In some ways, it had to happen. At some point in the 2008 Sprint Cup season, you knew Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch would cross paths dramatically somewhere. It seemed inevitable.
In this short-hand world that we live in, everything somehow gets boiled down to one sentence or one phrase. You're either good or you're bad. You're either loved or you're despised. There are no shades of gray, it's all black and white. Never mind the explanation, just give us a yes-or-no answer.
In that context, and in that context only, Busch got run off from Hendrick Motorsports so that team could hire Earnhardt Jr. While reality is so much more complex, that doesn't matter. The simplistic summation can be given in a sound byte and digested by the public and its short-attention span. The fact that is sets up conflict is a nice bonus.
In any good plot, conflict winds up in resolution.
Never miss a local story.
Which brings us to Saturday night's race at Richmond and the bump between Earnhardt Jr. and Busch that, despite the fact that Denny Hamlin dominated the race and Clint Bowyer actually won it, will define the event in the discussion that ensues.
To those who demand a verdict on the question of who was right or wrong, the full explanation of what happened and why it happened doesn't matter.
Two drivers, with relatively equal parts of desire to win and ability to make that happen, were battling for the lead in the final laps of a Cup race. It's certainly not the first time in history that equation has led to an incident like the one that happened at Richmond, and I promise you it won't be the last.
But it's never just "one of those deals" when it involves Earnhardt Jr. losing a shot at ending at two-year winless streak in the bargain.
Earnhardt Jr. fans and Kyle Busch haters will never be convinced that Busch shouldn't be tarred and feathered for what he did.
Some, remarkably, even believe that Hamlin was complicit. Their logic, and that term can be only loosely applied, is that once Hamlin lost the lead his decision to try to ride out a tire problem and then, after it blew, to stop to get a caution was made directly to benefit Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate.
Never mind that dozens of drivers have done the same thing Hamlin did over the years, without any "team orders" in play.
Busch fans and Earnhardt Jr. haters will study replays and convince themselves that Earnhardt Jr. "came down" on Busch. Or they'll argue that Earnhardt Jr. should have given Busch more room, which is craziness since the last thing anybody should be expected to do - on either side - when battling for a win is to "give" anything.
You could also point out that Dale Earnhardt made his reputation by showing a willingness to do whatever he thought it took to win a race when he had the chance to do so. Why should Busch not be expected and allowed to do the same?
And you could argue that if Saturday night's situation were reversed, if Earnhardt Jr. had been the bumper his fans would have without question rationalized it as just a driver hungry for victory giving it his all.
Remember last year, when Jeff Burton didn't wreck Busch as they battled door to door for a win at Bristol? Remember how some fans questioned why Burton wasn't willing to do what he had to do to win?
You can reslice what happened Saturday night a million times.
You can look at 10 different replay angles 10 different times.
If you're a fan first you're going to see whatever you need to see to support whatever decision your passions have already made for you.
You already "know" what happened and why. At least you think you do, and that's really all that's ever going to matter.