decent finish until everything that happened at the end."
Kenseth summed up his cool-down lap moment with Busch, his former teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, like this: "It's hard to say with Kurt. He probably had one of those Kurt moments.''
Got to love Kenseth's wry sense of humor, particularly after a week in which NASCAR slammed his team harder than Busch ever could.
Busch actually maintained his cool after the race and smiled about the finish that moved him to 20th in points and in position to become a Chase contender if he can pull off a win or two.
The biggest loser in all of this -- other than Montoya, who would have won to end more than two years of misery had it not been for the final caution -- was Stewart. He's gone six straight races with no finish better than 17th and is becoming vulnerable to missing the Chase if things don't turn around.
The biggest winner was Richard Childress Racing, which collected the win and a fifth-place finish by Jeff Burton in a season in which the organization didn't have a top-5 before Saturday.
The win also took some of the focus off Friday night's Nationwide race in which two RCR crew members were arrested for postrace antics involving Nelson Piquet Jr. (again, see Nationwide rundown).
As Waltrip said, this is NASCAR the way he remembered it when he raced, the way fans loved it back in the day.
Sprint Cup Career Victory No. 20 For Harvick
Nationwide: Low blow at Richmond
Nelson Piquet Jr.'s "Karate Kid" move and a postrace police report did.
It was a carryover from a postrace incident in which Piquet wrecked Scott during the cool-down lap. That was a carryover from the final laps when the two exchanged sheet metal while battling for 14th.
Piquet later apologized and said he didn't mean to kick Scott in that area, saying the feud began in a Truck series race at Martinsville. Scott called the kick a "chicken move."
But it didn't end there.
Two RCR crew members identified in police reports as mechanic Michael Searce and interior specialist Thomas Costello were arrested on misdemeanor assault charges stemming from a fight near the driver/owner motor coach lot.
The assault included Piquet and one other person, who suffered a shoulder injury.
No penalties are expected for anything that happened on pit road, which seems kind of strange after a couple of weeks in which NASCAR has been busy handing out heavy penalties to seemingly everybody.
We don't make this stuff up, people.
As for what happened on the track, Keselowski ended Busch's run of Nationwide wins but extended the run of Sprint Cup drivers winning in NASCAR's second-tier series to four straight, six of seven this season and nine of the past 10 dating back to last year.
That's a bit surprising considering the caliber of full-time Nationwide drivers this year in points leader Sam Hornish Jr. (the only full-timer to win this year), Brian Vickers, Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne, to name several.
Maybe one day when the Cup drivers take a weekend off one of the Nationwide guys will have a chance to win.
Camping World: Sauter in the news
The trucks had the weekend off, but it was anything but a quiet week for the series.
It was the second straight week a contender went backward due to a penalty. The previous week, four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. was docked 25 points for wrecking Darrell Wallace Jr. under caution at Rockingham Speedway.
That dropped Hornaday from fourth to 13th.
So what does all this mean? How about a points race in which 10 drivers are within 31 points of the lead, two within 13. That's the closest race in the top three series.
The bad news is trucks are off again the next two weeks, returning for a May 17 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The good news is nobody will be penalized.