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The strangest, strangest race...at 206-208 mph...but drivers loved it, especially Shootout winner Kurt Busch

   And the winner is....Kurt Busch (yellow car outside lane) gets the win, even though Denny Hamlin (11) wins the race to the line, ahead of Ryan Newman (39) and Jamie McMurray, when NASCAR penalizes Hamlin for passing below the yellow line (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   A controversial finish, a strange, wild race, a dominating performance by Richard Childress' guys…but at the end it was a mistake by leader Ryan Newman in the final 300 yards, and a mistake by Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch – the only man without a teammate, in a two-man sack race all night – winning Saturday night's Bud Shootout.
   "It's a whole new style of racing here," Busch said. "It's an unbelievable experience."

   The race was dominated, as expected, by drivers in two-car drafts. And speeds were amazing, 206 to 208 mph. Because of the much cooler night air, drivers in the numerous two-car drafts didn't have to swap places to keep the engines cool. That could be different in the heat of Thursday's 150-milers.
   Drivers called it one of the strangest races they've ever been in, and despite the speeds, they seemed quite comfortable with the action, because it wasn't in one of those dreaded 30-car packs.
   "Maybe it was just Lady Luck, but I was just trying to hold a pretty wheel," Busch said.  "This reminds me of the old slingshot days, only you have two cars doing the slingshots. That two-car draft is four seconds a lap faster than a man out there by himself."
   That is a huge gap in speed. And drivers said they knew things would be dicey, with such a closing rate, so they were pretty careful and considerate. Even so there were several crashes, when drivers simply miscalculated.
   Busch described the action as similar to those Saturday night 'chain races,' with a pusher and a pushee. Newman said "communication" among spotters and teammates was crucial in this type of racing.
   "It looks like those Richard Childress guys have really good horsepower," Busch said, referring to the two-man draft that dominated the night, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. But when Burton and Harvick -- who used their radios to communicate moves during the race -- got separated late, they fell out of contention.
   And down the stretch it was a four-man breakaway....another situation no one anticipated.
   It seems hard to pass, and the last lap no one could make a move on leader Newman until the pack came off the fourth turn. Then Hamlin made a bid to pass Newman on the inside when Newman opened the door. But just as Hamlin got up beside Newman, Newman moved low to try to block Hamlin. Hamlin swerved below the yellow 'out of bounds' line. Hamlin completed the pass and crossed the finish line first, by a nose over Busch. But NASCAR then 'blackflagged' Hamlin for passing below the line and posted him as the last car on the lead lap.
   Hamlin conceded "I made a mistake."


  It wasn't a great night for Carl Edwards (99) or Joey Logano (20) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "We didn't think the yellow line would come into play tonight, but it did," Busch said. "And it didn't look like Newman forced him down there."
   Hamlin seemed dejected, and he said he went below the line rather than risk crashing Newman: "That yellow line is there to protect us and the fans in the stands…and I just chose to take the safer route. 
    "A win in the Shootout is not worth sending Ryan through the grandstands.  As fast as we're running, if I get into his left-rear, that car will go airborne. 
    "For me it was a tough position.  I probably should have gone high just to avoid that whole thing. 
     "I was faced with a decision, and obviously I didn't want to have contact with Ryan.
      "I went to the inside of Ryan (off four), and I saw quickly to dart down to the bottom. Then I moved my car down to the bottom to try to avoid contact. 
     "I thought it was a great three-wide finish, but obviously I used some pavement we shouldn't have.
      "…made a little mistake. I didn't want to cause a wreck; it's not worth it.  It's not worth sending a guy through the bleachers.
     "It's just coming to the checkered and you've really got no room to work with, so you try to use all of the asphalt you can.  It's just in the heat of the moment, and you're just trying to do the best thing and not cause a wreck."



Denny Hamlin (purple car) won the race to the finish line, but drew a NASCAR penalty (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Whether NASCAR execs will be comfortable with these speeds, which according to the GPS 'raceview' system might have reached a stunning 210 mph, is unclear. For years NASCAR refused to let drivers run faster than 200, changing rules and/or carburetor restrictor plates to keep speeds low.
   In fact NASCAR changed one minor aerodynamic rule Saturday morning with the deliberate aim of trying to break up these two-car packs and forced drivers to race in a bigger pack. "That didn't work," Steve Addington, Busch's crew chief, said. And Addington says even if NASCAR were to go to a smaller plate "it would just make the two-car drafts a little slower, it wouldn't change the two-car drafts."

