In the time since Matt Kenseth’s win over Kasey Kahne in the Irwin Tools Night Race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway on Saturday night, most of the talk surrounding the race hasn’t been about Kenseth scoring his fifth victory of the season. Instead, the talk has been about the way Kahne raced Kenseth on the final lap. If you didn’t see the race, no Kahne didn’t lay the bumper to Kenseth to try to move him out of the way. Instead, he raced Kenseth clean, whatever that means. Maybe racing clean means different things to different people. Or maybe there are different degrees of racing clean.
“I think, at the end of the day, I just don’t wreck people,” Kahne said after the race.
To me, this seems to be one of those things that can pretty much be chalked up to “damned if you do; damned if you don’t.” Why is that? Well, apparently, a driver’s going to be criticized either way if he’s running second on the final lap of a short track race.
It seems that anytime the second-place driver nudges the rear bumper of the leading driver heading to the checkered flag at a short track, he’s villified by the masses for “racing dirty.” Apparently, you can also race too clean, as Kahne is finding out.
In the time since the recent Bristol race, Kahne has come under scrutiny for not bumping Kenseth, or moving him out of the way. Critics say that he wasn’t racing hard enough, didn’t try hard enough to win, just doesn’t have that fire, that drive, yada, yada, yada.
And a lot of those critics now say that moving a driver out of the way is fine, but wrecking him/her is dirty. Now, that’s a really fine line. Whether or not a driver wrecks after being on the receiving end of a bump has a lot to do with the driver being bumped, doesn’t it? The ultimate outcome isn’t just in the hands of the bumpee. What if there’s an attempt to just move the leader out of the way, and the leader wrecks because his car isn’t handling well enough for said driver to hold on to it? Or maybe the one doing the bumping overestimates the leader’s ability to not wreck after being bumped.
When you get down to it, it seems like a lot of fans just want to have it both ways. If a driver moves someone to take the lead, he/she is a dirty driver. If he/she doesn’t bump the car in front of him/her, he/she isn’t racing hard enough. What’s a driver to do? To most fans, that probably depends on which driver is the bumper and which is the bumpee and their opinions of said driver.
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