By admin | March 11, 2012
By Richard Allen
Two separate incidents during the Kobalt Tools 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway definitely stirred some interest among fans and competitors and also caused some to believe apologies were owed. But in neither case was any apology owed to anyone. Both instances were simply cases of drivers doing what they ought to do and thatâ€™s to race hard.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. got off to a great start in the race after beginning the day from the front row when 2nd place qualifier Kyle Busch was sent to the rear for having to pull out a backup car due to a practice crash. Junior took the lead immediately and led for a number of laps.
However, after a pit stop placed him back in the pack, the driver of Hendrick Motorsports car #88 was never able to get back to the front. As the race drew toward its conclusion, Earnhardt found himself embroiled in a hotly contested battle with Mark Martin for a position within the top-10.
Martin had been employing a low line through turns one and two while Junior ran high in that set of turns. As the two cars drove onto the backstretch, Martin had a clear path to the outside wall and moved up the track. Junior, who had momentum coming off the high groove, ran up to the back of Martinâ€™s Michael Waltrip Racing car and tagged its rear bumper. That contact resulted in Martinâ€™s car swerving into the outside wall and losing momentum, and positions.
On his in-car radio, Junior was very upset. Apparently his view was that Martin should not have moved up, but instead, should have stayed low and left the outside lane clear.
Martin and his spotter saw things differently. “I was clear of the 88 and he just hit us in the back and knocked us sideways,” the veteran driver said over his radio. “I did nothing wrong.”
The 55 carâ€™s spotter added, “He didn’t use his momentum to go under us. He just drove into us.”
It looked as if Martinâ€™s view of the incident was correct. He was clear to his outside. Itâ€™s not like he squeezed Junior into the wall. Junior hit him squarely in the back quite a way down the backstretch.
If post-race reports are correct, Junior sought Martin after the race. Either he hoped to receive an admission of guilt from Martin or at least an explanation. But the truth of the matter is, this was just hard racing. No one should ever apologize for that, but especially the guy who got hit in the back.
The raceâ€™s other controversial incident involved essentially the entire Roush Fenway Racing organization.
On the raceâ€™s final restart, Carl Edwards went low in an attempt to gain positions by going three-wide around teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle. The #99 car did get around the other two Fords but Edwards had trouble getting his car to stick when the cars made it to turns one and two. Kenseth got into the back of Edwards then had his car â€˜suckedâ€™ around and pulled into the outside wall.
After the race, Edwards reportedly went to the garage to apologize to Kenseth. While this may have been a nice gesture among teammates, it was not really necessary. This was not a restrictor plate race and there should have been no agreement for the cars stay lined up nose to tail.
Edwards was just trying to gain positions late in the race and he did nothing that could be considered dirty. It was just hard racing.
The Kobalt Tools 400 was lacking in noteworthy action throughout most of the event. Finally, at the end of the race there were drivers who were fighting for positions. Thatâ€™s whatâ€™s supposed to happen.
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