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Ryan Newman takes the pole for the 600, but did you hear what Denny had to say about teammate Kyle?

  Junior Johnson (R) says he likes Ryan Newman's style. And Newman (L) does have some of Cale Yarborough's gritty driving style. Wonder if ol' Junior gave Ryan any tips on what to do at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hey, remember the 1973 race here when Maurice Petty stuffed Richard's engine with cigarette butts to beat NASCAR's pre-race inspection, and Junior and Cale, and hey Bobby Allison....well, check the history books -- that's a good 'un (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)  

   By Mike Mulhern

   Ryan Newman – chasing legendary David Pearson for Charlotte Motor Speedway poles, and hoping to get lagging Team Tony Stewart back in high gear – beat All-Star winner Kurt Busch Thursday night for top starting spot for Sunday's Coke 600, the stock car tour's longest event, with a lick at 187.546 mph.
   But it was Round Three of Kyle-vs-Denny that held everyone's attention here.
   The Busch-Hamlin setting: in the final miles of last weekend's All-Star race, with $1 million on the line to the winner, the race was leader Denny Hamlin versus teammate-and-challenger Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson had been dominating, but Hamlin and Busch got better pit stops the last time in, and they led the field to the green.
   Busch got a run on Hamlin and made a fake low then zipped high. Hamlin blocked low then high. Busch didn't back off and thus scraped the wall. A few miles down the road Busch's right-front tire blew and he crashed. Angrily Busch vowed to "kill" Hamlin, then stormed to Hamlin's trailer for a post-race tête-à-tête , which team owner Joe Gibbs wisely decided to broker.
   Afterwards, Busch stormed off into the night, while Hamlin talked with the media and tried to cool things off. After all these two guys are both trying to win this year's Sprint Cup championship.
    Busch here Friday finally gave his side of the deal, insisting he could work with Hamlin the rest of the season, but giving indication that he was still more than upset.
    Hamlin, later, got a chance to respond. He tried to bite his tongue, but finally let loose:
    "I'm not going to put too much effort in it, to be honest with you," Hamlin said, perhaps worried about championship head games eventually. "Kyle  brings this stuff up himself... and he gets mad at the media for asking him questions about his blow-ups -- but he does it to himself. 
    "I don't want to be part of it -- any drama he wants to create is on him.  Anything he says on the (team) radio is on him. 
    "All I'm going to say -- and I'm going to be done with it -- is each year I think Kyle's going to grow out of it and he just doesn't.
     "Until he puts it all together, that's when he'll become a champion. 
     "Right now he just doesn't have himself all together."
     Can't wait to see these two at Daytona in July....or Talladega in October. Or Martinsville or Bristol or Richmond, for that matter.
    That wasn't the end of it, either.
    Hamlin, clearly becoming aggravated with the entire debate – with his teammate and with the media – threw in a coup de grace: He said when Tony Stewart left at the end of 2008 the job role of team leader was easily up for grabs. Hamlin, though at 29 a few years old than the just-turned-25 Busch, has only been on the Cup tour fulltime since 2006, while Busch has been running the stock car tour since 2004.   
    "I didn't say I was going to take over this team, or be the leader of this team," Hamlin snapped. "But somebody's got to be the leader -- it ain't going to be Kyle."
    Ouch, with a rim shot.
    Hamlin says he's not backing off his All-Star decisions. "I definitely wouldn't change anything...nobody in my position would," Hamlin said. 
    "I challenge anyone to be in that position and to change the way I drove. 
     "The thing is he was never 'there.'
     "There was never a hole for his car to fit in.
     "He has a gas pedal and brake just like I do.  He could choose to check up and pass me in the next corner...or put his car in the fence like what happened.
     "I think he expected me to do that there, and I just wasn't willing to do it at that point."
      Heck, with $1 million to the winner, and no points to be lost, it's hard to argue against Hamlin.
      Perhaps that's what has really made Busch so mad, that he messed up.
      Hamlin does keep trying to take the high-road in all this. But his patience is clearly running thin.
    "Talking to him, he just felt like I took his line away," Hamlin said. "His line – as the guy behind me?  I'm sorry. 
