The personification of "Intimidation."
Once upon a time on the NASCAR landscape, there was only one intimidating driver in the sport. He was a master of mind games and a formidable threat at every track he visited. He was often imitated, but never duplicated.
His name was Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
In the years since his passing the landscape of the sport has been largely changed. While old faces have left the building, new personalities have arrived to take what is rightfully theirs.
However, while making their marks there has been a small crop of drivers who have been able to take the art of intimidation and make it into a weapon that they can use on their own accord.
Here are the five most intimidating drivers in NASCAR.
The criteria needed to make this list is simple: Have the ability to make your fellow drivers nervous in one way or another.
The heated exchange between Ryan Newman and Joey Logano following the August 2010 race at Michigan only served to solidify Newman as a bad, bad man.
Following the race, Newman confronted Logano after the latter got into the back of him and spun him around. The entire exchange was caught on tape with the stocky Newman verbally getting the better of the taller, lankier Logano.
Logano's response wasn't surprising considering the size difference. Newman is built like a bouncer while Logano...well...isn't. To put it bluntly, if they ever do a remake of "The Wizard of Oz," Logano would be a prime candidate for Scarecrow.
This wasn't Newman's first or only tangle, either. Since coming into the world of stock car racing, Newman has drawn the ire of many drivers. Few might remember his series of run-ins with Tim Fedewa (with the most notable coming at Darlington in 2001) to his seemingly continuous feud with Juan Pablo Montoya.
Actually, following their run-in at Richmond in 2011, JPM reacted in a fashion similar to Logano's the year before. Coincidence?
The point is that Newman is big, bad and occasionally mean. On top of that, he isn't afraid to throw down if he needs to. That makes him dangerous. Therefore, drivers usually take heed to race around him with caution.
Normally, Clint Bowyer is a jovial individual. In some ways he can be seen as a throwback to the racers of old. But get the guy mad and he turns into Ivan Drago (not that he doesn't already bear a resemblance to the guy).
Following the race, Bowyer exchanged words with Stewart. In the course of the exchange, Bowyer's rookie essence was gone. Instead, you could detect his steeliness as the two spoke. You could almost hear a Sergio Leone soundtrack in the background during the exchange.
Over the course of his career, Bowyer has been known to go after other drivers such as Michael Waltrip and Kevin Harvick. But the melee with Jeff Gordon at Phoenix in 2012 takes the cake.
After wrecking out, Bowyer's crew charged Gordon's crew and started a fight that looked more like WWE Royal Rumble match than a scuffle. Meanwhile, Bowyer was a little late to the party.But once he stopped his No. 15 Toyota, he was out in a flash and gunning for Gordon like a shark who smelled blood.
There is no doubt that not only did Bowyer want to do bad things to Gordon, but had he been close enough he would have done bad things to Gordon.
How could anyone not like Carl Edwards? He has a sharp sense of humor, a keen wit, a very personable disposition and immense car control. Plus, the guy seems to always be smiling. If he said "Okie Dokie" on a regular basis that would be enough to seal the deal and let the guy date my sister.
Sure, the guy doesn't take any guff. Remember Bristol in August of 2008? Even after all that he still managed to keep his winning smile.
Yet one can't help but notice that when someone gets cross with him, it turns into a story similar to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Look at the CARFAX 250 at Michigan in August of 2006. While leading, Edwards got loose and was sent around by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Junior would go on to win the race while Edwards went on to, ahem, "congratulate" him.
In the video included with this slide, you can see Edwards and Matt Kenseth discuss an issue that happened earlier that day. Edwards seems as cool as the breeze, but one look at Kenseth's face says otherwise. Keep in mind the fact that Edwards is a fitness monster, and his fists look to be roughly the size of a 40 oz. beer can. So Kenseth's response of "Please don't hurt me Mr. Edwards" is totally understandable. Would you want that fist heading for your face?
Also, who could forget his scuffle with Kevin Harvick? One week after the two were included in "The Big One" at Talladega, their game of "tit-for-tat" culminated in a scuffle in the garage at Charlotte.
You know, Carl, if this racing gig ever gets too old for you I heard WWE is looking for some new talent.
Ah yes, Tony Stewart. Where to begin?
For starters, over the years Stewart has toned down as a hot-tempered individual. Remember his beef with Kenny Irwin, Jr. in 1999? That would go on to serve as an indicator of what was to come. He would go on to have several tiffs with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, a various assortment of pit crew members, Rusty Wallace, various members of the media, Kurt Busch...the list goes on.
Now, Stewart is widely regarded as an elder statesman for the sport. With three championships under his belt, a successful dirt track and a successful Sprint Cup organization in his portfolio, he has gone from assaulting random individuals and inanimate objects to using the media as a sharpening block for his razor-sharp wit.
Sure, he has occasional outbursts. Just ask Matt Kenseth. But that is just a facet of the nature of those who have grown as drivers on the short tracks of the nation. Stewart is an intimidating man because he isn't afraid to call things as he sees them. He isn't afraid to stand up for what is right. That is why the fans love him.
How can you compete with that?
Kevin Harvick is a happy individual. Just ask Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ricky Rudd, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Kyle Busch. They'll likely agree.
Harvick is an enigma in NASCAR. On one hand you have a happy-go-lucky, fan-friendly individual whose primary ambition is to be a NASCAR legend. On the other you have a volatile individual who delights in making other drivers uncomfortable if he doesn't like them.
Never one to back away from a fight, Harvick will let someone know if he isn't happy with them. Better yet, if he senses that he has gotten under the skin of another driver, he'll use that to his advantage.
One thing that makes him so intimidating is that he is unpredictable. One second he could be standing around, minding his own business. The next second, as demonstrated above, he'll be making a beeline for your throat.
He holds many similarities to Tony Stewart in that both grew as racers around short tracks. Therefore, they are both used to settling disputes with their fists rather than words. But very rarely does anyone get the better of Kevin Harvick.