| ||Travel agents push this idea all the time: Pocono -- the land of the romantic mountain evenings and heart-shaped honeymoon beds. The land of love, they say, is waiting in the Pocono Mountains.
Okay. So, why did NASCAR's last visit to the scenic Pennsylvania countryside end up looking more like a lovers' spat than a dreamy fireside dinner?
It's been all of five weeks since the mighty Intimidator was mightily intimidated at Pocono Raceway. In the final turn of the final lap on a rain-delayed Monday afternoon, Jeremy Mayfield punted Dale Earnhardt into Tuesday and went on to win his second 500-miler at Pocono.
Earnhardt, beaten at his own game, finished fourth.
"Believe me, if NASCAR ever decides they want to run three or four or five races at Pocono, they can count on me to be a big-time supporter," said Mayfield, who challenged Earnhardt like a bull in Pamplona -- and won. "When you're running these cars almost a football field a second, things tend to happen in a big hurry."
Though Earnhardt has references to back up his claims of Intimidation, Mayfield said after the Pocono event that he grew up racing that way, too, and wasn't afraid to spar with the bullies. "I just wanted to rattle his cage a little bit," he said in jest of Earnhardt's great escape at Bristol last August when he had launched an unsuspecting Terry Labonte into the outside wall on the final circuit.
What's good for the goose is good for the gander, is no doubt what Mayfield wanted to say. Every good Earnhardt bump deserves another.
In the business world, Mayfield's actions would have been construed as a hostile takeover: Mayfield would have inherited the reigns of the Intimidation Club; Earnhardt and Junior would have staggered to the mail room to sort some inter-office memos for Mr. Mayfield, et al.
In the boxing world, Earnhardt would've threatened to eat Mayfield's children. In the baseball world, Earnhardt would've drawn a line in turn-three and headbutted Mayfield for good measure.
But, this is the happy-go-lucky world of stock car racing where bumping is good for the fans and retribution from Earnhardt is good for at least another thousand tickets at the speedways waiting for the chance to market NASCAR's next feuding families to couch potatoes who would otherwise watch the remaining events on television.
It could've been big.
Alas, the impending feud imploded before it ever had a chance to get off the ground.
Since the Pocono Punchout, Earnhardt has rattled off a pair of sixth-place finishes at Sears Point and New Hampshire with an eighth-place effort at Daytona sandwiched in between. He's climbed to within 45 points of Bobby Labonte as he chases an eighth championship. The Intimidator appears unintimidated.
Mayfield, meanwhile, finished 33rd at Sears Point and 43rd at Daytona before rallying back into the top-10 with an eighth-place run at New Hampshire.
The two have had little contact on the race track. It's safe to say, had Mayfield been a factor at Daytona, Earnhardt wouldn't have helped him in the draft.
At any rate, the two haven't had a second verse to their heated debate since the opening chorus ended at Pocono.
"I've heard a lot about the finish there in June," said Mayfield. "You have to admit, it was a pretty exciting finish. NASCAR racing was pretty well made on last-lap passes and hard racing, and I think Dale (Earnhardt) and this Mobil 1 bunch were able to give the fans just that.
"A lot of people have said a lot of different things but it really was just hard-nosed racing there at the end. I haven't seen any tapes and I still can't tell you for sure whether we touched or whether I took the air off of him or what. There are a lot of different opinions but I'm not sure what happened.
"I heard from a lot of people after that race. There were a ton of people who called, and a ton more who found me at the track at Sears Point and Daytona and New Hampshire, just to slap me on the back and congratulate our race team. Winning is a good feeling anytime you do it. It's something we'd like to do more of, believe me."
Busy, busy, busy
|Jeremy Mayfield went through the Intimidator to win last month's Pocono 500.|
Ken Schrader's never been one to take a break from racing.
During the two-week break between racing at New Hampshire and returning to Pocono this weekend, Schrader spent eight days racing across the Midwest.
Two of those were spent testing his No. 36 Pontiac at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He then tested his Busch Series entry at Gateway International Raceway in St. Louis, finished second in a race in Sedalia, Mo., then won a feature in Peverly, Mo.
From Missouri, Schrader traveled to Terre Haute, Ind., for three days of racing before heading out to Pocono.
Somebody stop him.
After finishing fourth at Nazareth Speedway this past weekend, Jeff Green has extended his points lead in the NASCAR Busch Series to 499 points.
Should second-place Jason Keller win all 13 of the remaining events and lead the most laps in each, Green would need only to finish seventh or better to win his first Grand National Division championship.
Green's average finish in the 2000 season is 6.4.
Excluding a 10th-place finish at Watkins Glen in June, Green's No. 10 Chevrolet hasn't finished out of the top-five since the BellSouth Mobility 320 at Nashville in April.
Phil Furr, a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C., writes a weekly auto-racing column for ESPN.com.
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