BUSCH: IRL: RaceBeat Column 2002-03-25

NASCAR Winston Cup: Kurt Busch won't apologize for hitting Jimmy Spencer. Busch survived the usual bumping and banging at Bristol Motor Speedway and bumped Spencer out of his way to win the Food City 500, his first career victory. Spencer,...

NASCAR Winston Cup:

Kurt Busch won't apologize for hitting Jimmy Spencer.

Busch survived the usual bumping and banging at Bristol Motor Speedway and bumped Spencer out of his way to win the Food City 500, his first career victory. Spencer, who finished second, tucked this incident away in the back of his mind. Their confrontation was just one of the many that Bristol usually produces. With its high banks, the .533-mile bullring is known for the bumping and banging that starts as soon as the race begins. It led to 14 cautions and the usual postrace confrontations, including a pit road collision between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Robby Gordon. The two banged each other several times on the track, and it boiled over after the race.

Earnhardt made contact with Gordon after the cars came off the track, and Gordon responded by spinning him out. Gordon said the bad feelings started early in the race when Earnhardt bumped him, costing him 20 positions, and continued the rest of the way. The postrace banging was similar to this race a year ago, when Tony Stewart put Jeff Gordon into a retaliatory spin on pit road following the event. Stewart drew a $10,000 fine and a long stint on probation for the act. Both Earnhardt and Robby Gordon, as well as their car owners, were called to the NASCAR hauler to talk it over. Busch took over the lead when he opted not to follow Earnhardt Jr. into the pits following the 13th caution, inheriting the lead with 85 laps to go.

He briefly gave it up to Spencer, who moved in on Busch's bumper and muscled his way into the lead coming off Turn 4 on lap 444. But in Turn 2 of the next lap, Busch bumped his way back into the lead. Spencer nearly lost control of his car on the contact, but saved it, although he lost a lot of ground in his bid to challenge for the lead. But Busch, who gave Roush Racing its second win of the year, claimed he was just getting back at Spencer for a similar incident last year. Spencer finished second, Ricky Rudd was third and was followed by Earnhardt Jr. and Bobby Labonte.

NASCAR Busch Grand National Series:

Jeff Green outlasted a battered field at Bristol Motor Speedway to win the Channellock 250, a race that ended with Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle at odds once again. Green survived a record-tying 14 cautions and a final shootout after a red-flag to win his 15th career Busch series event. Mike McLaughlin was second and was followed by Scott Wimmer, Jimmy Spencer and Biffle.

The race was stopped with nine laps to go after Biffle and Harvick got into each other in Turn 4, contact that wrecked Harvick's car. The two were racing for fifth place and fighting for track position when Biffle bumped the back of Harvick's left rear, sending his Chevrolet hard into the outside wall, then back across traffic before he came to rest on the frontstretch. As he headed to the care center for a checkup, Harvick let it known he wasn't happy. Harvick, racing in his first Busch event of the season, kept his word.

After being released from the care center, he climbed on top of his pit box and watched the rest of the race with his arms folded squarely across his chest. He watched as Biffle pulled his car onto pit road following the race and waited to see him get out. That's when Harvick jumped off his pit box and sprinted down the alley, leaping over both the white barrier that was cordoning off the car and the rear of Biffle's Ford. He grabbed Biffle's firesuit and was screaming in his face as crew members tried to pull them apart, finally succeeding when Harvick was dragged away and summoned to the NASCAR hauler. But Biffle claimed he wasn't at fault for the accident. Harvick, in a Richard Childress-owned Chevrolet, was less than satisfied with Biffle's explanation.

It's not the first time the two have had a confrontation and some of their run-ins were highlights of the Busch series last season. They weren't the only two to exchange words Saturday. Jack Sprague and Spencer also had an angry confrontation following the race with Sprague taking exception to Spencer's late race driving. Spencer, on the lead lap, went down on the apron exiting Turn 4 to try to catch Green. He hit Sprague, who was a lapped car, in the process. Spencer put little blame on himself. Mark Green, meanwhile, was transported to a nearby hospital following his wreck on the final lap of the race. Mark Green, older brother of the race winner, was being looked at for a possible broken left foot. There was a 10-minute delay following Harvick's wreck and Jeff Green went virtually unchallenged over the final few laps. He led a single-file line to the checkered flag and was the leader for 188 of the 250 laps.

