When David Reutimann executed a not so perfect retaliation sideswipe of Kyle Busch last weekend in Kansas it brought forth a new conversation about etiquette, specifically racing in the Chase etiquette.
Busch is a Chase contender who was in great position to say in the top three in points, if not take over the point lead after the Price Chopper 400. Reutimann is a non-Chase driver, who sits 18th and had reached his boiling point with Rowdy the two had another run in.
According to Reutimann the two have had more than a few problems in the past. At Bristol in August it came to the forefront when Busch claimed had Reutimann known how to drive the track he wouldn’t have gotten beat. The driver of the Aaron’s Dream Machine didn’t take kindly to the words and filed them away. Then early at Kansas when Reutimann got loose in turn one and had to slow Busch spun him out and that became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Afterwards Busch said that if Reutimann felt he needed to retaliate it shouldn’t have come at Kansas when he’s racing for a championship, the beginning of 2011 would have been more appropriate. The response stuck with NASCAR nation who broke down the confrontation during the week, who was right, who was wrong and should it have happened at all.
Before the Chase began in New Hampshire last month four-time champion Jeff Gordon admitted he didn’t know what to expect during the final 10 races because of his actions earlier this season. Gordon had angered a few different drivers who vowed payback on the No. 24, including Martin Truex Jr., but they had yet to take action.
Said Gordon at the time, they could have been waiting for the Chase when he had much more on the line then they did. So far Gordon hasn’t had a run in and neither had any Chase driver until last weekend.
Jeff Burton, known as the NASCAR garage’s Mayor because of his responses on the sports issues, proved so again on Friday at California. It comes down to the simple fact that Chase races are no different than any other races during the Sprint Cup season he said.
“The race this weekend is as important to the team that’s 20th in points as it is to the team that’s first in points,” said Burton. “Now I understand that in reality that’s not how it is, but if the team that’s 20th in points doesn’t come here with the same intensity and their sponsor doesn’t feel they’re getting the same opportunity to be successful, then that’s a major problem.”
The Kansas incident could be looked at from many angles but the fact that it occurred during the Chase have been struck in limbo. Respect, is not something that Burton believes you can turn on and off.
“You have to drive people with respect, all the time. You can’t pick and choose when you want someone to respect you and you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to respect them.”
Burton continued by saying that as Chase driver he wouldn’t want anyone coming after him, that includes drivers in and out of the Chase. If a driver’s worried about payback during the Chase some say they should have been more careful during the first 26 races with how and whom they raced.
Unfortunately, Busch found that out the hard way last weekend, regardless of the fact that he didn’t intentionally take out Reutimann earlier in the race, their past history came into effect.
Burton also knew of that saying, “That whole deal that went down last week wasn’t just about what happened last week, it was what happened throughout the year. When you feel like somebody doesn’t respect you and doesn’t show you respect and then they get into you, whether they meant to or not, there’s a different level of thought process.”
Even Burton noted that Busch didn’t wreck the double zero on purpose, however the contact was unavoidable. Reutimann thought differently and he and Busch have been in a war of words ever since. Idle words and no action says Burton, is worse than saying nothing at all.
Reutimann finally acted and Busch now has to get refocused on the Chase. The rivalry shouldn’t be overlooked and the two drivers getting together is a story that is worth covering, but time shouldn’t be spent on talking about Chase drivers being held to a higher standard than those who aren’t in the Chase.
If there’s one important lesson from Burton it’s that every driver should remember that a non-Chaser should race a Chase driver “The same way he races him them every week.”