Ranking the 10 Best Rivalries in NASCAR History
We watch NASCAR for the racing, but it is always a welcome little surprise when a rivalry builds up.
It may be a rivalry based on hard feelings or perhaps a friendly rivalry, but we still see the best racing out of the guys who put emphasis on one-upping a certain individual.
NASCAR's long history has seen the formation of several entertaining rivalries, and in some cases, the rivalries you're about to see may still be in full swing. These are the guys who've managed to truly put on a show for the fans.
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. vs. Kyle Busch
This rivalry didn't produce too many fireworks, although it did provide us with a lot of entertainment throughout the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Starting with a wreck at Texas in the spring of 2007, Kyle Busch's and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s names were tossed around a lot, often in the same sentence. Junior was looking for a new ride and he had done Hendrick Motorsports a solid service by finishing the Texas race in the No. 5 while Busch sulked away.
So when Hendrick signed Junior that summer, it seemed like Busch wasn't going anywhere but out the door, where he later signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing. Contact between the two at Kansas in 2007 that sent Busch into the wall early in the race did nothing to smooth over any ill feelings.
Once 2008 rolled around, Busch's No. 18 Toyota proceeded to steal the show by winning several races or running near the front, while Junior had gone winless. But things came to a head at the Dan Lowry 400 at Richmond in May.
With less than five laps to go, Junior led Busch by the slimmest of margins, but going into the third turn, Busch, who was beside Junior, washed up the track and turned the No. 88 into the wall, costing both of them the race. Busch instantly became the most hated man in Richmond.
Where? At Richmond, of course.
9. Tony Stewart vs. Jeff Gordon
The rivalry between track titans Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon has never really had a definite end to it, and that is fine by us.
The rivalry began in 2000 after a wreck at Watkins Glen. Both drivers had a heated discussion in the garage following the race, with promises of retribution. However, all was well until March 2001 at Bristol, when Gordon spun Stewart while entering the final corner of the final lap.
Stewart repaid Gordon coming onto pit road, and this time, the hard feelings lingered a bit longer. Nothing serious happened between the two again until June 2005 at Dover, when Stewart turned Gordon hard into the wall. They met again early in the 2006 Daytona 500, when both ended up in the wall, similar to their Watkins Glen incident six years before.
These men wish to best each other because they both respect each other. Both acknowledge the talent the other has and have managed to race each other cleanly on multiple occasions.
At the same time, both men are quite temperamental, and if one makes contact with the other, be sure that harsh words will be exchanged.
8. Ford vs. Chevy
Although it is the drivers who make the best rivalries, we can credit a couple of manufacturers for the oldest rivalry.
Car companies have gone through NASCAR like a whirlwind. Brands such as Dodge, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Hudson have all graced the field at one point or another. But Chevrolet and Ford have been in NASCAR since the beginning, and they'll be there until the end.
Both continue to win and be dominant across the series, and both continue to garner much love from the fans. The brand often decides whether or not a driver becomes a favorite driver to some fans, although the driver is usually the deciding factor to most.
Still, Ford against Chevrolet is one of the best rivalries we continue to see every weekend.
7. Kevin Harvick vs. Greg Biffle
Although they may seem to get along these days, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick have never quite seen eye to eye.
This feud goes back to the Nationwide Series in 2001, when Biffle was a rookie and Harvick was chasing his first series championship.
That May at Loudon, N.H., Harvick looked to be on the way to victory when the lapped Ford of Biffle held him up, handing the win to Jason Keller. Harvick met Biffle on pit road, where the two engaged in a shouting match before being separated by NASCAR officials.
The feud got interesting at Bristol in March 2002, when Harvick was wrecked by Biffle in the late going. Harvick promised payback and he kept his promise by famously leaping over Biffle's car in an attempt at strangling the Roush driver.
After that incident, the exchanges have been more tame, if anything. During a Nationwide race at Chicago in 2005, Harvick held up Biffle in an attempt to keep him a lap down. Biffle went on to finish second while Harvick won the race.
In theor latest incident, the two exchanged paint and words during practice at Martinsville in October 2011. No fists were thrown, but both ran into each other on the track and in the garage, and both teams almost came to blows.
Still, it would have been interesting if the two continued their rivalry to this day.
6. Dale Earnhardt vs. the Daytona 500
The history between Dale Earnhardt Sr. and the Daytona 500 was a rivalry of a different color, but is was a rivalry all the same.
Dale Sr. was NASCAR's face. He was also a product of the purest of fans, "One Tough Customer", "The Intimidator", a legend in black and the middle of NASCAR's holy trinity.
