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If the NASCAR championship comes down to head games, some of these guys are already beating themselves

 Fireworks galore in Saturday night's Richmond 400. Wonder what the 10 races in the chase might provide? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Looks like Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are at it again.
   How that might affect their chances – and their title rivals – in the upcoming NASCAR championship playoffs remains to be played out over the next 10 weeks, beginning with next Sunday's Chicago 400?

   Johnson versus Busch certainly wasn't the only hot spot in the stock car world here Saturday night.
   But it was the most vivid.
   "If you guys can really figure it out, you can figure out what to write," Busch said when asked about the latest encounter, in some testy post-race comments with the media.
   Busch said post-race he felt he was 'in Johnson's head.'
   Busch tried to retract that afterwards.
   And Johnson tried to downplay it: "We can race out there without running into each other. I hope it's behind us.
   "There's been a lot of contact. I won't let anyone run into my race car. That's why I retaliated tonight."

   While those two played their games, the Richmond 400 itself boiled down to Kevin Harvick versus Carl Edwards versus Jeff Gordon. And Gordon held the lead when the last round of pit stops, for Paul Menard's spin with just 15 laps left in the 400-lapper at this very fast three-quarter-mile track.
    But Harvick's pit crew won the battle, giving him the inside lane for the last restart.
   "I wasn't real happy I had to start that last restart on the outside," Gordon said.  "My car all night was not good on the outside.
    "With 20 laps to go, you're driving away with the lead…I was feeling pretty good about that.  I didn't want to see a caution.  I thought it was interesting when I saw a Childress (Menard) car sitting down there in the grass…
    "But we dealt with it.
    "We didn't have the best of pit stops; I didn't do them any favors -- I didn't get into the box as good as I needed to.
    "We got beat off pit road, plain and simple. 
     "And our car just didn't take off there at the end. 
     "Plus Carl was really strong, so he got to my inside. Kyle (Busch) got by me as well. I was happy to get back by Kyle and get back to third. 
     "I thought it was our race to win. We just didn't have it."

    On the other side of the picture Saturday night was Edwards, nipping at Harvick's rear bumper the final miles.
   "Once I get over the frustration of not winning this thing I am going to be really excited about how fast our team is," Edwards said.
    "We really turned things around tonight. That is the best we have run on a short track in years. That was huge.
    "But that was a tough race not to win. I feel we had the car beat. And if we had another lap or two we would have been all over Harvick."

    Harvick pointed to those final pit stops as key: "I'd struggled on the restarts, so to be in control of that last restart was pretty important.
    "I just locked it on the bottom and hoped for the best."
    For team owner Richard Childress, who had just had a post-Bristol Sunday morning set-to with all his teams after a  bottom point in the season just two weeks ago, this was sweet vindication: "It was great. The pit crew came alive when we needed them.
   "And the momentum you start building into the chase…..
    "Last year that was one thing we were short going into the chase – wins. And now we're right up there with them.  So it's up to us to keep it up."
   The win was Harvick's fourth of the season, tying him with Kyle Busch.
    "I couldn't be prouder of Gil Martin and his guys, and Kevin," Childress went on. "We've had a few tough races…and that's what championship teams are built of --  When you have a tough day, you've got to go back and work on finding out what was wrong and get it fixed.
   "It was a big win tonight for all of us."
    Martin has been under the gun from both driver and car owner. And he's persevered.
   "We started off the season really well," Martin said, referring to three early wins. "We had good consistency, good runs, and we were able to put together good runs all day long. 
    "But during the middle of the summer, to be quite frank, we've run like crap. 
    "We got off our game, trying to do some things to just win races….because after we won the three races and were locked into the chase, we got off our game, trying some things probably we shouldn't have.
    "Going into Atlanta (barely a week ago) we had a huge team meeting on Sunday after Bristol, because we had such a horrendous Bristol race.
   "We had a great meeting, and the whole company came together. We've learned a lot about ourselves in the last month."
    "The Sunday morning meeting wasn't pretty," Harvick conceded. "Most of the meetings haven't been pretty the last month or so.
   "But we went back and looked at the races we felt we were the fastest at, and we put that stuff in at Atlanta, and we ran in the top-five all day. And here we had a solid weekend from the time the car unloaded.
    "It's been stressful the last month…but the last two weeks it's paid off."
   Martin, on those angry team meetings: "A Sunday morning meeting, it'll snap you out of a lot of things.  You can jump over Godzilla after you have a meeting with him (Childress). 
    "It was a pretty inspirational meeting for everybody, no kidding."


     Brian Vickers (83) didn't have a great night either....and earned a trip to the NASCAR hauler to discuss things (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Well if Gordon was concerned

Well if Gordon was concerned about Menards spin, what about the 48 bringing out a caution while the 29 was on pit road? Or a Hendrick car causing a caution when Jr was about to get lapped?


Kurt Busch proved once again what a Jackass he is,was,, and will always be.Spencer should be given carte-blanche to finish what he started years ago,and do us all a favor. Kyle, on the other hand ,is still paying the price for being related,and should avoid his freaky older sibling. The fans will never take to the kid, because (mostly) of Kurt.

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