    "My pit crew had just gotten me off pit road with the lead. We'd come from last in that race (after blowing an engine in practice), and we'd put ourselves strategically in that spot.
    "Hey, we didn't have a good enough car to hold those guys off....but that don't mean two laps after that restart I didn't think I could win. 
     "If I didn't think I could win, then maybe I should have given him the line.
    "But I was racing as if I could win. 
     "I just couldn't look myself in the mirror -- or any of my team guys in the face -- if I pulled over. 
      "It sucks because, 'Hey, it's a teammate.'
     "But we're always competitors.  He's one of the guys I have to beat every week.
    "And if we want to win the championship, he's one of the guys I'm going to have to beat. 
     "We're teammates....but are we teammates with 10 to go in the All-Star race? 
      "I said no. 
       "You're not racing for points. 
      "You don't want to wreck each other...but I didn't wreck him.  He just didn't let up when he probably should have." 
    However Hamlin says he fully understands Busch, even better now perhaps.
    And it could happen again. "Moving forward I don't expect anything different -- Would anyone expect anything different?" Hamlin says.
    "That's why Kyle has the attention he has -- because he's fiery. 
     "I don't expect anything different. 
     "I just don't need to let it bother me. I don't need to let anything he says bother me.
     "We just need to worry about us and don't worry about him."
    Rival teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have had their moments too this season with each other, and Hamlin pointed out those came in points-paying events.
      "Ours was a no-holds-barred race....that's why I didn't understand getting so upset about it," Hamlin said, scratching his head. 
    And now?
    "If that same situation happens at half-way Sunday, I'm moving over and letting him go, because I've got 300 more miles to make it up," Hamlin said.
   "Right now I feel we have the two best teams and cars, championship-caliber.
    "We don't need to let anything derail. We just need to move on."
    But Hamlin says he anticipates more such Busch explosions this year...he just wants to stay out of that line of fire.
   "Kyle's the type of guy that will probably use it as fire," Hamlin says.
    "He has a blowup about once every two or three weeks, and it fires him up for the next two or three weeks.
    "Then it simmers down...and then he starts something else again. 
    "I think that's what fuels him. He feeds off that, he really does."
   But Hamlin says he's not going to let all that stop him from working with Busch on setups and tricks: "Trust me – I'm the first one each week, when our car, for some reason, is faster than his, to go over and tell him 'Hey, I would change this, or change that.'
    "I'm not going to change that at all...because I feel I need him. I'm much better on 1-1/2-mile tracks because of Kyle Busch, and I guarantee he's a much better short-track racer because I'm part of his team. 
    "I'm still going to need him.  I can't just cut him off. And he can't just cut me off. We're going to need to still work together."
    Now that's championship-class.
    Is anybody else listening?

                         The starting lineup for Sunday's Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway



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   Ryan Newman: stock car racing's Mr. Friday. Er, Mr. Thursday Night this week. But what can he do in Sunday's Coke 600? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Kyle has to be kidding! He

Kyle has to be kidding! He didn't anticipate an every man for himself type of race? Can he possibly have never seen any of the previous "The Winston" events before? Nascar has hyped this event from its infancy as a no holds barred, checkers or wreckers race! With no points awarded, special cars built and a million dollars up for grabs, how could this race be anything but an "every man for himself" race? Is Kyle too young to have seen "the pass in the grass" or Kyle Petty and Davey Allison's finish line crash? If Nascar wants this event to be popular, it has to remain as a non-points, altered rules race. No black flags for aggressive driving, no penalties for actions detrimental to stock car racing and certainly, allow the drivers to decide their own way of getting to the front! Come on Kyle, nobody would have moved over to let you have "your line"! This was the "All Star" event!
Jim Davidson

I am not a fan of Denny or

I am not a fan of Denny or Kyle but is there a driver out there that Denny has not wrecked? He made such a big deal of Brad K. and then drives like an idiot.
Just my $.02

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