Edwards vs. Busch could get more interesting down the stretch

Updated: September 1, 2008, 1:55 PM ET

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Watching the 99 and the 18 run near each other could be a lot of fun in the final 12 races this season.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- There are warning signs that a Category 5 NASCAR feud is brewing for the first time in a long time.

The matter of Carl Edwards versus Kyle Busch is a powder keg after Saturday night. One more little spark …

This is how you know to look out: One guy thinks he has settled up with the other, that they're even. The other speaks softly, coldly, calmly, but with the steam of payback -- almost invisible because it's so hot -- spewing out his ears.

"I feel like we're pretty even," Edwards said with a chipper sigh of contentment after knocking Busch up the racetrack to win the Sharpie 500. He cited a similar Busch transgression against him, in a Nationwide race, at Richmond back in May.

"We'll take it, we'll go on," Busch started off, but then -- "and we'll race that way in the Chase if that's the way he wants to race."

The issue will be a lot more visible than most, as Busch and Edwards are 1-2 in the Sprint Cup standings, and Edwards has been slashing away at Busch's season dominance in recent weeks. Busch has eight Cup wins and Edwards has six. Edwards has won both of the past two races, while Busch has finished second.

Even Busch's car owner, the born-again Joe Gibbs, got biblical with Edwards in the eye-for-an-eye sense when he grabbed Edwards by the arm afterward.

"He just explained to me, 'You reap what you sow,'" Edwards said. "Which I believe. And I explained to him that that's why it happened that way."

See? Edwards is trying to tell Gibbs they're even, and even Gibbs is prophesying that the reckoning is yet to come.

Busch, asked whether a new rivalry is in the making, spoke like dry ice -- with words so cool, they burned: "How many do I need?"

That means it's Busch against the world, that he feels this situation is more serious business than a semi-friendly rivalry.

The last real feud in NASCAR was Jimmy Spencer versus Kurt Busch, Kyle's older brother, in 2003. It culminated with Spencer's bloodying Kurt's nose with a straight jab through the car window at Michigan, then Spencer's suspension from the Sharpie 500 here that August while the usual crowd of more than 160,000 held placards reading, "Free Jimmy."

If this blows into a feud in the two regular-season races left and then the 10-race Chase, it could explode into mainstream American awareness for the first time since the hostility between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison in the winter and spring of 1979.

And here were Kyle Busch's eeriest words of all Saturday night: "I don't know, maybe I overbraked and drove myself back into his nose."

The "I-backed-into-him" sarcasm was a resounding echo from NASCAR's past, a trademark of Bobby Allison, who carried on NASCAR's longest, bitterest feud with Richard Petty from 1967 to 1971.

Don't be lulled if all seems cool Sunday at Fontana, Calif. Auto Club Speedway is so big and wide that Edwards and Busch may not even drive near each other very often.

The next flash point is Sept. 6, the jump-off point to the Chase. The race will be at Richmond, another short track where the racing is crowded.

After his win at Michigan last week, Edwards had set as his goal winning out in the regular season, all the way to the Chase. Can he win the next two?

"If Kyle is not behind me, probably," he said. "We might end up with some wadded-up race cars."

-- Ed Hinton

Nationwide Series: Keselowski keeps the pressure on points leader Bowyer

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Clint Bowyer may feel as if he gave away a race Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he still took another big step toward the Nationwide Series championship.

Sure Bowyer's momentary bobble helped pave Brad Keselowski's way to Victory Lane, but the runner-up finish cost him just 10 points to Keselowski, who moved into second place in the standings. Bowyer's lead is now 122 points, but only nine races remain.

Keselowski has plenty of time to make up the deficit, but every race checked off the schedule lessens his margin for error.

And Carl Edwards' margin for error is gone after a tough night in the Food City 250. Too much brake heat built up on the right front tire, melting the bead, and the blown tire put him into the wall.

