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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A little bit of street fighting won't hurt NASCAR

Call me uncivilized if you wish, but I have to say that I loved seeing Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon, two guys who normally hold their cool pretty well, throw down and fight Sunday during the Cup race at Texas.

If you had asked me before the race for the two guys least likely to fight, this would’ve been the matchup. The Mayor did not use diplomacy when he bashed Gordon’s car hard into the wall, ruining his own car in the process … all under caution!

We all saw the outcome, with an unpleased Gordon getting out of the car to address Mr. Burton with a push, which led to a little tussle that was unfortunately broken up by the officials. (Unless they’re getting out of control, let them settle it like the Cale vs. the Allisons days.)

That was not the nice Jeff Gordon of he 1990s, crying like a baby in Victory Lane. He’s grown up, he’s pissed off and he is tired of being pushed around. Sure, his push was pretty weak, but this isn’t about his form. It’s about standing up for yourself, and he definitely did that.

"Of all the people out there, I never thought that would happen to Jeff Burton and me. I've always has a tremendous amount of respect for him. But I certainly lost a lot of respect today,” Gordon said after the fight.

This is a sport that is fueled by passion and hard work, and when cars get torn up, you’re gonna be mad. There are exceptions of course (I don’t want anyone to punch out Danica, for example, unless it’s Jennifer Jo Cobb or one of the Cope girls). But I do not see a problem with guys settling their difference outside of the racecar, and in a day full of highlights this fight might be on top of the list.

To the purists who say such activity hurts the sport, I say go watch a polo match. NASCAR’s roots aren’t “Masterpiece Theater,” and the drivers showing emotions will only increase its fan following. I say that was some great TV, watching Gordon walk down the track and wondering what was going to happen, and I think most fans would agree with that. NASCAR probably won’t penalize either driver, and that’s good … you can’t say “Have at it, boys” and then penalize them for having at it.

I just wonder who would have won the fight if they had let it go on. Maybe we’ll find out this week at Phoenix.

My favorite line in the whole thing came from Burton, who in his usual matter-of-fact way, said: “I don't blame him for being for mad. I'd have been mad too."

Surprise guest up front
So that exciting battle up front at the end involved ... Matt Kenseth?

After a season where he barely made the Chase and hasn't done much since it started, Kenseth was on the way to a win until Denny made a great crossover move in the final couple laps. Amazingly, Kenseth is now 5th in points, which was pretty unimaginable for most of this disappointing season.

After the race, he said he was disappointed that he couldn't get back to Victory Lane at Texas, but glad that the potential for victory was finally there.

“That was disappointing that I didn’t finish it off there. We have lost a lot of close one’s here at Texas. I got on the gas and cleared him down there and I thought everything was good and as soon as I got in front of him my car just took off. I had to get back out of the gas. I am disappointed we finished second but happy we performed that well."

Also doing surprisingly well was Kenseth's teammate David Ragan, who came home with his third top-10 of the year.

Great debut for Bayne
Amid all the other excitement, Trevor Bayne made his debut in a Cup race, driving in the legendary No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers, and ran well all day. He ended up 17th, not too shabby for his first go-around.

After the race, Bayne was excited about his debut in the big leagues.
“That was awesome man. These things are so much fun. I wish I could do it every weekend. It was a blast to drive and to be that fast for a first run is incredible," Bayne said. "Donnie Wingo, everybody at Wood Brothers Racing and Roush Fenway and Ford I want to thank for giving me this opportunity. I don’t really know what to say. That was as good or better than we expected so I am really pumped about it.”

If he keeps racing like this, he'll probably be able to drive these things every week real soon, either for the Woods or for Roush (David Ragan better step it up, he's got competition for that fourth Roush seat.)

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