Race Weekend Central

Running Their Mouth: Breaking Down a War of Words at 2011 Southern 500

On a night that saw first-time winners and fists flying at the end of the night, the Showtime Southern 500 had a lot of drivers itching for a chance to get in front of a microphone and start Running Their Mouth.

Best Quote

“I won a race at Darlington. The names who have won here… the Pearsons, Yarboroughs and on and on, you name it. I was sitting behind some of those guys today and I was thinking, ‘Man, these guys are pretty awesome. They are legendary.’ I don’t know if my name deserves to be next to them, but after tonight, maybe it does.” – Regan Smith, race victor, on winning at Darlington

Who would have thought that Smith would finally get his first official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory Saturday night (May 7) at Darlington by holding off a hard-charging Carl Edwards? Certainly not the media, the fans in attendance or anyone watching at home, save Smith’s immediate family. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Smith and Pete Rondeau made an absolutely gutsy call to stay out. For Smith to somehow hang on to the lead for the final 11 laps on older tires is nothing short of amazing.

The Cato, N.Y. native has had a rollercoaster career, but by winning at Darlington, he truly has put his name alongside such greats as Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Richard Petty and others. Hopefully this will be the first of many wins for Smith, but even if he turns out to be NASCAR’s equivalent of Chumbawumba after this, he certainly picked a hell of a race to win.

Worst Quote

“I don’t have anything really to tell you other than not much.” – Kevin Harvick, finished 17th, on what was talked about in the NASCAR trailer following his post-race altercation with Kyle Busch

For Harvick to not expound further on what NASCAR said to him post-race after punching Kyle Busch was absolutely weak-sauce. While it’s likely both drivers will just get probation and a fine, basically NASCAR’s version of a grandmother wagging her finger at a five-year-old for breaking a flower pot, Harvick could have at least offered up some sort of comment instead of being short with the media.

Granted, Harvick had every right to be angry at Kyle after the race and, let’s face it fans, Kyle Busch getting punched by another driver was bound to happen at some point. But Harvick being downright rude to the media for just doing their jobs was absolutely unnecessary in its own right.

Funniest Quote

“I was hoping you guys (the media) would get the facts and report on it so I can go on the Internet tonight and check it out. I don’t know what happened.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 14th, on what happened between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick post-race

Leave it to Dale Jr. to have a humorous observation on the Busch/Harvick fight. Maybe if Jr. had a Twitter account, he could have found out more about it faster, but I digress. Make no mistake, the talk of the racing industry for at least the next week will be about Busch and Harvick. When you put two combustible personalities on a racetrack, sparks are bound to fly at some point. And Jr.’s take on the situation was likely the thought process of all NASCAR fans, regardless of whether they are on Harvick or Busch’s side in the issue. The online blogs will be buzzing this week for sure.

Most Controversial Quote

“After the race I was just kind of cooling down and talking to Dave (Rogers, crew chief) on the radio about that I wanted to talk to him in the hauler about something and I see the [Kevin] Harvick car — the No. 29 come up flying up on my inside through [turns] 3 and 4. Instead of going to pit road I thought he was going to force me into the inside of the pit-road wall so I gave myself a little bit of room and turned up to go back up onto the racetrack like I would for another cool-down lap and he followed me.

“When he pulled up next to me, I tried to back up. I put my car in reverse and tried to back up and I blew reverse out of the transmission. I tried to back up too fast and the transmission gears are so light that they can’t take that kind of abuse. Blew reverse out so then I had to pull forward and kind of do a U-turn to get back to pit road. I was just trying to get away from the situation with Harvick and unfortunately he got to pit road before me so I pulled in behind him. He let the No. 47 (Bobby Labonte) go, but I knew if I tried to turn left or right he was going to run into me or block me or something.

“I just stayed behind him, I was just going to sit there, not worry about it and let him cool his head for a second and let him figure out that we just need to go back to the garage area. Instead of him doing that, he wanted to get out of his car I guess and wanted to fight. I knew that wasn’t going to be a good situation and when I saw him getting out of his car, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good situation.

“My choices were limited, I was either going to get punched in the face and then wait for Harvick to get back in his car for me to go or just drive through his car and push it out of the way so I could get out of there and try not to get hit or anything like that. I made a judgment call there and it wasn’t one of the best choices that I had, but I pushed his car out of the way on pit road and unfortunately there was men walking down pit road.

“I hate it that somebody could have gotten hurt, but I was just trying to get away from it and get back to my hauler and go on with my own business.” – Kyle Busch, 11th, on what happened between he and Harvick

To be perfectly blunt, in his post-race interview, it seemed as if Kyle Busch reverted back to his early ways by blaming everyone except himself for blatantly hooking Harvick and then running over his car on pit road, sending it hard left into the wall with people walking along the pits.

All the maturity talk with Kyle pretty much was destroyed by none other than himself, making Mike “The Situation” from Jersey Shore look like a Boy Scout with his actions on the track and post-race. One has to wonder if the talk of Kyle being more “mature” was exactly that, just talk. If Kyle wants fans to embrace him, he might want to accept responsibility once in a while when he does something wrong, as he did this Saturday night.