Edwards returned to action after lengthy repairs, but the 37th-place finish left him 241 points out of the lead. At this point, if Edwards is to defend his series crown, he'll need a huge surge and some tough luck for both Bowyer and Keselowski.

"Congratulations to Brad. He did a great job, and Clint did a great job, too, but that's as bad of a points night as we could have," Edwards said. "We just have to keep our heads up. We don't ever give up. We know we're good enough to go win this championship still. We just have to dig hard."

The hardest digging, though, will have to come from Keselowski if the driver in his first full-time Nationwide Series season is to overtake Bowyer, a five-year series veteran. Keselowski proved at Bristol that he can overcome long odds, as his win was the first by a Nationwide Series-only driver in a companion Cup event since Martin Truex Jr. won at Loudon in 2005.

Since then, the only times a Nationwide-only driver had won were when the Nationwide race was a stand-alone event for the series and a limited number of Cup drivers were in the field. Not only that, Keselowski won after starting 37th in a 43-car field. Only Kevin Harvick, who started 38th after rain canceled qualifying here in the spring of 2005, had won from deeper in the field.

Granted, Bowyer's bobble made the win possible, but even if Keselowski had finished second, he'd have had an impressive performance. And for a split second, Keselowski had feared he'd end his night in a crumpled mess if Bowyer hadn't been able to save his car.

"If he'd have hit me, he would have wrecked me for sure. This track is very, very challenging, and I think we saw that in qualifying for the Nationwide cars," Keselowski said of a session marred by several wrecks. "The Nationwide cars are a handful. I've got blisters on my hands from driving tonight. That's how hard these cars drive. They're tough.

"I think they might even be tougher than the [Cup] cars. You go through the corner so fast it's hard to really explain it to you. They're out of control. They've got a short wheel base, nice front ends and a lot of downforce. The way they go through those patches, they're very unpredictable. I also feel like the tire we run is made more for a [Cup car] than ours, so it's a little less forgiving than what we need. All those things add up and make these things a challenge to drive."

Keselowski has conquered that challenge. His next challenge is finding a way to the top of the standings.

"I think we've been equal to, if not just a little better than Clint across the board," Keselowski said. "Everything that goes on with that Chase [for the Sprint Cup] and over there on the Cup side might get to him a little bit over the next nine races left, so 122 points is certainly something I think we can overcome.

"I said before today that we had to win races to have a shot at that, and we did exactly what we needed to do. It's kind of unfortunate that he finished second right behind us, so we didn't gain much on him. Still, this is what we need to do. We need to keep plugging away. I'm really excited about it. This is going to be a nail-biter. I really feel like all three of us are going to come down to Homestead, really close. It's going to be a battle."

-- Mark Ashenfelter

Craftsman Truck Series: Busch back on top; Benson extends points lead

Before this week, Kyle Busch was washed up in the Craftsman Truck Series. OK, that's a little harsh, but the numbers showed that the Truck series had not been his most fertile ground in a smashing 2008 season.

The 23-year-old Sprint Cup points leader has won a third of his starts (eight of 24) in that series for Joe Gibbs Racing and 27 percent of his Nationwide races (six of 22) for a variety of owners. Yet in the Trucks, coming into Bristol, he had won just 20 percent of the time (two of 10 races) and was on a seven-race winless streak, his longest in any of the three series this year.

Only once in that span had Busch finished in the top five. But just when you think he has come back to Earth, he races like he did Wednesday night, when the Billy Ballew Motorsports part-time driver led 145 of 203 laps, including the final 133, to dominate the O'Reilly 200.

It wasn't a night without intrigue, however, as Busch was very racy early with points leader Johnny Benson (drawing a rebuke from the usually unflappable J.B.), and for a brief period had to chase Trucks newcomer Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson, driving for Randy Moss Motorsports, led 29 laps on the half-mile bullring after Busch made his one pit stop on Lap 42. Busch eventually earned back his lead, and Johnson landed on the hauler early, failing to save his Chevy from a frontstretch spin on Lap 102 that ended in a crash.

