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Matt Kenseth hits on NASCAR's no-call...and Kasey Kahne reflects on the final days of Team Red Bull

  Victorious, at last, after a two-year drought:  Kasey Kahne, in his final days with Team Red Bull before heading to Rick Hendrick's Chevy camp, to replace Mark Martin (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   NASCAR's credibility took yet another hit here Sunday, and the sanctioning body's no-call on an apparently deliberate crash involving Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers took a little more luster off the gloss of the Sprint Cup championship as the playoffs head to the finale event at Homestead, Fla., with Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart locked in one of the tightest title fights in NASCAR history.

    Edwards and Stewart, not really close buds in this sport during their years, were in remarkably good moods after dueling to a stand-off in the three-hour Phoenix 500K, laughing and joking with each other.
     "We have never gone to Homestead with the points lead," Edwards, three points up on Stewart, mused.
   "We feel we have the cars and pit crew, and have shown we can gut it out on these really tough days when maybe we don't have the fastest car.
   "This is going to be good."
   Stewart dominated most of the race but crew chief Darien Grubb went a bit too far on a late adjustment and the car lost its edge. Kasey Kahne rallied to win, breaking a long losing streak stretching more than two years. And Edwards rallied too but couldn't catch Kahne, finishing second, a spot ahead of Stewart.
    "I was real calm," Edwards said, "but it is hard to watch Tony do so well. They have really stepped it up. They are making us perform the best we ever have…and we are doing the same to them.
    "I followed him for about 40 laps, and it felt like I was working him over, and really paying attention to what he does. I determined he is a pretty good driver. If we can win this thing beating him, that would be really cool."


    Carl Edwards, still atop the Sprint Cup standings heading into the NASCAR season finale at Homestead, Fla. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   When the 312-mile race started, misting rain was an issue, and so was the track itself, redesigned and repaved since the February race here.
   However the skies cleared up to a gorgeous blue, and the track and the controversial backstretch proved no great dilemma for drivers, though crews did have to keep up with changes in temperament the asphalt went through during the race. This track has been notoriously temperature-sensitive.
   However those weren't the only hot button issues Sunday.
   And if you get the impression NASCAR officials aren't quite on their game right now, and haven't been for a few weeks, Kenseth will probably agree with you.
   Kenseth got rudely crashed by Vickers midway through Sunday's 500, and Kenseth said Vickers had been telling people in the garage in the days leading up to the race that it was coming, apparently for the run-ins the two had two weeks ago at Martinsville – where the run-ins eliminated Kenseth from championship contention, on a day when Vickers was involved in five cautions.
   NASCAR made no penalty calls at Martinsville, and NASCAR made no penalty calls here Sunday. In between of course NASCAR hit Kyle Busch some heavy penalties for crashing Ron Hornaday in a Truck race at Texas.
   Inconsistency? Well, that's hard to ignore.
   Kenseth, on Sunday's crash, in a race where he'd started from the pole and had a good chance to win.

    Matt Kenseth's crew making repairs, after getting crashed by Brian Vickers (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   "Obviously it is retaliation for retaliation I guess," Kenseth said.
    "I was out of brakes, and I was up on everybody, and I saw him coming, and I lifted at least 10 car lengths before I would normally lift …and he drove in there at 165 mph and cleaned us out.
    "If NASCAR is going to start parking people for being mad 25 seconds after you wreck (referring to Busch at Texas) and wrecking somebody, then you would park somebody for that.
    "You (NASCAR) have someone that has been telling everybody for four or five week that as soon as he got a chance at a fast race track he was going to make it hurt and wipe us out…and they do nothing about it.
    "It was so premeditated it just surprises me that they didn't do anything.
    "I am disappointed but I expected it.
     "We aren't racing street stocks at a quarter-mile track, so they need to figure out how to get the drivers to settle their differences in a different way…and talk about it…or figure it out or do something -- instead of using your car as a battering ram somewhere this fast."

    Brian Vickers, looking for a job at the end of the season, and his crew is looking for jobs too. Vickers left the track without commenting on his run-in with Matt Kenseth (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   Kenseth's crew made repairs and he returned to the track but Kenseth made no move at retaliation.
    "I don't stoop to that level," Kenseth said.
   "When we had our problem at Martinsville, it was heat of the moment…and he hit me eight or nine times, and he hit me once (more). Hindsight I should have let him go and left him alone, because you realize who he is and what he is.
    "You probably should leave him alone and go on.
    "I would never sit down there and wait for somebody and take a cheap shot like that.
    "You can hurt someone like that. And that isn't sportsmanlike."
    NASCAR's John Darby responded "Had we felt it was more than a racing incident, we would have reacted."


Kasey Kahne's crew, victorious. But how many will have jobs after next week, with the Red Bull operation shutting down? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


  Kasey was the day's big winner, and Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief, credited rival crew chief Kenny Francis for taking advantage of Osborne's conservative moves down the stretch.
   "We were guarding against cautions and getting caught there staying out a little longer, to guard against a (untimely) caution…and that let Kasey get in front of us," Osborne said. "My decision to wait a little bit longer cost us the win.
    "It felt like we had a better car than they did. Kenny just juked me today. I will have to congratulate him on that when I see him."

   "The track changed a lot," Francis said. "Everyone knew it was going to do something, we just didn't know what.  Everyone was kind of guessing.
   "We started in one direction, then had to turn around and go back in the other direction to get the car to work."

   That Kasey Kahne won a race isn't surprising of course. And this was a one-year ride, with Jay Frye's Red Bull team, while rival team owner Rick Hendrick waited out the final year of Mark Martin's contract. Kahne next year is to drive the cars that Martin has been driving.
   And the Red Bull operation itself is set to close its doors after next weekend's Homestead finale. The energy drink company has not only been the sponsor of the two-car team (Vickers is Kahne's teammate) but also the owner of the shop and equipment, which is now all for sale. And it's clearly good stuff.
   But there appear to be no buyers.
   "It's tough to hear you say it's shutting down in eight days," Kahne said.  "Over the last three months we have had one of the top-five cars in NASCAR – and now shutting down, that's crazy.
    "We've been able to stay focused.  I love racing.  If I'm in a race car, I want to do the best that I can.  Kenny Francis has given me some cars in the last few months that we've been able to perform with and run with Carl and Tony, who have been probably the two best."


Blue skies at Phoenix, especially for winner Kasey Kahne (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




I like Kenseth, but the

I like Kenseth, but the reason Nascar did nothing is because they seen what he did at Martinsville and Knew he had it coming. He should have known better, seeing how he was in the case. JMHO

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Re Vickers; might it be time

Re Vickers; He has been ridiculous the past several weeks. Why there has not been any more outcries is beyond me. If Robby Gordon was taking out people the way Vickers has been he (Gordon) would be run out of the sport.


If NASCAR and the media's reaction to yesterday's Kennseth/Vickers incident compared to last weeks Busch/Horaday incident doesn't prove bias, nothing ever will.

Inconsistency hardly

Inconsistency hardly describes NASCAR

Matt wasn't going to win

Matt had a good car and did start on the pole, but he had no chance of winning when Brian took him out. The lack of brakes was sending him backwards rather quickly and wasn't going to get better as the race went on. Doesn't make it right, but Vickers didn't alter the outcome of the race significantly.

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