Crew Chief Quote of the Week

“It’s a split-second decision. Sometimes you make out well with it and sometimes you don’t. I was leaning one way and said, ‘What the heck, we’ll ask Regan where he’s headed. He said we’re both on the same page.’ ” – Pete Rondeau, crew chief for Regan Smith, on the gutsy call to stay out on older tires

Rondeau has most certainly come a long way from being Earnhardt Jr.’s scapegoat crew chief to being a Cup race-winning crew chief, with a call that took brass balls to make by staying out for the final 11 laps in hopes of winning the Showtime Southern 500. The odds were stacked heavily against the team, but somehow, some way, Pete Rondeau’s call paid off. Now he and Smith have earned the right to call themselves NASCAR Sprint Cup race winners. Rondeau and company will definitely be celebrating this victory for a long time.

Owner Quote of the Week

“This is not only a big deal for Barney [Visser, team owner], but also for Furniture Row Companies, which consists of Denver Mattress, Sofa Mart, Bedroom Expressions and Oak Express, for standing behind the team. It’s been a long road. It’s been six years building this team and literally from scratch. Tonight just solidifies all that hard work and shows the racing community that you can win races outside of the normal North Carolina area.” – Joe Garone, General Manager of Furniture Row Racing, on how big the win is for the organization

For all the times Barney Visser and company have taken flak from the racing community for being based out of Colorado instead of North Carolina, this victory is the ultimate vindication for Furniture Row Racing. This victory is not just a win for the underdogs, but proof that NASCAR teams don’t have to be located in North Carolina to be competitive.

Considering the early days of this team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Jerry Robertson (currently residing in the “Where Are They Now?” files), I think it’s safe to say few people would have ever thought this team could ever win in the Nationwide Series, let alone at NASCAR’s highest level. But Saturday night, Barney Visser and company did exactly that.

Best of the Rest

“I’m sure that will feel good tomorrow, but, right now, I wanted to win that race.” – Carl Edwards, runner-up, on adding to his points lead

“It was our best finish, but not our best run. We were probably a 15th-place car. We played some strategy there at the end. We’ve had a couple of races that I thought we were pretty decent – Bristol and so forth. We’ve caught some bad breaks. Tonight, we honestly weren’t all that good and caught some good breaks. We stayed out, made something of those last few restarts and was able to get a third-place finish out of it.

“I’m proud of the result, but not how we got it. We’ve got a long ways to go to be fast and to earn it. We’ve got a lot of work to do. A good team effort to get a solid finish out of a mediocre day.”- Brad Keselowski, finished third, on his finish

“To finish sixth and be disappointed — that’s a good thing I feel like. We have a lot to build on. The good thing is that we’re having smooth races now and nothing is really catastrophically going on.”- Denny Hamlin, finished sixth, on whether he was disappointed with his finish

“We were really good. We got to 12th and we kind of had the wrong pit strategy. It was my fault. I should have stayed out and I pitted, so we started at the back and never got back again. We had a top-five car, but we just never got there. We’d run the lap times of the top-five, even the leader, but we just couldn’t get there. If it would have been a 600 or 700-mile race, maybe we would have finally got up there , but we did all we could (laughing). We got a top 10. We’re worried about the points right now and we’ll keep chipping away at it.” – Greg Biffle, finished eighth, on his race

“We just fought all night. We were digging and gauging all night. We’re disappointed with 13th, so I guess that’s a good thing. I’m proud of my Stanley team and we’ll take our licks here and move on. We just kept digging and fighting all night. We tried not to damage the car, and most of what we got was on the last lap, so we had a good night. We’ll learn from it and come back next year and be better.” – Marcos Ambrose, finished 13th, on his race

“It’s just been a long string of tough races. The “Lady in Black” got us. We unloaded a really fast Shell/Pennzoil Dodge on Friday – a top-three car in practice. We may have sealed our fate when we cut a tire in practice and put our primary car in the turn 1 wall. We were super tight with the back-up car to start the race and we never could loosen the car up. We threw everything at it – track bar, wedge, shims – you name it, Steve (Addington, crew chief) tried it. This place is tough enough with a good race car, when your setup is off, it’s just a nightmare.” – Kurt Busch, finished 27th, on his car’s handling

“It’s the nature of the beast. There’s no room to race at the end. I knew when the caution come out all hell was going to break lose and it did. I got such a good run coming down there. I felt like I don’t know, I passed four or five cars and I came off there and I had plenty of room. I don’t know if somebody got into Kevin [Harvick] and knocked him down into me or something. He just really abrupt came down and I saw he got wrecked too.

“How about Regan Smith? At least something good come out of it. I’m proud of him for winning. Proud of BB&T. Just trying to manage everything and stay out of trouble all day long and get caught up at the end.” – Clint Bowyer, finished 31st, on whether he was mad at anybody over his late-race incident with Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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