Feud for Thought

NASCAR

A fight broke out at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500. (Photo: ISC Archives)

Rivalries are a huge part of any sport’s appeal. Whether it’s Yankees-Red Sox, Bears-Packers, Lakers-Celtics or Ohio State-Michigan, teams not particularly liking one another help create passion and interest among fans.

NASCAR’s no different. Over the years some of the sport’s most memorable moments were born out of intense rivalries between drivers.

But the sport has been lacking any long lasting feuds in recent years. There have been occasional flare-ups to be sure, but none have grown into the legendary status of some other famous NASCAR rivalries.

Last week’s dust-up between Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski at Martinsville Speedway has the potential of blossoming into a full-fledged conflict. Both drivers made some rather bold comments about the other that each stood by long after the checkered flag flew.

But keep in mind we’ve seen similar battles recently fizzle out. For instance Keselowski and Kyle Busch looked headed for a long and passionate feud after their Nationwide Series race tangle last October in Kansas. However that one seems to have been put on the back burner.

Time will tell whether Bad Brad and The Outlaw ramp up their spat in the coming weeks and join the ranks of some of NASCAR’s most memorable feuds and rivalries:

Cale Yarborough vs. The Allisons
By far the granddaddy of them all took in the 1979 Daytona 500. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough wrecked on the last lap of “The Great American Race” and the incident boiled over into an infield fight with Donnie’s brother Bobby also running into the melee. “I got out of the car and (Yarborough) started beating on my fist with my nose” Bobby said. Because of a massive snowstorm in the Northeast, a huge television audience was tuned into the race and many credit it as one of the reasons for NASCAR’s popularity surge.

Rusty Wallace vs. Darrell Waltrip
What was known in 1989 as The Winston, today’s Sprint All-Star Race, triggered a huge feed between these two future NASCAR Hall of Famers. Wallace made contact with Waltrip on the final lap of the event and went on to take the checkered flag while the famous No. 17 slid through the infield grass. A fight broke out in the garage between the two pit crews and Waltrip delivered one of the sport’s most famous quotes afterward when he said “I hope he chokes on the $200,000,” the winner’s payday.

Kurt Busch vs. Jimmy Spencer
Busch has had his share of feuds throughout the course of his NASCAR career but there may not have been one more colorful than his run-ins with “Mr. Excitement” Jimmy Spencer. The duo had scuffled many times before things came to a head at Michigan in August of 2003. After the race Busch found his car had suddenly “ran out of gas” in front of Spencer’s hauler and revved his engine after coming to a stop. Spencer rammed Busch’s car and then followed that up by delivering a punch. The fight spawned two famous quotes: “(Spencer’s) a decrepit old has-been, a never was, who has the brain of a peanut,” said Busch. “We don’t forget. When I smash back, (Busch) won’t finish,” said Spencer.

Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski
The Edwards versus Keselowski feud will forever be remembered as part of the “Boys Have at It” era in NASCAR. The infamous Atlanta Motor Speedway tangle in 2010, when Edwards crashed early and returned to the track to exact revenge on Keselowski, still makes the rounds as one of the most viewed crash videos in the sport’s history. But months after Keselowski flipped at AMS from Edwards’ contact the duo was at it again this time in a Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway, a last lap crash that unfortunately also wiped out a number of innocent competitors.

Kevin Harvick vs. Ricky Rudd
No discussion of NASCAR feuds would be complete without including Harvick, who has been involved in several with a number of different drivers. In 2003, Harvick got into it with Rudd at Richmond after the pair made contact only eight laps from the finish. Harvick rammed his car into Rudd’s on pit road after the race and proceeded to climb on top of the vehicles to get through a sea of crewmembers from both teams that had congregated. No punches were thrown but Rudd landed the best line when he said he couldn’t hear Harvick’s complaints because of his “yap-yap” mouth.

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