"I fought it, fought it, fought it and ran out of talent, I guess," the two-time defending Cup champ said.

Johnson's crash was one of many on a night that fans of the "old" Bristol would have loved, with a Trucks track record for total cautions (12) and caution laps (69, tying the old mark).

The most notable caution was a red flag on Lap 177 when Shelby Howard and Bryan Silas tangled in Turn 1. Kevin Harvick Inc. teammates Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr. were close behind but couldn't stop in time. Sprague got into the rear of Hornaday, and both ended up in the wreck.

Hornaday's heavily damaged Chevy limped back on track at the end, but the points damage was complete in a 24th-place night that dropped the defending champion from 45 points to 119 points back of the fourth-finishing Benson. It was his worst finish since a 35th in May at Mansfield, Ohio.

Matt Crafton, third in points, also dropped ground to Benson after an early crash left him five laps down in 21st, his worst finish since April at Kansas.

So it wasn't a bad big-picture night for the Bill Davis Racing No. 23 Toyota, which came up short trying for a series-record fourth consecutive win but left town in better standing for a title with nine races remaining.

-- John Schwarb

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Mark Garrow has the latest as Carl Edwards wins for the second straight week and Edwards and Kyle Busch get physical in the Sprint Cup race at Bristol.
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Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup

Carl Edwards

Edwards

  • Carl Edwards won the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway from the first-place starting position, the only series race he has won from the pole. Edwards scored his 13th career series victory in 145 career races. He has scored six victories in 2008, winning at California, Las Vegas, Texas, the second Pocono race, the second Michigan race and the second Bristol race. He scored his second victory in nine races at Bristol. Edwards led 84 of the 500 laps, including the final 31 laps.
  • Edwards remains second in the points standings and trails leader Kyle Busch by 212 points.
  • Roush Fenway Racing has scored 10 wins at Bristol, ranking second all time.
  • Ford scored its sixth victory in 2008. Toyota has nine wins, Chevrolet has five while Dodge has four in 2008.
  • Busch (who finished second) scored his 15th top-5 finish in 24 races this season, the most among all drivers. Busch has competed in 57 NASCAR races this season (Cup, Truck and Nationwide) and has led 3,321 laps. Busch is racking up a career's worth of points in a single season, winning 17 races so far (eight Cup, six Nationwide and three Truck). Busch led 415 consecutive laps during the Cup race, the most consecutive laps a driver has led during a race this season. Denny Hamlin led the first 206 laps at the first Richmond race earlier this season.
  • Busch's 415 laps were the most consecutive laps led in a race since Richard Petty led 461 in a row at Dover in September 1974. The 415 laps led by Busch are the most laps that Busch has led in a single series race during his career. He led 248 laps at Richmond in September 2006.
  • Hamlin finished third and posted his fifth third-place finish in 2008.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to pit on Lap 6 for passing at the start of the race before he reached the start/finish line. He lost a lap under the green-flag pass-through penalty. He finished 18th.
  • Jimmie Johnson had a flat right rear tire and struggled to get off the track after making contact with Sterling Marlin. Johnson lost 13 laps on pit road for repairs before rejoining the field. Johnson finished 33rd and dropped from third to fourth in the points standings.
  • The first 97 laps ran caution-free before 15th-place Martin Truex Jr. cut a right front tire, collecting A.J. Allmendinger on the track for the first caution of the night. Allmendinger was forced behind the wall, and lost 98 laps before returning to the race. Truex returned 100 laps down.
  • Elliott Sadler had a "bad seat belt" that came loose on Lap 113 while under green-flag conditions. Sadler lost eight laps for the repair and finished 32nd.
  • The second caution of the night involved Chase contender Jeff Burton, Marlin, Joe Nemechek and Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 195. Burton was slowing for the spinning Marlin when Nemechek hit him from behind. Burton's car suffered severe damage. He posted his second DNF of the season in finishing 42nd, but remained fifth in the standings.
  • The Turn 1 accident on Lap 215 involving Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Robby Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Reed Sorenson, Michael Waltrip and Hornish resulted in a red flag on Lap 216. Kahne dropped from 11th to 14th in the points, finishing 40th. He is 56 points behind 12th-place Bowyer.
  • The race featured four lead changes from three drivers.
  • The race had eight cautions for 56 laps.
  • Busch and Edwards are 391 or more points ahead of 13th-place David Ragan and are mathematically locked in for the 2008 Chase.
  • Any driver with a 323-point lead over 13th-place Ragan is locked into the Chase if he starts the remaining two races. Based on the above, Earnhardt (third) and Johnson (fourth) are locked in the 2008 Chase if they start the final two races.

