Things are about to get ugly in NASCAR, and for fans, ugly is the new beautiful.
Because when things get ugly and emotions get hot, it means it’s playoff time.
Yes, friends, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup kicks off Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, where 16 drivers will begin their pursuit of a championship and 24 others will race with them, hoping for their own shot of glory.
And if what we saw at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night is any indication, be prepared for lots of fussin’, feudin’ and fightin’ over the next 10 weeks.
Yes, fun, because the on-track drama should be huge fun, just like it is every year at this time.
Saturday night at RIR, Ryan Newman had some harsh words for his former boss and fellow Hoosier Tony Stewart, who deliberately wrecked Newman after, Stewart said, Newman ran into him three times.
"I don’t think there was any reason other than him just being bipolar and having anger issues," said Newman. "Google ‘Tony Stewart.’ You’ll see all kinds of things he’s done. Look it up. YouTube and everything else. Quite the guy."
"He (Newman) hits me in (Turn) 1, he hits me coming off Turn 2, and that was the third time by the time," countered Stewart. "There was one time earlier in the race that nobody saw. Three times? That’s two more time than I normally let somebody run into me."
Likewise, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, two drivers with a bit of a history between them renewed their hostilities at RIR. Keselowski missed a shift on a restart and shortly thereafter hit Kenseth’s car, cutting its leftâfront tire and sending Kenseth into the wall.
"I’m sure he’ll send a Tweet out or go on a TV show and explain how it wasn’t his fault," Kenseth said of Keselowski. "But he knows better than that."
To his credit, Keselowski at least manned up.
"I can understand why he’s upset," Keselowski said. "He deserves to be upset. I made a mistake, and it was kind of crappy for everyone. But hopefully he’ll accept the apology. … That’s not what anybody wants to see, including myself."
Friends, it’s only going to worse from here on out.
The inherent insanity in this Chase format — three elimination rounds of three races each, followed by a winner-take-all grand finale — is an invitation for tempers to explode, for normally sane men to behave like mad dogs baring their fangs and foaming at the mouth.
Think of some of things that have happened in past Chases — Jeff Burton wrecked Jeff Gordon deliberately under caution at 2011; Gordon triggered a pit crew brawl when he rammed Clint Bowyer at Phoenix in 2012. Two years ago, Kenseth put Keselowski in a headlock after Charlotte, while Gordon traded punches with Kez at Texas a few weeks later.
Last year, Kevin Harvick gave Jimmie Johnson a hard shove in the motorcoach lot at Chicagoland Speedway, were we’ll race on Sunday, and Kenseth deliberately wrecked Joey Logano at Martinsville.
Yep, the boys are about to have at it.
We don’t know who will have at it yet, when or even why, but this ought to be a tremendously fun and wildly bare-knuckled Chase, and I say let’s do this.