Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

More of the weird coming? Maybe so, if Kansas 400 qualifying is any indication

  Kasey Kahne, moving on to another team next season, but on the pole for Sunday's 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Looks like this fall's NASCAR championship chase is about to take another unusual twist – Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and four other non-chasers dominated qualifying here Friday for Sunday's Kansas 400.
   Kahne, who is a lame duck at Richard Petty Motorsports, and Menard, also a lame duck too, two Ford men heading next year to the Chevrolet camp, took the front row for the 12 p.m. CT start.
   And if all the men who qualified well here, on a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon, do well Sunday, then the eight men still alive in the title hunt could face some problems.
   The 10-race chase is only two races old but four men – Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle – are in such a deep hole already, and face eight rivals ahead on them in the standings, are all but out of the running.
   Two men who hope to mend their own fences and mount an effort to dethrone four-time Jimmie Johnson are Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.
    Hamlin says he's cool now with Harvick, after some bruising moments last weekend at Dover...though Harvick himself has a slightly different take.
   The two found themselves at odds after Hamlin verbally lit into Bowyer – who beat him to win Loudon the week before, only to be judged to have had an illegal car.
   Harvick in Dover practice put up a 'bumper' defense of teammate Bowyer, and angered Hamlin.
   Hamlin now: "I think we're going to race each other the same way we were post-Dover. 
    "I've been very fair to Kevin on the track I felt like.  We had a great race at Michigan, obviously going for a win, and he got the better end of us. 
   "There's a driver respect out there on that track that all drivers have, and no matter what happens off the track it's still that driver code on the track.
   "Chasing each other around the track, being mad at anyone, no matter who it is, is not keeping your goals in focus. And that's why it was the best thing for both of us to move on -- because we're looking for a bigger goal than just beating each other."
   That, of course, is beating Johnson for the Sprint Cup championship.

  Scott Speed: his job is on the line, and he's got to start producing (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Harvick's viewpoint on the bumps at Dover: "I don't think there were any games. That was all pretty serious. 
   "I think everything was pretty serious, as far as where we were coming from as a company, and where we were coming from as a team. 
    "Where Denny and I stand is very clear, off the race track and on the race track. 
    "When it comes down to knowing what's right for your company and what's right for your team, those are two different things."
    Hamlin called Harvick to make amends.
    Harvick says there are two sides to the issue – driver versus driver and team versus team out on the track...and two drivers as friends off the track.
    "I don't think there was every going to be an issue with me and Denny," Harvick said.
    "In the garage it doesn't matter who your friends are, or what happens away from the track – it's all about what's happening at the track, and what's right and wrong for your particular team.
    "Obviously it evolved into what it was (at Dover on the track and back in the garage, where they faced off). But off the track it was fairly simple for us to talk."
    And as far as the Bowyer affair goes, Harvick says he's seen that movie before.
   "We've been through a couple of appeals processes ourselves...and I didn't even get involved in them, to be honest with you," Harvick said.
   "So I know how it works.
    "But from the politics side of it -- I look at that as the 'politics' side of it. And it's not something I really have gotten too deep into...because it's not something that's in your favor – you've already got the penalty, and you've already got the outcome.
   "So I just stayed out of it, and don't really have an opinion one way or another on how the whole process works."

