Rubbin's Racing, Right?
Kyle Busch led most of the Darlington Raceway but was pushed for the lead by Kasey Kahne on a late restart. Kahne pulled ahead of him briefly in turns 3 and 4 before Busch dive-bombed the corner in turn 1. Unable to hold the corner, the No. 18 slid up the track toward the No. 5's rear left side.
As the two separated, Kahne's car went for spin and the NASCAR community went with him. Multiple replays were inconclusive in determining whether or not Busch actually made contact, but every fan seemed to have a concrete answer: some saying there was clearly contact, some saying there was clearly no contact at all.
As usual, Kyle Busch was a catalyst for a NASCAR debate. Even the driver's themselves weren't sure about the contact.
"We were racing hard," said a visibly frustrated Kahne of the incident. "Whether he hit me or just blew the air off, whatever it was, he blew his entry [to the corner] and I'm not really sure what he was thinking on that."
Adding to the feeling of bitterness for Kahne, it was the third time this season that Busch has been involved in his demise. Just the week before, Busch took full responsibility for getting into Kahne at Talladega and setting off the first "Big One." He even took the time to text an apology afterward to his competitor, a sign that he's matured in the sport to the point he's willing to admit his faults.
One area on which fans do agree is that Busch was himself on the move at Darlington. His supporters love him for his aggressive style. His detractors hate him for the same reason. Whether or not contact was made, that aggressive move was a signature one for Busch, and it wasn't very smart.
If another driver tried that, say Tony Stewart, most people would have probably moved on from it a little faster, but this is Kyle Busch we're talking about. He's developed himself into the most polarizing driver in all of NASCAR, and Saturday night's debate proved that hasn't changed despite his noticeable growth in maturity.
Why were some people so confident that he made contact, while others weren't? (It clearly was only one or the other.) Because, people were watching the replays with their hearts, not their eyes.
In some fan circles, especially those of Kasey Kahne, this story will be remembered in a few years as the time Busch drove right through Kahne at Darlington. It will be thought that Kahne was leading on the final lap before Busch intentionally spun him for the victory. (Nevermind that there were 22 laps to go and that Busch ended up finishing sixth.)
In other circles, mainly just that of Kyle Busch's fans, it will be remembered as another great save by the driver of the No. 18, as Kasey Kahne wrecked himself out of the race. (He actually did finish on the lead lap, albeit as the last car with such distinction.) Ironically, those fans will also probably think it was a last lap effort and that Busch went on to win the race.
Somehow I can see the fact that Busch's wheel went down late in the race and he limped around to a sixth-place finish getting lost in both circles. Most will forget how Busch actually finished the race because of the raw emotion he pulls out of everyone in the NASCAR community. Those emotions can cloud important details.
Did they touch?
I, honestly, don't know. I would imagine that as Kahne hinted, the proximity was enough to disturb his car's aerodynamics. More importantly, I don't really care if they touched.
It's NASCAR, and rubbin's racing out there. That doesn't excuse Busch for making a reckless move into the corner, but Kahne was certainly pushing the limits every bit as much as the No. 18 to take the lead. That mentality certainly didn't help the No. 5 maintain control during the encounter.
My suggestion to fans that are still trying to figure out if the two cars touched is to let it go. For years, the general NASCAR community has complained that they find races boring, and NASCAR listened in 2013. The Generation-Six car has created plenty of side-by-side racing and that has led to more contact.
When drivers find themselves in cars that can run for the lead, they are more likely to push the package to take that lead. We saw that when Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin got together on the final lap at Auto Club Speedway, and we saw that Saturday night at Darlington.
Former NFL coach Herm Edwards once coined the phrase, "you play to win the game!" In NASCAR, you drive to win the race. That's what we saw from Busch and Kahne on Saturday, nothing more, nothing less.
Rubbin's racing in this sport; it's all a part of trying to finish first.