Burton: Pit crew suspensions send the wrong message about the emotions that link everyone in NASCAR

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Two drivers racing for a win wreck on a restart, and a few crew members from each of their teams have words after the incident.

It seems like an everyday chain of events for a NASCAR race, but last Sunday took on new meaning after Joe Gibbs Racing suspended two employees on the pit crew of Martin Truex Jr., whose wreck with Kyle Busch triggered the argument.

The crew member who taunted Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief, was wrong. But Stevens’ decision to enter the pit box of the taunting crew member also was wrong.  The second crew member who screamed at Stevens made a forceful demand, but everyone in racing understands the unwritten rule of “don’t come in my pit area.”

No one threw a punch. No one was injured.

It was just some highly competitive people blowing off some steam — but two of the three won’t be at Pocono Raceway this weekend because they are employees of JGR.

This is wrong.

To be clear, I haven’t won multiple Super Bowls as a coach, nor have I run a business with hundreds of employees, but I believe this is the incorrect precedent to set for crew members and the fans of the sport. I’m of the belief that most fans tune in to see individual drivers battle it out for wins and positions — not an individual organization made up of multiple teams.

Imagine Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin having an on-track incident while racing for a win and then having words afterwards and the next week one is suspended because they are on the same team.

Oh, wait: That mostly happened during the 2010 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. What didn’t happen were suspensions for either driver.

How is this different? Because corporate decorum doesn’t allow an employee of lower stature to confront a “superior”? Has this sport moved in the direction that it’s OK to hold crew members within the context of a race to that standard?

I damn sure hope not.

I do not condone or approve of violence in solving problems, but that didn’t happen here.

I would not have supported a suspension for Kyle Busch when he threw a punch at Joey Logano earlier this year (NASCAR and JGR did not penalize Busch). But had the punch landed and caused an injury to Joey, I believe a substantial fine would have been appropriate.

None of those involved at Indy threw a punch, and yet two are sitting at home because of a decision by Joe Gibbs Racing (again, NASCAR wasn’t involved in any penalties).

This is wrong for the crew members and wrong for our fans.

Team members should have pride and passion for their individual teams. It should hurt like hell when things go badly, while winning should bring a feeling of success and accomplishment that compares with nothing else.

It’s the essence of NASCAR and all of sports. If they don’t have that passion, how can fans share it?

Multicar teams have provided security for team owners, drivers, employees and NASCAR itself, but they have also created some issues that are not so favorable — and this is clearly one of them.

Martin Truex Jr.’s fans are pissed off that Kyle Busch decided it was no longer time to play nice on restarts. Kyle Busch’s fans are furious that Martin lost control and took out Kyle and his chance to end a yearlong winless streak.

Why shouldn’t the teams be allowed to have the same emotions?

Normal corporate policies have no place in sports arenas where emotions are a requirement for success.

When the teams and drivers don’t care — or aren’t allowed to show their emotions in a reasonable way — then fans will certainly not be far behind.

And if that happens, we all are the losers.

Austin Dillon, Jeffrey Earnhardt in first wreck of Bristol night race

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The first big wreck of Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race occurred on Lap 232 of the scheduled 500-lap event.

It appeared Austin Dillon may have cut a tire and turned to his right, directly into the car of Jeffrey Earnhardt, sending both cars into the outside SAFER barrier and both sustaining heavy damage.

“We were running really good and all of a sudden the left-rear went flat,” Dillon said. “I don’t know what happened, if we had contact on that restart or our trackbar broke. My car chief said the letters on the Goodyear were rubbed off and about two laps later we broke.

“Our battery was going dead too, so it probably wasn’t going to be much longer we were going to be out of the race either way, but just a bummer. I really love this track and was having a blast tonight.  It sucks it had to end this way.”

Both cars were taken to the infield, with their nights likely over. That’s Bristol, baby.

Matt Kenseth wins Stage 2 at Bristol

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Matt Kenseth took the lead with about 10 laps left in Stage 2 when leader Kyle Busch pitted under caution. Kenseth went on to win the stage Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The second stage ended at Lap 250 of the 500-lap race.

It is Kenseth’s third stage win of the year. He entered the race holding the final playoff spot.

Jimmie Johnson finished second. Kevin Harvick placed third, Ryan Newman was fourth and pole-sitter Erik Jones finished the stage fifth. Jones was followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.

Busch controlled most of Stage 2 and seemed set to win it until crew chief Adam Stevens elected to pit for tires to help set the team up for the rest of the race.

Busch fell from first to sixth on a pit stop after winning Stage 1 because of a problem with the left rear tire. He worked his way back to the lead on Lap 167, passing Jones for the top spot.

Jones took the lead back on Lap 179 as they raced in traffic around Brad Keselowski, who lost four laps because of a cut left front tire from contact in the opening laps.

Busch regained the lead on Lap 199. He maintained the advantage on pit road shortly after that when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall and brought out the caution.

Martin Truex Jr. had a loose right rear wheel and pitted as the field took the green on the restart. He had to pit shortly after that when he was penalized for an outside tire violation. After serving the penalty, Truex was two laps behind the leaders.

AJ Allmendinger had to pit under green because he had a tire rub after contact.

Jeffrey Earnhardt and Austin Dillon crashed on Lap 232. Dillon spun up the track and Jeffrey Earnhardt had nowhere to go and slammed into Dillon’s car. Kasey Kahne hit the wall and Joey Gase‘s car as he tried to slow.

 

Kyle Busch passes Kyle Larson on final lap to win Stage 1 at Bristol

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Kyle Busch passed Kyle Larson on the final lap to win Stage 1 on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch and Larson dueled the final 11 laps of the stage. They made contact while racing in traffic while racing to Lap 125 of the scheduled 500-lap event.

Busch seeks to win the Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Cup races this week at Bristol for the second time in his career. He won all three races in 2010.

After Busch, who started 18th, was pole-sitter Erik Jones. Larson finished third. Chase Elliott was fourth. Matt Kenseth placed fifth. Kenseth was followed by Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson.

The stage win is Busch’s 10th of the season. Only Truex (15 stage wins) has more this season.

A couple of drivers had problems early in the race.

Brad Keselowski suffered a cut left front tire on Lap 5 and lost four laps by the time he pitted and got new tires. He was 38th at the end of the stage.

Aric Almirola brought out the caution on Lap 61 when he hit the wall. He was 33rd at the end of the stage.

List of driver introduction songs for the Bristol night race

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Here’s all the songs NASCAR Cup drivers selected for their introduction prior to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones – “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled

Kyle Larson – “Dirt Track Thing” by Kenny Montgomery

Kasey Kahne – “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” by Brooks & Dunn (picked by Dale Earnhardt Jr.)

Chase Elliott – “Chevy Don’t Let Me Down” by Jeff Bates

Matt Kenseth – “Halo on Fire” by Metallica

Martin Truex Jr. – “That’s How We Do Around Here” by Florida Georgia Line

Denny Hamlin – “Jumpman”  by Drake

Joey Logano – “Energy” by Drake

Clint Bowyer – “How Country Feels” by Randy Houser

Ryan Blaney – “Life Ain’t Fair & the World is Mean” by Sturgill Simpson

Jamie McMurray – “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Daniel Suarez “El Mariachi Loco”

Ryan Newman – “Hutin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Everyday” by Luke Bryan

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – “Chattahoochee” – By Alan Jackson

Chris Buescher – “E” by Matt Mason

Austin Dillon – “Ain’t No Mercy” by Rick Ross

Brad Keselowski – “Right Now” by Van Halen

Kyle Busch – “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons

David Ragan – “I’m from the Country” by Tracey Byrd

Trevor Bayne – “Sideways” by KB Featuring Lecrae

Jimmie Johnson – “What’s My Name?” (clean version) by Snoop Dogg

Ty Dillon – “Rise Up” by Petey Pablo

AJ Allmendinger – “Paper Cut” by Linkin Park

Danica Patrick – “Regulate” by Warren G

Kurt Busch – “Sweet Emotion” by Aerosmith

Michael McDowell – “Dream Team (I Had a Dream)” by Thi’sl

Paul Menard – “512” by Lamb of God

Aric Almirola – “Green Light” by Pitbull

Kevin Harvick – “Happy” by Pharrell

J.J. Yeley – “I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher

DALE EARNHARDT JR. – “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy (Rock Remix) by Birdman and Lil Wayne (Picked by Kasey Kahne)

Cole Whitt – “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot

Landon Cassill – “Silver Bullet” by Hawthorne Heights

Matt DiBenedetto – “Gon Give It To Ya” by DMX

Corey LaJoie – “Lights Come On” by Jason Aldean

BJ McLeod – “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe

Gray Gaulding – “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi

JEFFERY EARNHARDT – “Good Life” by Tyler Hatley & The Little Mountain Band

Reed Sorenson – “Over and Under It” by Five Finger Death Punch

Joey Gase – “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas

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