   "I knew I was a sitting duck, being the leader, and my best shot was to block whatever Denny did…but that didn't work," Newman said.
   "I could have chopped Denny off harder and probably caused a big crash, and Kurt would still have won.
   "If it were just the two of us, I would have run Denny right on down to pit road.
    "I didn't expect it to be a four-car breakway; we didn't see that in practice.
    "But I don't think any one here had any idea how it would play out.
   "That was the most unexpected race I've ever been part of.
   "I like the way it separated out. When you're stuck four rows deep, three-wide, there's nothing you can do. This gave you a little more versatility.
   "I would rather it be racing like this than what we had at Talladega. And there was a lot of action."
   There were several incidents during the 90-minute race.
   One took out Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Regan Smith.
   Even with replays it wasn't quite clear just what happened.
   "We were three or four-wide back there," Edwards said, "and I was going between Dale Jr. and Regan. Regan was on the outside, and I don't think Regan knew I was in there.  He kept coming down, and I just had enough of my car in there. 
    "I laid up against Dale Jr., and then Regan got me in the rightfront.
   "I was probably hidden by Dale Jr., and he just kept coming down.  I was like 'No, no, no, no!' And then he got me across the rightfront. 
     "I probably could have stabbed the brake and backed out of there, but I didn't know exactly what was going on behind me."

  Winner Kurt Busch, without a dancing partner at the end, heaped praise on Jamie McMurray for helping push him to the victory (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Another incident took out Mark Martin and Kyle Busch, as Martin was push-drafting Busch into the corner, and the two got sideways. Both men were scratching their heads about what might have happened.
    "He didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t know that I did anything that I haven’t done all night," Kyle Busch said. "We just got screwed up." 
    Even with the unusual action, and reactions, drivers seemed to be having a good time.
    "It was pretty wild," Edwards said. "Next week's race is going to be wild. The fans are going to get what they pay for.
    "It's really difficult -- You have to really trust the guy that is pushing you. The problem is if you’re the guy pushing, you can't tell what's going on in front. So you almost need to be on the same radio channel as the guy in front, and that's really hard to do."
    Unless the two are teammates, in radio contact. At one point rival spotters high above the track were trying to work together whenever their cars hooked up.
   Another unexpected twist -- Engines were turning 9500 RPM, much more than anticipated. "The cars are going so fast that the RPMs are really high," Edwards says. "It'll be interesting to see if NASCAR lets us race like this or if they change something.
    "Either way it'll be fine.
     "It's actually safer for us to be out there racing two cars away from each other rather than in that pack.
    "But it's insane. It's wild."


   Kurt Busch gets service from Steve Addington's crew, en route to a Daytona victory for Roger Penske, in front a crowd of some 85,000 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

So let me get this strait in

So let me get this strait in the NAME of safety no one can ever gain anything by going bellow the yellow line for any reason. OK I agree I mean it makes it so much safer for Hamlin to have held his line inside Newman and just above the yellow line and to let Newman run into him cause a big four car wreck at 200 MPH then for him to give room and drop bellow and keep all the cars going strait. Come on there is something wrong with penalizing a guy for doing what even the director of competition said was the right thing. NASCAR has people in the booth to make these calls cause there JUDGMENT calls if your not going to use JUDGMENT then get rid of the officials and just have a computer senor sensor on the cars that reads when their bellow and penalizes them automatically after all that would be more precise and the cars are already racked by GPS so it would not e that hard.

The officiating tower

The officiating tower corrupts the integrity of the racing yet again. This was the most competitive Busch Clash/Bud Shootout ever, new pavement proves to be even better than advertised, the racing was universally enjoyable - and the outcome is decided by a dubious rule whose "enforcement" is a textbook case of why EIRI trumps the rulebook - if certain drivers commit what Hamlin committed they'd be allowed the win - we saw that in 2003 at Talladega.

The yellow line rule cannot be defended by NASCAR at all. Mike, please tell them that fact next time you see the officials. Denny Hamlin was robbed.

I thought the rules about

I thought the rules about going below the yellow lines on the last lap were done away with in the "boys, have at it" speech that was given last year. So I guess we've gone back to it again. If the violator would have been car #88 instead of #11, they would have rolled into victory lane. There is no doubt in my mind.

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