The hype leading up to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race is just too much for not only the fans, but also those who must put on the gloves and crawl behind the wheel of one of the race cars. In the days leading up to the event all you ever read or hear is checkers or wreckers, and that a driver has no friends when driving for a million dollars.
Once again that was the case Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as the final segment of the race that featured an all-out 10-lap sprint to the finish line didn’t disappoint those who got caught up in all of the hoopla surrounding the event. The action started almost as soon as the green flag waved to begin the final segment when several cars got together to produce what looked like a moving traffic jam that involved at least seven cars.
Since only green flag laps counted in the final segment, the crash didn’t take away any of the excitement from the finish. All it really did was to create another double file restart that just happened to put Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin close together. Both of these drivers were fast with a chance to win, but since there were no points involved, they both seemed to forget they were racing for the same organization.
Hamlin was in the lead in the closing laps when Kyle Busch got a great run and was attempting to make a pass high on the outside. Now this is where you can draw your own conclusion as to who was at fault, as Hamlin also went high to block his teammate from taking the lead. The two never made contact, but apparently when Hamlin went up the track he took the air off of Busch’s hood causing him to get into the outside retaining wall.
Busch took his car to the infield and parked it outside of Hamlin’s hauler and went inside and waited for his teammate to come in after the race. As you would expect, Busch wasn’t there to congratulate Hamlin on his fourth-place finish. He wanted to inquire about the move that put him in the wall, and apparently before the conversation was finished, Hamlin had made a good enough point that Busch left somewhat satisfied.
Hamlin had said that the spotter told him he was clear all around, and as leader of the race he was entitled to move anywhere on the race track that he wanted. Hamlin did say that he knew Busch had a good run on him, and that if he thought he couldn’t have won the race that he would have let him go on by. Busch agreed by saying he had a great run and should have checked up when he saw Hamlin coming up high to protect his line.
Once Hamlin addressed the media after the meeting with Busch, he alluded to the fact that he and Busch had been beside each other at least five or six times this season racing for the win and that they never had a problem, but that the all-star race was diff erent from the 36 point races that are on the schedule. The two drivers have won four of the last seven races, making Joe Gibbs Racing the dominant team in the sport at the moment, so the last thing that everyone at JGR wants is for Saturday night’s problems to interfere with the organization’s chemistry.
Controversy isn’t anything new at JGR; you have to remember that Tony Stewart cut his Sprint Cup teeth with this organization and that there were plenty of growing pains during his tenure there that also featured two Sprint Cup championships. Stewart and Hamlin even had their diff erences while they were teammates, but eventually the old coach Joe Gibbs would sit his drivers down and get everyone back on the same page. Gibbs’s strength both as a Sprint Cup owner and as head coach of the Washington Redskins was his ability to get everyone pulling together for the good of the team and even though there have been bumps in the road, Gibbs has the championship rings to prove that he can do it.
Richard Childress addressed one of his two missing pieces for next season when he re-signed Kevin Harvick to a multi-year contract extension that will keep him behind the wheel of Childress’s #29 Chevrolet. That now leaves Childress with the task of finding a replacement for Harvick’s sponsor Shell that will be leaving at the end of the season. Childress has been talking to both Budweiser and UPS about a fulltime sponsorship beginning with the 2011 season.
Coca-Cola 600. Track:
Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5- mile oval, 24 degrees of banking in the turns). Date:
May 30, 6 p.m. TV: