NASCAR

Tempers grow short as Chase nears

Temper, Temper
Ryan Newman (39) and Kurt Busch (78) tangled at New Hampshire.
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Jeff Hammond

Jeff Hammond is a former NASCAR crew chief who led Darrell Waltrip to two of his three Sprint Cup championships. The duo also teamed up to win the 1989 Daytona 500. Prior to that, Hammond was the jackman for Cale Yarborough for all three of his Cup championships. He has 43 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief. Follow him on Twitter.

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Late in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway we saw the No. 78 of Kurt Busch and the No. 39 of Ryan Newman get into each other.

After this off-weekend there are only seven more races in NASCAR’s regular season. Then the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set, and 12 drivers and teams will race the final 10 races of the season for the championship.

I think the beating and banging we saw last Sunday is only the tip of the iceberg of what we are going to see in these next seven races. What’s the old saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures?” Well, there are a lot of desperate drivers out there teetering on the verge of making or not making this year’s Chase.

The competition is tight. The drivers talk about how hard it is to pass. You hear them talking about having to get them on the restart and beat them in the pits. This closeness of competition forces you to take chances. It forces you to put yourself in maybe a more vulnerable position than what you would like. The other thing it does is force your competitors to make the decision: “Am I giving or taking?”

I think we are looking at a definite mentality, even from the teams that are pretty much already locked into the Chase, plus those ones on the verge I mentioned earlier. That mentality is that there’s a willingness to gamble, roll those dice and take a chance.

Kurt took a chance sliding up in front of Matt Kenseth Sunday and it didn’t work out the way he wanted it to. We also saw Tony Stewart take a chance gambling on fuel mileage strategy, knowing that the elusive second win would all but guarantee him a spot in the Chase, only to run out of gas on the last lap and finish 26th.

They were going for it, though. That’s how important making the Chase is to these drivers, owners, teams and sponsors.

Starting next weekend at the Brickyard and going all the way to Richmond, everyone watching at home and in the grandstands will definitely see the tension, the excitement, the drama and probably a few tempers all come to a head in these last seven races.

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