It#8217;s just racin#8217;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 14, 2006

That’s just racin’. How many times have you heard that phrase when a reporter sticks a microphone in a driver’s face after just wrecking-or being wrecked?

That was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s response after being wrecked by Brian Vickers on the final lap at Talladega last week. You have to hand it to Junior, his reaction and comments after the race were very impressive. I don’t know if I could have been that calm.

Jimmie Johnson wasn’t that calm and neither was his crew chief, Chad Knaus. Vickers has pretty much been ostracized from the Hendrick organization ever since making the announcement that he would drive a Toyota for Team Red Bull next season.

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You heard Jeff Gordon mention this a couple of weeks ago after Vickers gave no quarter late in a race.

Did Vickers intentionally wreck Johnson, taking our Junior in the process? I don’t think there is any doubt that it was unintentional, but it happened.

I think Vickers had grand illusions of jumping past Johnson after the no. 48 pulled out to pass Junior. He got caught up in the moment and went too far.

Knaus went as far to say that Vickers didn’t have the talent to make that move. Pretty strong words, he never would have made that statement if Vickers were driving the no. 25 in 2007.

But, hey, he was the one in victory lane. Not the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last.

Lost in the last lap controversy is the fact that the points standings grew much closer after Talladega. Jeff Burton, the points leader, cut a tire late in the race and ended up finishing 27th. His lead in now only six points over Matt Kenseth and 10 over Mark Martin.

In fact, only 185 point separate the entire chase field, the smallest margin at this juncture of the season since the chase format began in 2004.

All of the sudden, it seems that NASCAR is the place to be for drivers in other motorsports series.

First, Juan Pablo Montoya was announced as the new driver of the Ganassi Texaco Dodge. This week, Supercross motorcycle racer Ricky Carmichael signed a development deal with MB2 Motorsports.

Cart series driver A.J. Allmendinger is destined to drive the second Team Red Bull Toyota next season, teaming with Vickers.

Now, word is that Jacques Villeneuve, former Indy 500 winner and Formula One driver, has signed a deal with Roush Racing to run a number of Busch races next season. And to think, some folks think your neck has to be red to be involved in NASCAR.

Lowes Motor Speedway is the next stop and the fifth of the ten chase races.

Kasey Kahne won here in the spring, breaking Jimmie Johnson’s four race win streak in Charlotte. Qualifying was held earlier in the week and the Dodges seem to have it together on this 1.5 mile track.

Scott Riggs won the pole and his two Evernham teammates, Kahne and Elliott Sadler, will start second and fourth, respectively.

Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers with five career wins at the track that is his car sponsor’s namesake. Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Jeff Burton are also multiple time winners at this track.

My pick to win this week is Kevin Harvick. He is still my pick to win the championship and on the weekend that he sews up the Busch championship, he wins the race.