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Racing's Short Fuse

After fireworks at Bristol, NASCAR nears its postseason with tempers on edge

The Cup race at Bristol last Saturday night had everything NASCAR fans love about short-track racing, including dented fenders, flared tempers and not-so-veiled threats of retribution. Denny Hamlin won the race, but the show was stolen by two of racing's biggest names: Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart.

Patrick, in her first full-time NASCAR season, was fighting for a top 20 spot 435 laps into the race when she was taken out by Regan Smith, whose car hit her left rear, and sent her skidding into the wall. After she climbed from the wreck, Patrick strode onto the track and shook her finger angrily at Smith as he drove past (below). She finished 29th.

Patrick showed more restraint than Stewart, who collided with Matt Kenseth while both were racing for the lead. On pit road, Stewart used two hands to hurl his helmet at Kenseth's passing car, sending it bouncing off the front bumper. Seethed Stewart later, "I'm going to run him over every chance I get from now till the end of the year."

Ominous words with two races left until the start of the Chase. Kenseth stands fourth in the points; Stewart 10th. Their bad blood in the postseason could affect the title race. Time to see how far NASCAR is willing to carry its unofficial motto, Have at it boys [and girl].