To bump-and-run or not to bump-and-run, that is the question

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt was the master of it.

Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough did it to each other and they wound up wrecking and then fighting in the infield of the 1979 Daytona 500.

Carl Edwards did it last year to win at Richmond.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did it to Kyle Busch a few weeks ago at Martinsville.

We’re talking, of course, about one of the most important tools in a driver’s toolbox: the bump-and-run.

Some drivers don’t mind doing it, while others do. Others are willing to use it, but it can be a slippery slope.

During media sessions Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, several drivers addressed the bump-and-run and their approach to use – or not use – it.

First, let’s hear from Kurt Busch, who falls into the category of someone who will only resort to the bump-and-run as a last resort.

“As long as you don’t put him in the fence or he still continues on to finish second and doesn’t lose too many spots, so to speak,” Busch said. “It’s crazy. We can all go to road courses, which are almost the hottest ticket to get right now – Sonoma and Watkins Glen – because there’s so much beating, banging, thrashing and the way I grew up watching races is that road courses had a little bit more of a gentleman’s agreement, so they flip-flopped.

“And then to your point, a bump-and-run and then the chaos that ensued from everybody talking about was that proper or the etiquette and the way that all even turned out. Just a simple bump-and-run at a short track. I mean, we all grew up with that. It’s just kind of funny how certain things flip-flop and how certain things are digested now.”

Busch added that while the bump-and-run is more acceptable at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, it’s still 50-50 at other tracks.

“It’s been a fun journey on the road courses each year we go on how much is accepted and tolerated, and then as the short track racing has pretty much stayed the same,” Busch said. “As much as we’ve evolved, I like the short-track racing.

“I don’t know when it changed or when that perception swapped around, but everybody’s got stronger opinions nowadays with chat boards and social media, so when you have a motorsports writer talking about a certain event, that’s great. But when you have millions of people talking about it bantering back-and-forth, that’s great as well.”

* Seven-time and defending NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is definitely not a fan of the bump-and-run.

“I’m so bad with the bump and run it’s a bump and crash,” Johnson said. “I found that for me personally it takes more time to set-up a soft nudge to move someone than it is just to pass them.

“That has just been my style over the years. I am terrible at it. I tried to move Rich Bickle out of the way in 1999 or something at Memphis. I picked his rear tires up and carried him down the straightaway and set him down in time (for him) to crash head-on into the wall in Turn 1.

“I never knew that I picked his tires up off the ground, felt terrible and then unfortunately, when I was shopping the next day for groceries, I saw him in the produce section. I thought that man was going to beat me to death with a head of lettuce and chase me around in the produce section. So, at that point, I figured I just better worry about passing people instead of trying to move them.”

Even with Edwards’ use of it at Richmond and Stenhouse doing so to Kyle Busch, Johnson believes the bump-and-run has become less effective and, in turn, used less by today’s Cup drivers.

“There is definitely less grudges kind of amongst drivers in today’s era,” he said. “Right or wrong, it is just how it is. I think the majority of the reaction was because it was amongst teammates.”

* While Johnson may be a bit more reticent about the bump-and-run, Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott isn’t afraid to put his youth and moxie to the test.

“I think at times, if the situation is right, I think you do have opportunity to move a guy out of the way or do what it takes to try to get by him,” Elliott said. “But in a lot of situations, it’s just easy to make a mistake and wreck people.

“And at the end of the day, I obviously don’t want to make that mistake. So, it’s a fine line. I think Carl did a great job with it at Richmond. He moved (Kyle Busch) out of the way and didn’t wreck him and the guy finished second and he won and went on down the road. So, I think in that situation, no harm no foul.”

So if the situation is right, don’t be surprised if Elliott puts his bumper into someone else’s in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway if it means a possible win.

“I would, for sure, I mean, why not?” Elliott said. “Carl has won a lot of races. I’ve won zero. I’d love to get one, so absolutely. If the situation is right, I think that’s part of racing.”

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