These Boys Will Be Boys

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Boys will be boys… for sure. In fact, the heat of competition has already gotten the best of quite a few NASCAR drivers this season.

Tempers have flared quite often in the early part of 2001, and Jeff Gordon has been the focal point of more than one scuffle.

At Bristol, Gordon spun and then got spun by Tony Stewart. Saturday night in the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Gordon’s nemesis was Rusty Wallace.

Gordon and Wallace were racing hard for the second position in the final few laps of the 400-mile event. The two made hard contact in the final two laps after a late-race restart. Neither was happy with each other’s actions, and it continued beyond the checkered flag.

On the “cool down lap,” the two drivers traded paint once again, then exchanged words and gestures on the backstretch. Fortunately, Wallace and Gordon will have an off weekend to cool before getting back on the track next weekend for The Winston at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Stewart and Gordon have had an “ongoing feud,” stemming from an incident last year in which the two made contact during the first lap of the road-course race at Watkins Glen International.

The animosity from that came to light once again earlier this year at Bristol, when Stewart was sent into the wall on the final lap of the Food City 500. When the two drivers entered the pits, Stewart ran into the back of Gordon and spun him around.

For that little display, NASCAR fined Stewart $10,000 and brought the two into the NASCAR trailer after the racing for a little pow wow. Tsk, tsk.

The Stewart-Gordon “feud” is one worthy of comparison to that of Buckshot Jones and Randy LaJoie. As a regular in the NASCAR Busch Series the past few years, Jones and LaJoie had regular run-ins with each other. Jones has since moved to the Winston Cup Series.

A small, but unlikely on-track feud seems to have developed between Bill Davis Racing’s Ward Burton and PPI Motorsports rookie Andy Houston over the past few weeks. At Martinsville in April, the two made hard contact with each other under a yellow flag, but both were able to finish the race.

On Saturday night at Richmond, Burton and Houston were racing hard again on a short track, but this time Houston wasn’t so fortunate. Burton ran into the back of Houston and spun him around, and the first-year driver of the McDonald’s Ford wound up in the wall and done for the evening with a 42nd-place finish.

Burton finished 21st, but got an earful from Houston when he came past Houston’s wrecked machine.

“We had an awesome car and everything was going great, you just have one guy out there with an attitude driving me crazy,” Houston said. “(Burton) ran over me – again. He ran over me at Martinsville, under caution. I don’t know what his problem is...”

Burton, who suffered a concussion the previous week at California, was apologetic and willing to work things out between the two, although the hit from behind on Houston appeared to be blatant.

“I didn’t mean to wreck the 96 (Houston),” Burton said. “The 96 had split me three-wide on three different occasions. Every time I had to back out to stop from wrecking. I definitely meant to get his attention.”

And then there’s always the ever-present Jimmy Spencer, a.k.a. “Mr. Excitement.” As most everyone has come to expect, Spencer has had more than his share of scrapes so far this season, both in the Winston Cup Series and the Busch Series.

In Winston Cup, Spencer has had his problems this season with Brett Bodine. He’s had a run-in or two with rookie Ron Hornaday, as well, and he didn’t mince words about Hornaday following the Harrah’s 500 at Texas in early April, a race in which Spencer finished 38th. Hornaday finished 40th.

“It all started off when Ron Hornaday hit us and messed our car up,” Spencer said that day. “He must need glasses, that’s all. After that, something just broke in the rear end and I backed it into the wall, but it happened on the first or second lap. He did it at Rockingham. He did it at Bristol. He did it at Darlington and he did it here, too. NASCAR needs to talk to him.”

Spencer never retaliated to the degree where Hornaday ended up wrecked in the following races, but the two did make contact at Martinsville, and Hornaday knew Spencer was around.

A part-time driver in the Busch Series, Spencer has had his run-ins with Mike McLaughlin. During the last few laps at Talladega Superspeedway, and especially the final lap, McLaughlin used everything in his arsenal to keep Spencer behind him in the Subway 300.

Spencer was infuriated with McLaughlin’s blocking tactics after McLaughlin took the checkered flag, with Spencer in tow.

“That was the dirtiest driving I’ve ever seen,” Spencer said. “That’s OK, because I won’t mess with him here, but you can bet that down the road something will happen to his car when Jimmy Spencer’s running behind it. You just don’t want to take a chance of hurting somebody here at Talladega and run somebody down in the grass twice like he did to me. I wouldn’t even congratulate him for the win because he doesn’t deserve it.

“I mean, he about put me in the wall when I went to the outside of him. If he wants to race like that, I can race like that, too. Don’t forget that.”

You can bet Spencer hasn’t forgotten that, but with that in mind, it was puzzling when Spencer allowed McLaughlin to get back on the lead lap at one point during last Friday night’s Hardee’s 250 at Richmond International Raceway, a race won by Spencer.

In a sport where vengeance is beginning to become commonplace… go figure.

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