Martinsville, VA (Sports Network) - Brian Vickers became driver enemy number one after Sunday's 500-lap slugfest at Martinsville Speedway. If Vickers did one thing right during the day, he left the racetrack quickly and quietly.
In a race that featured a season-high 18 cautions, Vickers was involved in five of them, including three that occurred during the first 100 laps. Jamie McMurray and Chase driver Matt Kenseth would've loved to have at it with Vickers after the dust had settled at NASCAR's shortest track. Jimmie Johnson might have wanted a word with him as well.
Vickers started the ruckus on lap 28 when he was involved in a crash with Regan Smith and Dave Blaney. He then tangled with Juan Pablo Montoya before bumping into Jamie McMurray and putting him into the outside wall. McMurray tried to retaliate against Vickers but made contact with the wall again.
"I saw [Vickers] get inside of me, and I tried to block, and I couldn't get down far enough," McMurray said. "When we got down in there, it seemed like he let off the brake a little early and sent me for a ride. It's just one of those really frustrating tracks, and it brings out the bad in people."
After banging each other's doors several times in the late going, Kenseth had enough of Vickers when he turned him around, forcing the 15th caution. Kenseth was involved in a multi-car wreck shortly after when he locked his brakes and spun around. He took out title contender Kyle Busch, as well as Joey Logano and Montoya.
"He just kept hitting me in the door," Kenseth said. "We're at Martinsville, and I gave him the bottom. Obviously, I'm not gonna roll over and let him go with 40 [laps] to go or whatever it was, and he just kept driving in harder and harder, and he slammed me in the door at least five times and just ran me up in the marbles, and I was just tired of it, so I spun him out."
Kenseth suffered a broken track bar during the multi-car wreck and spent several laps in the garage for repairs.
While Johnson was holding a comfortable lead with less than 10 laps to go, Vickers attempted to get even with Kenseth but failed in his efforts, as he spun around. The final caution setup a three-lap shootout to the finish. After the restart, Tony Stewart passed Johnson and then held him off at the finish. Stewart has won three of the first seven Chase races. He's also moved to within eight points of leader Carl Edwards.
"I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen," Johnson said following his second-place finish. "After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason."
Johnson certainly needed the win to help keep his slim title hopes alive. The five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion is 43 points behind Edwards with just three races to go.
"I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end," Johnson noted. "Tony Stewart is sitting in victory lane smiling, and he's real happy it turned out that way."
Vickers, a non-Chase driver, finished 30th in his banged up No.83 Red Bull Toyota. He had no comment after the race. Vickers' future in Sprint Cup is in doubt right now, as Red Bull is pulling out of the sport at season's end.
Kenseth's 31st-place finish at Martinsville put him 36 points behind Edwards. He entered this race 14 points in back of his Roush Fenway Racing teammate.
Vickers wasn't the only culprit in the Martinsville demolition derby. Marcos Ambrose and Montoya clashed, while Kurt Busch got turned around by Paul Menard. Busch also had encounters with Jeff Burton and Ryan Newman.
Martinsville was indeed the latest chapter in NASCAR's "boys, have at it."
"It seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads," said third-place finisher Jeff Gordon, who bounced back after being involved in a six-car accident during the opening laps. "We saw that for a big majority of the race. Obviously, the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that."
Stewart seemed to be the only one who wasn't caught up in the commotion at Martinsville, which was probably a good thing.
"I think they ought to get a portable boxing ring," he said. "As soon as they get done with the victory celebration, set the boxing ring on the frontstretch and give the fans a real show they paid for. If you want to boost the attendance at Martinsville, have a boxing match with each of the guys that had a beef with each other."
Ding, ding, ding!
Round eight in the Chase bout is Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.