10 NASCAR Drivers That We'd Like to See Step into the Ring
When NASCAR told its drivers a few years ago to have at it, drivers could self-police themselves on the racetrack.
But there's been an interesting byproduct of the so-called "Boys, Have At It" philosophy, where drivers have markedly increased their pre- and post-race trash talking, all the way up to physical confrontations.
Among the more notable confrontations we've seen in recent years has been Brad Keselowski versus Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer versus Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano versus Denny Hamlin, Logano versus Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick versus Kyle Busch and others.
Prior to the "Boys, Have At It" era, many race fans began to compare the follow-the-leader racing they saw on racetracks as being almost as scripted as WWE wrestling matches.
With that in mind, we thought we'd have a little fun and pick the 10 drivers that might have a future in the ring—be it boxing, MMA or WWE—if this whole NASCAR thing doesn't work out for them.
Or maybe a better way to put it, if we found ourselves in a dark alley and could pick any NASCAR driver to have our back, here's who we'd choose.
I was on a radio station in Atlanta earlier this week and called Tony Stewart "the A.J. Foyt of our generation," and that is so, so true.
Stewart may not be the tallest guy in the sport, but he's built like a boxer, with strong hands, a fireplug body and he can both give and take a punch.
He has a stature that commands arguably the most respect of any driver. Like the old commercial, when Stewart talks, people listen.
On good days, he's the kind of guy you want to hang around with, shoot the bull, drink a few cans of Schlitz (his favorite brand) and just be mellow. But if you cross him, especially on the racetrack, Stewart will see to it that you feel his payback in spades. His temper is without equal in the sport.
In that same radio show interview, I said that if I had to choose one driver to back me up, without question it would be the man they call "Smoke."
Kevin Harvick puts his mouth where his money is, so to speak.
He never backs down, isn't afraid to call out fellow drivers (favorite targets: the Busch brothers and Juan Pablo Montoya) and is someone who always has the back of his teammates.
It should be interesting to see what happens next season when Harvick joins Stewart Haas Racing and teams up with Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and—dependent upon additional sponsorship—Ryan Newman.
Harvick is one of the most respected drivers in the garage, not just for his driving talent but also for the respect he commands as an individual. If you look closely, you may even see a little of his predecessor Dale Earnhardt in him.
When it comes down to which of the Busch brothers is the real deal when it comes to confrontations, the elder sibling wins out, hands down.
As for younger brother Kyle, he may talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk, it sure seems he'd rather run away in the opposite direction whenever another driver wants to challenge him.
Remember how he ran—make that drove away—from Kevin Harvick after their conflict on pit road at Darlington two years ago?
On the other hand, Kurt doesn't back down when challenged, nor does he mind being the one who does the challenging. Unfortunately, many of the challenges Busch has made have been against non-drivers, particularly members of the media.
Still, if Kurt was to go up against another driver, it'd be an even money bet on him, with the exception if he faced someone like Tony Stewart or Kevin Harvick.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya has one of the fieriest dispositions in the sport—and we're not talking about his run-in with a jet dryer at Daytona in last year's 500.
I've done an unscientific study and more often than not, Montoya's name is usually uttered whenever big wrecks take place. He may not always be the instigator, but it sure seems like it.
Has Montoya really been in a true one-on-one dust-up since he came to NASCAR in 2007? If he has, we can't recall.
He's been the object of many drivers' ire, and he's also called out numerous opponents as being the cause of incidents (rarely blaming himself, of course), but that's typically all it is: talk, talk and more talk.
How would he do in the ring?
The question is more like whether he'd ever leave the locker room first. But something tells me that if his back was up against the wall, Montoya would fight back with a vengeance that we sure haven't seen much of on the racetrack.
Bowyer showed he won't back down from anyone when he went charging full-steam to find Jeff Gordon last fall at Phoenix after Gordon intentionally wrecked him.
While the two never exchanged fisticuffs, Bowyer has the kind of demeanor and temper that he's not a driver to be messed with.
If he bulked up a bit more, he might have a future in the WWE if he ever loses his NASCAR ride. He may not be The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin or even John Cena, but Bowyer can lay the smack down with the best of them.
Along with Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski is arguably the most direct link to throwback racing of the past, when the skill to punch an opponent was almost as necessary as the skill to punch a gas pedal and wheel an uncontrollable two tons of steel around a race track.
There's an old saying that people are sometimes born too late or early, and that is definitely the case with the defending Sprint Cup champion.
While we love watching him today, Keselowski would likely have fit right in with guys like David Pearson, Junior Johnson or Darrell Waltrip.
Part of the reason fellow drivers have all but stopped picking on Big Bad Brad of late is because he won't take any guff from a competitor, but more importantly, won't back down when challenged, no matter who his foe is.
If Keselowski were to go up against, say, Carl Edwards or Kyle Busch in a mano-y-mano fight, it might be hard not to put your money on NASCAR's version of the Motor City Mad Man (apologies to the original MCMM, Ted Nugent).
There's no way we could keep Cousin Carl, a.k.a. the fittest and most buff driver on the Sprint Cup circuit, off this list.
Edwards has had tangles in the past with several fellow drivers, including Brad Keselowski (several tangles, in fact) and former teammate Matt Kenseth, among others.
Because of his physical prowess and training regime, Edwards would likely be a hit in the MMA world. Can't you just imagine him in a cage match with Keselowski, and there's Edwards with punches and feet flying.
Newman has the build of a linebacker, the competitiveness of a marathoner and the drive of a freight train.
While he may not be more powerful than a locomotive, nor can he stop a speeding bullet, few drivers would have the gall—or the stupidity—to go up against Newman.
And to his credit, Newman keeps his demeanor typically calm and collected. He could be a lot more aggressive when it comes to doing battle, but he is also one of the most intelligent drivers on the circuit.
He picks his battles—what few there have been—with measured logic and reason.
Plus, how many other drivers would want to take the chance of ticking off Newman, knowing what the likely end result would be that they'd lose—badly.
Mark Martin is 54 years old and arguably in the best shape of any driver on the Sprint Cup circuit—with the exception of Carl Edwards.
But this ageless wonder, who trains several hours a day while listening to throbbing, ear-popping rap music to inspire him, is true original and down home, old school OG (original gangsta).
He may have the height of a jockey, but Martin has the heart of a lion and the soul of a gladiator.
Don't believe me? How many drivers have tried to go one-on-one with Martin in recent years? I can't think of a single one, and the reason is one or the other: They respect him too much for his age and career accomplishments, or he would kick their butts silly.
She may be small in stature and a female, but Danica Patrick has as fiery of a personality as any driver in the Cup series today.
Just like she did in her former stint in IndyCar, Patrick has shown the NASCAR world she will not back down from any driver, be it superstar or rookie.
What's more, and to her credit, Patrick doesn't want special treatment on the racetrack, she simply wants to be treated as one of the boys and be judged solely on her talent and performance, not her gender or how she looks in a bikini.
I'm waiting for the day that Patrick squares off with a fellow driver who has drawn her ire. No matter who it is (provided it's a male), Patrick's aggressiveness to put up her dukes will leave her foe in a no-win situation.
If he fights back, he'll be criticized for hitting a woman. If he walks away, he'll be criticized as a wuss.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski