Motor Mouth: JGR scores big, tempers ignite and a NASCAR-ish royal wedding

Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
At Richmond, we saw Joe Gibbs Racing rise to the top, while the small confines of the Virginia short track gave way to various displays of temper and frustration. And did you see the royal wedding? You know, the one everyone was talking about? Whether you gave in and watched it or not, I’ll tell you how it shared some similarities with NASCAR. No, I haven’t been sipping gin with Prince Harry. Keep on reading as this week’s Motor Mouth shifts into high gear.


First, we have to talk about Saturday’s Sprint Cup race. After being plagued by engine problems at the start of the season, Joe Gibbs Racing appears to have turned the corner with a 1-2 finish and all three of their drivers in the top 11, the first time either has occurred in 2011.

With his second win, Kyle Busch becomes the second repeat winner of the year (it could have been three wins if not for an engine failure at Las Vegas). Busch has finished only three times out of the top 10 in nine races this season. With wins in hand as well as consistency, Busch sits third in the points standings and at this stage of the season is showing the form needed to contend for a championship.

The Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 was also a much-needed boost for teammate Denny Hamlin. The 2010 championship contender had only one top 10 to his name this year before Saturday night, and the Virginia native was looking to turn things around at a track where he has two wins. Winning his charity Short Track Showdown event Thursday and the Nationwide race Friday buoyed Hamlin as he hoped to complete a weekend sweep, but it was not meant to be. Busch had the faster car and Hamlin had to settle for second. However, that second-place finish brings Hamlin his second top 10 of the season as well as momentum going into Darlington, where he will attempt to defend his win from a year ago.

Joey Logano’s 11th-place finish was his second consecutive top-11 effort in 2011. The 21-year-old driver has had a rough start to the season, with multiple engine problems as well as his share of wrecks. Logano was caught up in another in Saturday’s race when he and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson made contact. It was a battle of the home improvement centers: Home Depot vs. Lowes. But the younger driver recovered nicely to finished 11th. Is Logano’s season finally turning around? Stay tuned.


Short tracks are the perfect venue for showcasing drivers’ tempers as they beat and bang against each other for position around the track. But drivers displayed more frustration at Richmond than I remember seeing at Bristol and Martinsville.

This could be for a few reasons. For one thing, this is the second time this season the Cup Series has visited a short oval immediately after the wide expanse and two-car tandems of a superspeedway: Daytona was followed by Phoenix, a 1-mile track, and Talladega was followed by Richmond, a .75-mile track. Though the series had an off weekend between Talladega and Richmond, it’s possible that drivers were still adjusting to the difference in the types of tracks (we saw drivers being more aggressive than normal at Phoenix after running at Daytona). Also, drivers and teams whose seasons haven’t start off the way they wanted to are furiously trying to play catchup, especially as they continue to feel out the new points system. And the small confines of the track could have provided the breaking point for teams experiencing ongoing issues in their quest to nail down good finishes.

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The latter was certainly true for Martin Truex and Kurt Busch. Truex led 12 laps at Richmond and was running third when late in the race, he had to pit after a slow stop so his pit crew could fix a broken stud. The issue was the latest for Truex, who has been having solid runs this season only to see mechanical issues, pit problems or wrecks disrupt his chances at a good finish. Richmond was the final straw for Truex, who was so upset he fired his pit crew over the team radio. Though Truex lacked the authority to dismiss his crew, Michael Waltrip Racing took care of the rest Tuesday. The team announced that four members of the over-the-wall crew – the front and rear tire carriers and changers – would be replaced to address the ongoing problem.

The season started off in victory lane for Kurt Busch, who won two non-points races at Daytona, but has spiraled downward for the 2004 Cup champion. Busch, who was the only driver to finish in the top 10 in the first four races, has finished outside it in four of the last five. Busch, who is known for being cantankerous on the scanner, outdid himself with his profanity-laced tirades at Richmond. Busch repeatedly blasted Penske Technical Director Tom German, while calling the organization an “(expletive) joke” after Brad Keselowski’s day ended early after being involved in a multi-vehicle wreck. Busch said the team looked as hopeless as a monkey and a football ... yeah I'll stop there.

At any short track, you will see tempers flare between drivers simply because one is in the other’s way, and that’s what happened with pole sitter Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman. Both are known as drivers who race hard and are hard to pass. So what happens when they try to pass each other? Fireworks in April. Newman ran into the back of Montoya, causing Montoya to hit the wall and damage his decklid. Montoya later showed his displeasure by spinning out Newman. Though fans never got to see Newman “take care of it after the race” with Montoya at Richmond – Newman went to NASCAR’s hauler while Montoya left the track – the feud may not be over. Boys, have at it.


The royal wedding between Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, drew an estimated 2 billion viewers from around the world Friday, including yours truly. While I enjoyed watching the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony and events surrounding it, I was surprised to notice that the wedding had some aspects in common with NASCAR. How the heck can this be? I’ll tell you:

  • Pre-show: All NASCAR races have a pre-show leading up to the big event, and the royal wedding was no different. I turned on CNN about three hours before the wedding was scheduled to start at 6 a.m. ET, and the network was already showing segments about William and Kate, food and fashion and laying out the particulars of the day’s events. The coverage also showed thousands of people lining the streets of London outside Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. Many of those folks had been waiting there for hours. (Sound familiar, race fans? Similar to going to the track hours early and waiting for the race to begin.)
  • Flyover: During the pre-race ceremony, military aircraft fly over the racetrack, exciting fans and symbolizing the patriotism prevalent in our sport. At the royal wedding, the Royal Air Force, with whom William serves, flew over Buckingham Palace after William and Kate kissed on the balcony.
  • Buckingham Palace balcony and victory lane: This may be a stretch, but the Buckingham Palace balcony reminded me of victory lane. The balcony is where William and Kate kiss for the first time as a married couple, and they are joined by several members of their families. For all intensive purposes, it is a victory celebration as all revel in William and Kate’s new life together. At a NASCAR race, the winning driver and his crew members gather in victory lane and celebrate their race win. As for kissing – well, you’re only likely to see this if the driver’s significant other accompanies them to victory lane, or if you’re Tony Stewart after your 2007 Brickyard 400 win.
  • Hats! Though the styles are quite different, for sure, royal wedding guests and NASCAR fans are known for their hats. NASCAR fans traditionally stick to caps of their favorite drivers, while the royal wedding guests went all out with feathered hats, large hats or the trendy fascinators. While Princess Beatrice’s hat was one of the weirdest hats I’ve ever seen (and that’s being kind!), I still don’t think she can top this Jeff Gordon fan, who attended the spring Phoenix race last year. What do you think?
Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR
Motor Mouth is a weekly column in which Skirts and Scuffs lead editor Rebecca Kivak spouts off about the latest NASCAR happenings. Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below. To read past columns, click here.
    Motor Mouth: JGR scores big, tempers ignite and a NASCAR-ish royal wedding Motor Mouth: JGR scores big, tempers ignite and a NASCAR-ish royal wedding Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Wednesday, May 04, 2011 Rating: 5