   Jeff Burton: counsels teammate Clint Bowyer (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Johnson has had his own share of run-ins this season, particularly with Kurt Busch. Johnson says he well remembers some problems he had a few years back when Ward Burton, and how he handled it:
    "I had something going with Ward Burton at Loudon in 2004 or '05 or '03," Johnson said. "We had an issue on pit road, with our guys being hit.
   "We lost track position and I was coming back through and I got on Ward and spun him out, and he crashed.
    "He spent the rest of the afternoon trying to crash me.
    "Obviously I knew he was upset.
    "And I tried reaching out to him all week, and I couldn't catch him, or he wouldn't take my call.
   "Finally I got his cell phone number, and when he answered he was cussing at me. He went on and on for a minute just yelling and screaming -- and it's tough to understand Ward to start with. He just vented. Finally I'm like 'Do you feel better? Can we talk about this?'
     "You know it wasn't intentional, and you try to move on.
    "There's a wide variety of ways it can be handled. You hope your history with that driver, or your reputation within the sport speaks for itself, and that you can move through those issues."
     Carl Edwards, who has had to work through some of those issues himself this season, says he'll sit on the sidelines over this deal: "There is a lot of posturing with the media in the garage...and I think the best thing is to just sit back and be entertained by it."
   Jeff Burton says he's tried to help teammate Bowyer work through this: "The thin I tried to impress on Clint is that we live in a moment, and we think that in that moment everything revolves around that. 
   "But in two weeks there's going to be another conversation about some other controversy. 
    "I told him that at Dover, and it took about 10 minutes."
    Burton laughed, reflecting on that Hamlin-Harvick run-in.
    Then Burton turned serious again: "It's really difficult to go from the emotion of making the chase (Bowyer did just barely at Richmond)....
    "Then they go to New Hampshire, win the race, they're second in points and thinking this thing is laid out really well. 
     "Two days later you're in this process of being called a cheater.
    "That's a lot, a lot.
     "There's no way it's not a distraction.  There's no way you can just shut it off and say it's not happening. 
     " – Who's my crew chief next week?  Who's going to be my car chief? 
     "It's a big, big, big distraction, no way around it. 
     "And in some ways, having the appeal process over -- almost over -- even though it wasn't the result they were looking for, you are now able to move on. 
     "It's hard to forget that a year from now that's not going to be the center of the world, like it is right now.
     "It's going to move, and it's going to be okay. That's what I tried to impress on him. 
       "I've lived it.  In my rookie year I got thrown out of the race. They caught us at Richmond and said 'You can't race tonight.  You go home.'
     "I thought my world was coming to an end.  But I look on it now and it's just a blip. 
      "It will be a learning experience, it will be something the whole company is stronger for, and wiser.
     "It will make the company better, and make him better."
      But bottom line in the bigger picture, Burton says "the more we can keep the action on the track, the better we are. 
     "Drivers going at each other, racing hard...disputes about their racing, all of that is cool, and that is part of the sport. 
     "The more we can keep the business things, and the conflict -- post-race, pre-race -- to a minimum, the better. 
     "People want to see the action in racing and practice, the on-track stuff.
      "And anytime that the 'authority' has to make a decision, it opens the door for people to question...because people always question authority.
     "Everybody always thinks 'the man' is trying to get you. 
     "The more NASCAR doesn't have to do that, the better the sport is."

                                         Starting lineup for Sunday's Kansas 400



Jeff Gordon watches the lines rivals take in qualifying on his handheld TV (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Mmmm...the RCR cars are not

Mmmm...the RCR cars are not qualifying near the top or doing as well in races anymore since NASCAR found the Bowyer team's car with its body turned a bit towards the corner. Is this like how certain baseball players hit 20 home runs a season more in the steroid era than they did afterwards? NASCAR has done the right thing to crack down on cheating. You can't blame RCR for trying to stay right on the line but when caught over the line, RCR should accept its punishment rather than saying 'the wrecker did it, Mommie'!

well, this is all a very

well, this is all a very interesting story. i want to see how jeff burton (2nd at dover, remember) and Kevin harvick do in sunday's Kansas 400. certainly nascar is right to crack down on cheating. but, as i've pointed out in a couple of stories, my thinking is that nascar needs to do its inspections right at the race track, and not have things so flumoxed up that it takes three days back in some high-tech r&d center to figure out what was actually out there on the track on sunday. nascar's thinking has long been if it's a rule that can't be enforced, then it's not a good rule. looks like some of these body-chassis-template rules can't be enforced at the track.
i agree the 'wrecker' theory now looks a little weak. but this whole clint bowyer nascar thing looks a little weak. mishandled all the way around. imho.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com