Nationwide

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski

  • Brad Keselowski won the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway. He scored his second series victory in his 60th career start. Keselowski won from the 37th-place starting position, only the third driver to win a series race at Bristol from a starting position below 25th. He led one time for the final 24 laps in the 250-lap race.
  • Keselowski became the 38th different winner in the 53 series races at Bristol. He gave JR Motorsports its fourth series victory, and all four have come in 2008.
  • Chevrolet posted its sixth win of the 2008 season. Toyota has 15 wins and Ford has five, but Dodge has yet to win in 2008.
  • Keselowski is the fifth Nationwide "regular" to score a victory in 2008. Keselowski finished fourth at Bristol in the spring.
  • Points leader Clint Bowyer led the most laps, leading one time for 121 before finishing second. He has scored 21 top-10 finishes in 26 series races this season.
  • Bowyer and Keselowski have each scored 21 top-15 finishes in the 26 races.
  • Keselowski climbed from third to second in the points, trailing Bowyer by 122.
  • Steven Wallace started the race from the rear of the field and recovered to finish 10th, his sixth top-10 in 2008.
  • Jason Leffler (15th) has scored top-15 finishes in his past four races to extend a streak that began at Montreal.
  • Marcos Ambrose (34th) ended a six-race streak of top-15 finishes.
  • Rookie pole winner Cale Gale led the first 17 laps, a career high. He went on to finish fourth and score his career-best finish.
  • The race featured five cautions for 26 laps. There were five lead changes among four drivers.
  • The top 10 consisted of three Toyotas, one Ford and six Chevrolets. The highest-placing Dodge, that of Dario Franchitti, finished 11th.
  • The race ran at record pace with an average speed of 93.512 miles per hour.
  • Elliott Sadler and Carl Edwards got together on the backstretch on Lap 87, bringing out the second caution of the night. Edwards, who was second in points, dropped to third in the points standings after spending 85 laps behind the wall. He finished 90 laps down, lost 128 points and left the race 241 points behind Bowyer.

Craftsman Truck

Kyle Busch

Busch

  • Kyle Busch won the O'Reilly 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch scored his ninth series victory in his 47th race. It was Busch's 17th NASCAR win of 2008. (He has eight Cup, six Nationwide and three Truck wins.)
  • Busch won from the third starting position, the eighth race won from the top 10 in 11 Bristol races.
  • Busch became the 10th different winner in the 11 races at Bristol. Ron Hornaday Jr. is the only two-time winner.
  • Busch became the third driver to win in all three national touring series at Bristol, joining Carl Edwards and Mark Martin.
  • Toyota posted its ninth win of the 2008 season. Chevrolet has five, and Ford and Dodge have one apiece.
  • Busch led twice for 145 laps, including the final 133.
  • The race was slowed a record 12 times for 69 laps.
  • The race featured four lead changes among three drivers.
  • The top 10 consisted of seven Toyotas, one Ford, one Chevrolet and one Dodge.
  • Jimmie Johnson was involved in an accident on Lap 101 and finished 34th in his series debut.
  • Hornaday finished 24th and remains second in points after being involved in an accident on Lap 177.
  • Points leader Johnny Benson finished fourth. His 119-point lead over second-place Hornaday is the largest of the season.

-- Racing Resources