Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fightin' mad

I didn’t see Saturday night’s race at Bristol, which is a bad thing. But I sure as heck saw the replays on ESPN over and over and over again, which is a good thing … for NASCAR. For the first time in recent memory, we have a rivalry between two drivers that is worthy of the Sprint Cup Series hype. If you missed it (like I did) Carl Edwards booted Kyle Busch out of the way with about 30 laps to go and went on to win the Sharpie 500. It was classic Bristol and brought back memories of when Dale Earnhardt and Terry Labonte tangled in 1996 and 99. Sure, we’ve had fights between drivers before. After all, it was a tussle between Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison that launched NASCAR into the mainstream following that infamous 1979 Daytona 500 (shown above). But when has there been such hatred between the two best drivers in the sport?

The bump allowed Edwards to win easily, but the fireworks didn’t stop there. Busch - clearly bitter and clinging to his guns and religion - rammed into the side of Edwards’ car twice after the race and sped off. Edwards paid back the points leader by spinning him out, bringing a roar from the Tennessee crowd. In their post-race interviews, Busch called Edwards “Mr. Ed” in reference to the toothy-grinned, talking horse. Edwards responded by saying if he had to do it over again, he’d bump Busch even harder. Awesome.

And what did these two get for their Saturday night indiscretion? A slap on the wrist. NASCAR responded to the post-race shenanigans by putting both drivers on probation for the next six weeks. The sanctioning body is sending a clear message that it LOVES this kind of entertainment and badly needs it to pull up the sagging ratings. Busch and Edwards have been battling each other all season, and we can only beg for more. The Chase will bunch up the 12 contending drivers, but there are only two drivers I’ll be watching during the final 10 races. Keep it up boys.

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