Indy Racing League:

Racing wheel-to-wheel at close to 220 mph, drivers need to trust each other. Sam Hornish Jr. and Jaques Lazier put considerable trust in each other's ability for the last 20 laps of the inaugural Yamaha 400 on Sunday, with Hornish eventually winning the duel - barely. The cars bumped wheels less than 100 yards from the finish line, but managed to get to the checkered flag less than a car-length apart and with no further trouble. Even before the tense finish, it wasn't an easy day for Hornish, the defending IRL champion and winner of two of three races this season. His radio communications were mostly a loud buzz, the device that keeps him from speeding on pit lane was broken and there were at least two other drivers who looked as if they had faster cars.

The 200-lap event on the wide, 2-mile oval was competitive throughout, with a series record 39 lead changes among eight drivers. The end belonged to Hornish and Lazier, though, as they raced within inches of each other at dizzying speed lap after lap. Hornish took the lead from pole-winner Eddie Cheever Jr. on lap 180, with Lazier coming up fast behind those two. The 31-year-old Lazier, a two-time winner last year, had problems with his fuel system and had to make up ground after each of his pit stops. With a 26-lap green-flag run at the end, though, he was able to make a strong run, passing Cheever for second and then going around Hornish for the lead on lap 183. Cheever moved past Hornish for second and challenged Lazier for several laps before his car suddenly began spewing white smoke, veered to the bottom of the track and slowed on lap 191, leaving the race to the other two drivers. With Cheever out of the picture, Lazier appeared to have enough to hold off Hornish, who was able to pull alongside several times, but couldn't get past. Finally, though, on lap 199, Hornish barely slipped by on the outside lane to take the lead right at the finish line. Lazier wouldn't give up, though, pulling alongside and even moving back ahead in Turn 2 before Hornish drove to the outside and pulled even on the backstretch.

In the end, it was Hornish by 0.028-seconds. When Lazier passed Hornish at the start of the last lap, Hornish said he thought he was in trouble. The winner's average speed of 179.345 mph broke the IRL record of 175.276 by Scott Goodyear in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway. Hornish led a race-high 73 laps, followed by Lazier's 45 and Cheever's 33. There were only four caution flags in the race, and only one crash, but it was a scary one. Cheever's rookie teammate, Tomas Scheckter, led 28 laps and was a threat to win the race until he began to experience engine problems and slowed on lap 164. Hideki Noda slammed hard into the rear of Scheckter's car, sending both crashing into the concrete wall. Noda was checked at a nearby hospital after complaining of back pain, but was later released. Rookie Laurent Redon, a Frenchman making only his third IRL start, wound up a career-best third, beating Penske Racing drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, as well as last year's top rookie, Felipe Giaffone.

Hornish now leads Castroneves, the winner two weeks before in Phoenix, by 21 points, and de Ferran, who finished second in the first two races of the season, by 29.

Grand American Road Racing Association:

Belgium's Didier Theys and Switzerland's Fredy Lienhard Jr. drove the Doran Lista Team to its third straight victory in the Grand American 400 at California Speedway. Theys has piloted the Judd-powered Dallara to victories in all three Rolex Sports Car Series races this season, while Lienhard was at the wheel for his first series victory. England's James Weaver and Chris Dyson finished second in the 142-lap, 400-mile race as SportsRacing Prototype division cars swept the top two spots.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am , IndyCar , NASCAR Cup , NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Tomas Scheckter , James Weaver , Didier Theys , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Robby Gordon , Kurt Busch , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jaques Lazier  , Mike McLaughlin , Fredy Lienhard , Jack Sprague , Laurent Redon , Mark Green , Hideki Noda , Scott Wimmer , Chris Dyson , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske