- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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Don't throw golf clubs. If the urge is irrepressible, pack the Visa.
I need your help to settle a fight. My boys are all [complaining] that Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch should be penalized by NASCAR for bumping each other at Bristol. (They're all Junior fans -- wink, wink).
They say NASCAR has done it before and they should do it this time. I thought it was great! We were all at the race and most of the people around us loved it. But it makes me wonder what other people are saying. What say you, Marty? Are The Six with me or my crybaby friends?
-- Lee Keaton, Blowing Rock, N.C.
First of all, Lee, tell your boys to buy some Kleenex and fire up "Grey's Anatomy."
As for the feedback, AOL boxes hold only 1,000 e-mails, at which time they turn responses away. Mine was full by Sunday afternoon. Here's my approximation of the Bristol breakdown:
• Carl Edwards is dirtier than a Manhattan sidewalk!! E-mails -- 3 percent.
• Kyle Busch whines like Francis Ford Coppola!! E-mails -- 2 percent.
• Hell yeah!! E-mails -- 95 percent.
Penalize Carl and Kyle? NASCAR -- which put both drivers on probation for the next six weeks -- should be hugging them.
This is precisely what the sport needs right now, and the fans love it. Emotion and passion and no consideration about any apologies. Busch's postrace interview was absolutely classic -- drier than the Griswold Family Christmas turkey and every bit as steamy.
You heard Busch say that Edwards is the guy who blatantly chrome-horns you out of the way, then waltzes over and spews "I'm sorrys." Well, maybe so. But not this time.
Edwards isn't apologizing to anyone for what went down at Bristol -- and he probably doubled his fan base as a result.
By taking the microphone -- even before anyone had a chance to question his tactics -- and saying, effectively, "Yep, I hit him. Get over it," Edwards lit a fire under NASCAR Nation. He just became human.
Moreover, Edwards and Busch revived Bristol Motor Speedway. The incident personified everything that sets that place apart from everywhere else. Bump-and-runs and tempers flaring like your momma's high school jeans.
Edwards used the bumper to beat the dominator, and if Busch could have caught back up to the 99, you can bet your pup tent he'd have returned the favor.
That opportunity will come at some point, and Bristol may well have set up a Chase-long skirmish between the sport's best two teams that we'll track from Left Coast to South Beach. We'll call it Hurricane Ed.
Meanwhile, both drivers made it clear -- if that's how he wants to play, that's how we'll play.
My whole life I've heard "Payback is hell."
Maybe this year, it'll be "Payback is Homestead."
Casey Mears has been my favorite driver since he drove for Cicci-Welliver in the [Nationwide] Series. He's bounced around every year of his career and never had a home. I think he's gotten a raw deal everywhere he's went. Convince me this will be any better this time around at Richard Childress.
-- Anne Bly, Canon City, Colo.
Mears will do well at Childress, Anne. I base that sentiment on the vibe at RCR -- laid back. After the Hendrick disappointment, Mears desperately needs a fresh start and a completely different approach. RCR offers both.
Quite frankly, he's blessed to have it. Failing at Hendrick often means a scarlet letter. But Mears persevered through a weak driver market and landed a great ride representing a great brand.
He'll be in good race cars at a company that, while growing with the sport, has maintained an old-school racer's vibe. Hendrick Motorsports uses a proven, wildly successful business model. They win and win and win, using strategic policies that never steer them awry. Great people. Great company. The proof is in the trophies and the (lack of) turnover.
Every driver wants the opportunity to race for Hendrick. But it's not always the right fit for everyone -- ask Brian Vickers -- especially when performance is bad. Mears hasn't performed at Hendrick. That makes a man uncomfortable.
You never want to question whether you're wanted.
Mears will benefit from removing himself from that. He won't be the premier driver at RCR, but he won't be an afterthought, either. And I'm not saying anyone at Hendrick Motorsports views him that way, because they don't. The No. 5 guys work their tails off for him.
But that's how it panned out. Both sides will benefit from this.
It's a poor parallel -- the circumstances are different -- but I can't help but think about Jeff Burton in this instance. Four years ago Burton departed the Roush Racing super team in favor of Childress. Unlike Mears, Burton had won races and contended for championships. But like Mears, folks said he couldn't get it done.
Why would Burton leave Roush, which had just won a championship with Matt Kenseth and was eyeing another with Kurt Busch? Because he'd had it. And it was the right move for Burton. He was reborn. Maybe Mears can find that same comfort.
Huge Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan and Brad Keselowski fan, here. I read where Brad was offered the 12 and said no. Why would he turn down Cup? Out of loyalty to Dale Jr.? Penske seems like it would be a great opportunity for him and the Michigan ties seem like a great fit.
-- Neil Evans, Saginaw, Mich.
I'm told by Penske Racing that Keselowski was never offered the No. 12 Dodge, Neil. Jonathan Gibson, vice president at Penske, tells me they've spoken with a lot of drivers, but made just one offer -- and that's to the individual they plan to sign.
All signs point to that person being David Stremme, but Gibson would not confirm Stremme as the team's leading candidate.
Song of the week: A bunch of old-heads loved the Alabama reference last week, so I'm sticking with the old-school theme. This week, we'll go back a couple decades to a song my boys and I played on the Giles High baseball bus my entire junior season -- "All The Gold in California" by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers.
Tryin' to be a hero
Windin' up a zero
Can scar a man forever
Right down to his soul
D2D Chaseology -- California
TOP GUNS: Six drivers are still in the Chase Danger Zone like Kenny Loggins, but Greg Biffle (seventh and 141 points ahead of 13th), Kevin Harvick (eighth, 129 points up on 13th) and Jeff Gordon (ninth, plus 108) look to be sitting pretty on the flight to West Side. It gets more precarious for Matt Kenseth (10th with a 78-point cushion), Denny Hamlin (up 57 points in 11th) and Clint Bowyer (only 12 points removed from 13th), who must perform at Fontana.
CALIFORNIA HEAT WAVE: At the Fontana race in the spring and both Michigan events, Hamlin posted finishes of 41st, 14th and 39th. Meanwhile, Bowyer finished 19th, 26th and 20th. David Ragan has finishes of 14th, eighth and third, and Kasey Kahne has ninth, second and 40th. Each of those drivers will be sweating in the California sun.
Gordon, Bowyer and Hamlin all answered the call at Bristol. All are perennial contenders at Thunder Valley but had fallen into mediocrity in the weeks heading in. Bowyer battled a wrecked race car all night to stick a sorely needed Band-Aid on the 07. Gordon and Hamlin should run well at Fontana, and their pit crews must be flawless.
Bowyer, meanwhile, hasn't run well on intermediate tracks of late. If he comes out of Fontana unscathed, he'll be in prime Chase position.
RAGANOMICS: David Ragan was most impressive at Bristol. He has never fared well at the bullring but rallied from a 27th-place qualifying effort to finish a Bristol career-best 10th. He is within 12 points of 12th position and has run well at intermediate tracks all year. He finished third at Michigan, a track similar to California. His nonchalant confidence continues to grow. No one dreamed he'd be in this position.
BRISTOL BEATDOWN 2.0: In the inaugural Race to the Chase in 2004, Kasey Kahne went to Bristol in 10th position, six points ahead of then-teammate Jeremy Mayfield. Kahne finished 21st that night and fell to 11th place, 26 points outside the top 10, and ultimately fell short of the playoffs. Saturday night, Kahne was collected in the big wreck and finished 40th. He's now mired in 14th position, 56 points behind Bowyer in 12th. Lady Luck hasn't been kind to Kahne of late. He has dropped six points positions in two weeks, due to an uncharacteristic engine failure at Michigan and the Bristol beatdown.
CLOSE BUT Carl Edwards secured his third career Chase spot in grand fashion, but three other drivers are still at the reservation desk. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s perplexing 18th-place finish, Jimmie Johnson's 33rd and Jeff Burton's 42nd mean they have to wait until Fontana to light the cigar.
My husband thinks I am a bottomless pit of useless NASCAR knowledge, so he is always asking me trivia questions. The other day he asked me one, and for the first time it stumped me.
So please help me answer this question. The checkers drop and it is a tie. Who wins? I have never heard of it happening so I'm not even sure if there is a procedure to follow in this case. Help us out, Martdog!
-- Mary Beth Diefert, Emporia, Va.
Sprint Cup race director David Hoots tells me that in the event NASCAR is unable to break a tie with a photograph, then, well it would be a tie.
Great question, Mary Beth. I learned something today.
Hey there Marty,
I'm tired of hearing about Scott Riggs. Have you heard anything at all about JJ Yeley and his future? Whether it's in NASCAR or not? I heard rumors that if it didn't work out this year, he wanted to get back in Sprint Cars. Grew up watching him destroy the dirt tracks of the Southwest, like Manzy and Perris.
Just wondering if his future is back on the dirt or with another team? I know he was the odd man out at Gibbs and anyone who thinks he had the same equipment KB is in now is crazy. Thanks for doing what you do, and if you want some good music look up Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford -- dang good.
Mike from Phoenix
Sorry, Mike, but I don't have much for you on Yeley. His business manager, Kyle Chapman, tells me they are "having good conversations with teams inside NASCAR." Which teams, or how many, was not disclosed, but Chapman says they've spoken with Cup and Nationwide teams.
He also said they've had no discussions outside of NASCAR, but that they wouldn't rule out anything at this point.
To me, it looks bleak for Yeley. There's not much available, and he's battling more established drivers for what little is available.
Back in the '60s and '70s teams had the engine cubic-inch size written on the hood (like the retro paint job Travis Kvapil ran this year). When, and why, did teams stop doing this?
-- Paul Edwards in Richmond, Va.
Awesome question, Paul. I checked in with NASCAR Hall of Fame historian Buz McKim on this one, and he tells me NASCAR discontinued requiring cubic-inch labels on the hood in 1974. For years the cars' horsepower readings were required on the hood. That switched to cubes in 1965.
After '74 there was no longer a need for the cubic inches on the hood because NASCAR had reduced the maximum allowable engine size to 358 c.i., and everyone was running the same size engine.
That's my time this week, team. Keep 'em comin'. College football kicks off this weekend, folks, and I'm fired up. If my wife would let me, I'd wear my Virginia Tech helmet from Thursday to Sunday. Go Hokies.
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.
Penalize Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch for their postrace dust-up at Bristol? Hardly. Edwards and Busch gave NASCAR Nation exactly what it needs, writes Marty Smith.