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NASCAR Notebook: Drivers respond to disrespect from Golden Tate

LOUDON, N.H. -- Why won't the debate over whether drivers are athletes ever die? Because competitors in other sports won't let it. Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate fired the latest volley Wednesday in a series of Twitter postings related to ...

LOUDON, N.H. -- Why won't the debate over whether drivers are athletes ever die? Because competitors in other sports won't let it.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate fired the latest volley Wednesday in a series of Twitter postings related to Jimmie Johnson's ESPY nomination for best male athlete.

"Jimmy Johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism," Tate wrote to spark the controversy. He spent the next 24 hours defending his position.

"I'm not arguing that the sport isn't hard ... If it was easy everyone would do it, I'm Just saying he is not the most athletic," Tate wrote on Thursday in a response to a succession of tweets countering his position on the athleticism of NASCAR drivers.

Johnson, who won the ESPY for best driver but not for best athlete, has never met Tate but said Friday he would welcome the opportunity to show him what racing is all about.

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"No, I wouldn't know who he is," said Johnson, who has trained to an extremely high level of fitness. "I didn't prior to the whole Twitter thing that took place. But I'd just like to show him around and see if we can show him what our sport is about and change his mind. There might be other athletes out there who think the same, and they're all welcome to come out.

"We'd all love to host them and show them around. I have no hard feelings. Everybody has an opinion. I don't like it when people express their opinion without knowing. So if he comes and finds that we're not athletes and has a different opinion if he was to attend a race, that's fine. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion."

Carl Edwards, generally acknowledged to be one of NASCAR's best-conditioned drivers, conceded that a driver doesn't have to be an athlete to race. Edwards pointed out, however, that many drivers are exceptional athletes.

"I thought it was pretty comical," Edwards said. "I personally would invite anyone, including Golden Tate, or anyone who thinks that Jimmie Johnson isn't an athlete, to come out and compete with him in just about anything.

"He might not be able to lift as much weight as those guys, but I've followed Jimmie Johnson on a motocross track and watched what he's able to do, and a lot of people don't realize how much of an athlete he is. I thought it was interesting."

As far as Tate is concerned, Edwards has an instant solution.

"I'd like to take him down into the corner at Darlington one time," Edwards said. "I don't think he'd want to do it again."

Ragan hopeful about sponsor negotiations

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David Ragan's July 2 Sprint Cup victory at Daytona hasn't been a panacea for the driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, but it certainly added a positive tenor to the negotiations between RFR and UPS, Ragan's sponsor.

Ragan is in a contract year, as is UPS. Whether either returns to the No. 6 car is an open question, but the Daytona victory improved the odds.

"I'm really happy at Roush, and I think the Fords are running great, and (owner) Jack (Roush) is happy with the performance of the 6 team, even compared to his other teams," Ragan said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race.

"A lot of it is the negotiations between Roush and UPS and working out the small details. I'm encouraged by some of the recent conversations we've had, and things look to be on the good side, but like I've said, you can't stop with what you've done. ... I still think we're four to six weeks out from really having some announcements and look forward to some good runs in-between then."

Ragan didn't stop with the win at Daytona, the first of his Cup career. He followed that performance with an eighth-place finish at Kentucky last Saturday night. Ragan has six top 10s at midseason, one more than in his previous two full seasons combined.

Kyle Busch: Preparation, experience key to successful Chase run

In 2008, Kyle Busch won eight of the first 22 Sprint Cup races and entered the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the No. 1 seed.

Then his championship run fell apart with mechanical issues in the first three Chase races.

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Back in the points lead and tied with Kevin Harvick with a series-best three victories, Busch will be able to draw on that experience when the Chase arrives nine races from now.

"I think the biggest thing is that you have to be prepared," Busch told Sporting News on Friday. "You have to have your guys doing a good job. Whenever we came here to Loudon (in 2008), I probably didn't do the best job in practice getting the car set up like I needed it. Sunday in the race, we didn't quite get the sway bar bolt tightened up all the way or something happened there and something broke.

"Obviously, we lost our sway bar and struggled along here. Went the following week to Dover and blew an engine. Then we went the following week to Kansas and felt like we had water in the fuel system. Things like that just seem to relegate us to finishes that we hadn't seen all year that we didn't want to have happen at that moment--but it did."

Busch finished 10th in the standings that year, but the experience should help gird him for a championship run this season.

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