Drivers say it's okay to bump someone out of the way with win on the line.
March 23, 2003
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- A bump here, a nudge there. It's all just part of racing, especially at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kurt Busch moved Jimmy Spencer out of his way to earn his first career victory here last season. Jeff Gordon used a bump-and-run on Rusty Wallace to win the August race.
With a victory on the line, the general consensus is that using a fender to move a competitor out of the way is fine.
"If you're slow enough as the leader and you let somebody (bump you), it is your own fault," Busch said. "That's the primary reason why you end up with a bump-and-run: because the leader isn't quick enough to maintain his speed."
Busch will start ninth in today's Food City 500, hoping he won't need to move anyone out of his way to win again.
He and Spencer went back and forth a year ago around Bristol's tight, high-banked .533-mile bullring. Busch gave up the lead after Spencer moved in on his bumper and muscled past.
But in Turn 2 of the next lap, Busch bumped his way back into the lead. Spencer nearly lost control of his car, and a lot of ground, in his bid to challenge for the lead.
It started a feud that lasted all season.
Spencer, who starts two spots ahead of Busch, has not forgotten:
"I feel like I passed Kurt Busch fair and square here last year. I didn't bump him and knock him out of the way. He slammed into me. My theory is you race them the way they race you. You rough Jimmy Spencer up, you're going to get it back. You're going to start it and I'm going to finish it."
NASCAR would love another close ending to a race.
Last weekend at Darlington, Ricky Craven won the closest finish since NASCAR adopted electronic scoring, besting Busch in a door-to-door duel down the backstretch.
Busch was in another outstanding finish last month, going back and forth with eventual winner Dale Jarrett over the final 10 laps at North Carolina Speedway.
Busch is still looking for his first victory this season.
"It's tough to lose races," he said, "but I think the biggest thing is there's always lessons learned when you do lose a race."