Late incidents have drivers fuming at Kurt Busch

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By their design, NASCAR’s green-white-checkered finishes create frenzied dashes that carry an “every driver for themselves” feel. Kurt Busch seemed to follow that spirit in last night’s conclusion to the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, but in doing so, he drew the ire of some of his rivals.

The most notable of which was Tony Stewart, who had been pushed up the track by Busch and let him know of his displeasure by running up against the side of his car after the race. The two continued their argument verbally in the hauler area.

In addition, Busch was tagged from behind by pole sitter Matt Kenseth, who afterwards said that Busch “knocked [his] whole side off” on the final restart. Busch would retaliate for Kenseth’s earlier contact by damaging the back bumper of the latter’s machine.

Busch defended his decisions in the G-W-C period, citing the “free-for-all” nature of the finish.

“Green-white-checkered — everybody is going to put on tires,” he said. “Some guys are going to do two. Some guys stayed out. And it’s just a free for all. There is rubber build-up in the outside groove. There are cars sliding up with old tires. So, I don’t know what the No. 14 [Stewart] was upset about.

“I got hit from behind. I got hit every which way. So did he. Kenseth moved us up out of the way at the end, so that’s why I was upset with him…We got a top 10. But the biggest thing here is ten laps ago, this car didn’t have a scratch on it, and now it’s destroyed.”

A third driver was also unhappy with Busch. Martin Truex Jr. was running second when he was spun out on Lap 347 thanks to contact with the former Sprint Cup champion. Truex wound up 17th in the end.

“I ran him hard, I ran him tight, but I gave him plenty of room,” he said. “He didn’t need to do that. He was driving in over his head trying to get a win, I guess.”

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.