Drama, that is what we were waiting for at Richmond on Saturday night. Drama and answers. We wanted to know if Chris Buescher would be close enough to David Ragan and 30th in the standings in order to be eligible for the chase? Could Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, and Jamie McMurray keep from being caught by Ryan Newman for those final Chase spots on points? Could anyone outside the Top 16 win and really tumble up the standings? We had to wait for the final two or three laps to get the answer to that last one. With 38 laps to go, Tony Stewart provided us with the definitive response to the first two.
Newman needed to make up ground, coming in 22 points behind McMurray. As it turned out, he would have had to win to be in considering how those he was chasing finished the night. However, he made a mistake along the way, and that was to run into his former boss and maybe former friend, two or three times. As Stewart swooped gently into a corner, Newman dived to the inside and knocked Smoke to the outside. Next turn, Newman came up and rubbed Stewart again. Oh-oh.
On the straight away, Stewart turned down in front of Newman, who might have been able to take defensive measures if not for Carl Edwards running into him as he slowed down. That caused the contact between Newman and Stewart to be much harder, and pretty much killed all three autos. But wait, that is not all. Others got caught up in the mess, with one of them being David Ragan. As Newman went up the track after the wreck, he wound up directly in front of Ragan, who was left in flames.
When asked later, Newman made some mention about somebody being bi-polar with enough info to Google to explain the mishaps a certain driver had been involved in, no doubt a guy who should retire, and a fellow who purposely drifted down in front of him. Stewart agreed with the latter observation, mentioned that in 10 weeks Newman would get his wish about his retirement and that he got to hit him two times more than anyone else would have gotten away with. By the way, one other guy caught up in the wreck was Brian Scott. Does anyone remember how Darlington went for him?
With that, Buescher, Elliott, and Dillon were in the Chase. As for a first-time season winner ruining the party for McMurray, Denny Hamlin gave us that answer in the end when he dominated two re-starts to walk off with this one, even as a hard charging Kyle Larson tried to be a factor. Kasey Kahne finished sixth on a day he needed to be number one.
Stewart is not leaving a kinder, gentler, passive version of his old self. He is his old self. Scott got dumped last week, Newman this time out. To be fair, he was slowly drifting in front of his old buddy and probably would have taken the brunt of the contact had Edwards not been there to accelerate things. Even if NASCAR got upset with their retiring former three-time champ, we know they refuse to dock points as they transfer to the Chase tally, and other than in the pocket book all they could do is suspend Stewart for a race or two and kill his championship hopes. That is not going to happen, and in this situation, it should not happen.
As for Newman’s comments, I understand that he was angry. However, he came mighty close with his comments to invoking the tragedy and the pending civil case regarding the death of Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car accident involving Stewart two years ago. I do not know what their relationship was after Newman was essentially dropped in favor of Kevin Harvick with Stewart-Haas racing, but it can not be very good today.
The Chase for the Championship begins in Chicago this Sunday, where the past five winners there are all current contenders for the title. Brad Keselowski has won twice, Hamlin won there a year ago, with Matt Kenseth and Stewart among the most recent winners.
What are the odds of Tony doing well at Chicago? Maybe that is a question that should be directed to Ryan Newman. Now, wouldn’t that be dramatic?