DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND KYLE BUSCH RENEW THEIR RIVALRY AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY Past Two Races at Richmond Have Resulted in Fireworks Richmond, VA (April 24, 2009)--Could this be Round Three of the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Kyle Busch...
DALE EARNHARDT JR. AND KYLE BUSCH RENEW THEIR RIVALRY AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
Past Two Races at Richmond Have Resulted in Fireworks
Richmond, VA (April 24, 2009)--Could this be Round Three of the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Kyle Busch on-track battle at Richmond International Raceway? Rewind to a year ago for one of the most unforgettable incidents of the season. On Lap 398 of 400 in the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on May 4, 2008, as the drivers were coming out of Turn 3, the two superstar drivers made contact, ruining Earnhardt Jr.'s shot at breaking a winning drought and costing Busch a victory.
The incident would prove to leave a lasting impression. In a post-season article on NASCAR.com, the "Most Memorable Moment" of 2008 was "Kyle Busch spins Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Richmond International Raceway."
Both drivers maintain it was the fault of neither, and just a product of good, old-fashioned, hard racing on the ¾-mile D-shaped oval known as America's Premier Short Track.
"I wouldn't say that was intentional going into (Turn 3), because if he wanted to, he could have just thrown me into the fence off of (Turn 2)," Earnhardt said. "We had been racing each other earlier and had no problems. I have done that before. That is what happens if he got loose underneath me."
"To say that I took a win away from him, you know, it's hard to say," Busch said. "If I wanted to do it deliberately, I would have waited for the last lap where I probably could have still won the race. We just didn't give each other enough room getting into Turn 3 and, you know, I didn't feel like I slipped, but I mean, we just kind of banged simultaneously, and then that's when I got loose and got corrected and he was gone."
Although both drivers maintain innocence, the capacity crowd didn't see it that way. A large contingent of Earnhardt Jr. fans in the grandstands made their feelings known through a chorus of boos and other noises and gestures of displeasure. Busch lamented the situation because it would end up being an incident that would stay with him throughout the season, as evidenced by the following quote, which was named "Best Line of the Year" in the same NASCAR.com article referenced earlier:
"Well, for some reason, [the fans] are awfully confused, because they were giving me the number one sign the last 10 laps of the race, and I was in second place still," said Busch. "So I don't know whether that's too many Dale Junior Budweisers or they are Amped up or what. It's just unfortunate circumstances for him because he didn't get a win, and for me because now I've got to put up with it."
Now on to Round 2. In the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the drivers took the track for "One Last Race to Make The Chase"--the final event before the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
With the May incident still fresh on the minds of the Busch and Earnhardt Jr. faithful, the crowd looked on with anticipation to see if there would be an Earnhardt Jr. retaliation to exact revenge on the driver who may have cost NASCAR's most popular driver a victory.
While it may not have been revenge, it certainly was very coincidental to see many of the fans in the crowd rise to their feet with a thunderous roar on Lap 211 when Earnhardt Jr. tapped Busch into a spin entering Turn 1. Only this time, the roar of the fans was that of delight. Earnhardt Jr. got into Busch's rear, spinning Busch into the SAFER Barrier. The incident was almost a mirror image of the incident that cost Earnhardt Jr. the win in the Crown Royal Presents The Dan Lowry 400.
"From all I know is I got hit in the left rear quarter-panel and I spun out trying to keep it off the wall as best I could but wasn't able to achieve that," said Busch. "Just hard racing there, leading the race, and unfortunate things happen that way."
"It certainly is ironic," Earnhardt admitted. "He's racing hard. He was up front leading and I felt like I was a little quicker and was gaining on him a little bit on each corner and I was on the bottom real tight and that I wasn't going to get by him. So I moved up to get next to him and race him hard and got into the quarter panel and spun him out. It was an accident -- that's it."
In case Kyle Busch fans aren't satisfied with that answer...
"If I wreck somebody, I ain't gonna leave him in good enough shape to come back and get me in the same race," said Earnhardt Jr. "So that wasn't really my intention. If I wanted to do it, I would do it really, really good."
So that leaves us with the possibility of a Round Three. Intentional or not, don't be surprised if some sparks are flying between Busch's #18 and Earnhardt Jr.'s #88, because that's the kind of temper-flaring, emotion-driving, beating and banging that happens at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway. Don't miss the latest installment of the trilogy this Saturday, May 2, for the Crown Royal Presents The Russ Friedman 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Tickets are on sale now for the Crown Royal Presents The Russ Friedman 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and the Lipton Tea 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Tickets for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race start at $40. Tickets for Friday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race, which includes practice and Wawa Pole Qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series, are $45 (reserved) and $35 (general admission) in advance. Children 12 and under are admitted free with a ticketed adult in general admission sections on Friday only. Tickets for both races can be purchased by logging on to www.rir.com or calling 866-455-RACE (7223).