The gladiators went out to battle and took no prisoners.Ã‚Â The carnage on the field was devastating and warriors were left hanging from the walls, literally.Ã‚Â While it may sound over dramatic, it was how the race played out yesterday with Kurt Busch staying ahead of the fray behind him, leading for 76 laps and taking the checkered flag with barely a scratch on his fenders.Ã‚Â In his first victory in 21 road course starts, Busch showed that the poles he has taken in the past few weeks were not just accidental, and that his team is making the changes he needed to get him to victory lane.
“It’s a great sense of satisfaction,” Busch said. “All the hard work from the guys back at the race shop where it starts. The times that we’ve tested. The execution here at the racetrack this weekend. You see it all come together. You know when you have a shot at victory you have to block those moments out and get that car to the victory line. To get the checkered flag, do some doughnuts, to drive in reverse around this road course, I got choked up.
“It was a great feeling to know that I’ve won on a road course.”
The win moves Kurt Busch into 4th place, up 3 from last week.
Jeff Gordon, who was one of the favourites entering the race, made some great moves toward the end of the race which landed him squarely in 2nd place.Ã‚Â Passing points leader Carl Edwards with only a handful of laps remaining, Gordon managed to stay out of the battles and was in a much better frame of mind after this race than he was last year.Ã‚Â By staying out of the trouble behind the leaders Gordon managed to move up from 12th to 9th in points and move himself inside the coveted top 10 positions for the chase, and putting him in a position to remain there and not having to contend with the wild card placement.
“There were times today where we didn’t have the car and I gave up the spots,” Gordon said. “I wasn’t going to try to push the issue. I guess that’s good and bad. I didn’t have a car that could even try to pass anybody or block anybody down in Turn 11 for most of the race. So I had to give up a lot of those spots and bite my tongue and hope that we could get it fixed or get track position, which it worked out.
“I certainly didn’t want to make as many enemies as I did last year, because I made a lot of ’em coming out of here. So it’s nice to come out of here and that not happen. I don’t think I really touched anybody today. So that feels good.”
Carl Edwards remains the points leader and extended his points lead over Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson (2nd and 3rd inpoints respectively) and also made some excellent moves on the track in the dwindling laps of the race.Ã‚Â Having run outside of the top 10 in the earlier part of the race, Edwards managed to make up ground and earn a 3rd place finish on the track when the checkered flag flew.
“I think this is a huge weekend for us,” Edwards said. “We started out terrible. We changed plans right at the end of practice on Friday. We all got together and talked about it. . . . That was the call of the weekend. Ended up giving us two hours of practice. We got to really work on the car, and that’s what made this a good day for us.”
But the talk of the race will still be Tony Stewart finding himself hung up on the tire wall after Brian Vickers retaliated for an earlier incident between himself and Stewart, which also resulted in the ending of Dale Earnhardt Jr’s day when his Radiator was punctured leading to engine failure a few laps later.Ã‚Â Earnhardt finished 41st with a blown engine.Ã‚Â Stewart had spun Vickers early in the race for what he perceived as blocking being thrown by Vickers in tight racing conditions heading into turn 11.Ã‚Â Vickers howeve maintains that it was too early in the race to be throwing a block, and that he was simply dealing with the other drivers around him at the time.
“You know, he wrecked me — and I wrecked him back.”
“I wasn’t blocking him. That may have been his perception from where he was sitting, but the 18Ã‚Â went off the race track in front of me,” Vickers said. “He was going off in the dirt and then coming back in front of me on the race track, and I was trying to avoid him. The cars in front of me were slow. I was inside of the guy in front of me.
“It’s pretty early in the race to worry about blocking someone, or wrecking someone. I think when he sees the replay and he realizes why I went low — if he looks at it out of my front windshield — he’ll realize it had nothing to do with him. It had to do with the 18 almost wrecking me, and a couple of other guys running slow up top.”
“It’s unfortunate.Ã‚Â He made his bed at that moment, and he had to sleep in it.Ã‚Â He wrecked me, and I dealt with it,” Vickers said.
Stewart was just as open about his on track actions once he was back in the infield after safety crews had to extricate his car from atop the tire barriers on the outside wall of turn 11.
I’ve been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year,” Stewart said. “I like Brian. I’m not holding it against him at all. I don’t care if it was Ryan Newman, I would have dumped him, too. If they want to block, that’s what is going to happen to them every time for the rest of my career.”
“I dumped him earlier for blocking and he got me back later on,” Stewart said. “If they block, they are going to get dumped. It is real simple. I mean, I don’t blame him. I don’t blame him for dumping us back.
“But I don’t race guys that way. I never have. If guys want to block. then they are going to wrecked every time. Until NASCAR makes a rule against it, I am going to dump them every time for it. He did what he had to do and I don’t blame him. There is nothing wrong with it.”
“I don’t know if it’s lack of respect or guys just pushing the envelope and not working with each other,” said Stewart. “There wasn’t any reason at the point of the race where he started blocking in the first place. It didn’t make sense to do it and I’m not going to tolerate it. I don’t race guys that way and I’m not going to let anybody race me that way. So if they block, they get dumped. Plain and simple.”
Vickers seemed seemed to be on the same page and acknoledged that although he and Stewart have tangled in the past that this will not affect their relationship with each other on or off the track.
We were joking and laughing last week and had a great race,” Vickers said. “We haven’t had any problems in a long time. Actually, I think the last problem we had was in Turn 11 here in 2004. That was the last time we got together.”
“I’m not angry. I’d rather have been racing for the win and worrying about something like that. … Granted, I wish it hadn’t happened. I hate it for the Red Bull guys. Those guys worked really hard on the car,” Vickers said.
“We were trying some new stuff. We made some changes at the beginning of the race with the air pressure. We were horrible at the start of the race … absolutely horrible. Once we fixed that, we were pretty quick.”
“It’s just racing. It’s just human nature. It’s how people do things, how they address things,” he said. “If they don’t, they just keep happening. He made his move and I addressed it. That’s the end of the discussion.
“It’s a competitive environment and we all want to win. I don’t know why he wrecked me. That was his decision to make. But I’m good. … The way I see it, we’re all good. We’re all square.”
Stewart drops from 9th to 12th int the points standings and Vickers dropped 2 spots to 26th.Ã‚Â Dale Jr who was caught up in the original incident between Stewart and Vickers, dropped 4 spots from 2rd to 7th in the standings after his early exit and resulting DNF.