But while No. 3 was NASCAR's greatest, it was the legacy of NASCAR's biggest race, the Daytona 500, that trumped Earnhardt's legacy.
Time after time, the 500 humbled Earnhardt, from wrecks to running out of fuel. It took 20 tries for Earnhardt to finally gain victory in the 500.
However, in the end, Earnhardt perished in the 2001 edition of the Great American Race. Likewise, in the end, no legacy is greater than Daytona's.
5. Jimmy Spencer vs. Kurt Busch
Although the outcome of this rivalry was quite ugly, this was, without a doubt, one of NASCAR's best rivalries.
You had the old guard in Jimmy Spencer, a former modified standout who really didn't have a memorable Cup career, but was still well known for having a vicious temper. Then you had Kurt Busch, who was a young upstart with the best equipment anyone could want.
After Busch felt that he was dumped by Spencer at Phoenix in 2001, Busch had zero qualms in knocking Spencer out of the way at Bristol in 2002, on his way to his first career win. Spencer paid Busch back at Indy that summer (crash is at 3:21 in the video), sending Busch into the wall and ending his day, but leading to a very memorable post-race interview from Busch.
After the two traded paint at Michigan in August of 2003, Spencer proceeded to break Busch's nose and earned a race suspension while becoming NASCAR's newest hero. Meanwhile, Busch was put into the villain role, a role he still hasn't entirely shed.
4. Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski
Both of these competitors are as congenial as they come, yet we still wonder why they had such a strong beef with each other in 2009 and 2010.
At Talladega in the spring of 2009, the race came down to a battle between Keselowski and Edwards. When Keselowski went low coming into the tri-oval, Edwards came low to block him, only to turn himself around and end up airborne and into the fence.
Both chalked the incident up to hard racing, yet when the two met at Atlanta the next year, Edwards gained retribution in a similar fashion following an earlier incident. This time, Keselowski went airborne, much like Edwards did the year before, but thankfully, both were unharmed.
A last-lap duel which ended up with Keselowski's Dodge wadded up and Edwards winning at Gateway in 2010 seemed to put a lid on the rivalry, and both seem to race each other with a lot more respect these days.
3. Smokey Yunick vs. The Establishment
When it came to rules, Smokey Yunick was a genius in working the gray area.
He was a racer's racer, a hard-partying inventor who only wanted to go faster than the fastest. In NASCAR, he found many who wished to join him, such as Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts and Herb Thomas. As a result, Yunick won several races and championships as a car owner and crew chief.
However, it was due to his ingenuity behind the wrenches that he often ran afoul with NASCAR president Bill France. There are several instances that Yunick wrote about in his book "Smokey's Best Damn Garage in Town" where, when faced with a threat from France, Yunick would defiantly withdraw his entry knowing that it was his cars and drivers that generated the most fanfare.
Yunick finally got tired of dealing with the politics of NASCAR after France overruled Yunick's drive for increased safety measure in the cars, leaving in 1970.
2. Dale Earnhardt vs. Jeff Gordon
Some of the best rivalries of all time:
- Batman vs. Superman
- Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
- Summer vs. winter
- Dale Earnhardt vs. Jeff Gordon
Earnhardt and Gordon were the complete antithesis of each other, and that helped to fuel the flames of this rivalry.
This was a case of experience against youth. One was a cowboy in every sense of the word while the other was just a kid. One was dark speed while the other was a colorful blur.
Things never got unpleasant between the two, although Earnhardt often took the time to lob a few jabs in Gordon's direction. After he won the 1995 Brickyard 400 Earnhardt exclaimed that he was the first man to win the Brickyard 400. When someone pointed out that Gordon had won the race in '94, Earnhardt quipped that he was right — he was the first man.
Both drivers were great, and the fact that Earnhardt put a lot into this rivalry showed that he was willing to pass the torch to such a talented driver like Gordon.
1. David Pearson vs. Richard Petty
Every NASCAR fan who is familiar with the rivalry between David Pearson and Richard Petty looks upon it fondly, as it is one of the only times in NASCAR history that a rivalry was based solely on respect.
It was this immense respect of each other that brought both drivers to bring their A-game when racing. They raced each other harder than anyone else, and that is why they placed first and second more than anyone else.
However, you never did see these drivers come to blows, even after their spectacular 1976 Daytona 500 finish. In the end, Petty won 200 times while Pearson won 105 times. They placed first and second to each other 63 times.
What does that say about their desire to beat each other?