Ranking the 10 Most Pointless Feuds in Recent NASCAR History
There have been countless high-profile feuds in NASCAR, topped by the most infamous one of all, the 1979 battle at the end of the Daytona 500 between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough.
There was also the feud between Darrell Waltrip and the late Dale Earnhardt that lasted for much of the early years of their head-to-head racing careers before the two became near-best friends on and off the racetrack later on.
We get those feuds. But there are some feuds that we simply don't get, the ones that spark pointless retaliation or confrontation. There have been countless ones like that, dating back to the start of NASCAR in 1948.
But for the sake of this exercise, let's take a look at the 10 most pointless feuds in recent NASCAR history.
10. Jack Roush vs. Toyota
When Toyota announced it would be coming into the then-Nextel Cup (now Sprint Cup) Series in 2007, team owner Jack Roush wasn't exactly welcoming.
Per ESPN's Terry Blount, Roush made numerous disparaging comments about the Japanese auto manufacturer, including that he was "going to war" and that he would "hand Toyota their heads."
Not cool, Jack. We get the rah-rah U.S. sentiment, but Roush appeared to take things from a business and racing standpoint and make it personal.
Even then-Ford director of racing Dan Davis got into the act, calling Toyota "a predator."
Roush continued his haranguing campaign for another couple of years, including accusing Toyota of stealing Ford parts (see video). But once Toyota started whoopin' his beloved Fords, he not so coincidentally quieted down for the most part.
And in perhaps the biggest slap back in Roush's face, loyal longtime soldier Matt Kenseth left Roush Fenway Racing and Ford at the end of last season to race a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013.
Fast forward to now, where, heading into Saturday's Coke Zero 400, Toyota has won seven of the first 17 races this season, while Ford has won three.
9. Robby Gordon vs. Michael Waltrip, 2005
The second edition of the Chase for the Nextel Cup got off to a crazy start when Michael Waltrip and Robby Gordon got into a wreck at New Hampshire.
Waltrip put Gordon into the wall, and after climbing from his car and waiting for Waltrip to circle back around, Gordon threw his helmet at Waltrip's car.
Per the video above, Waltrip could be heard over his team radio saying, "He (Gordon) threw his helmet at my car. Well, that's just rude. It was his fault."
Gordon replied in his own inimitable way a few moments later, dropping a cuss word on national TV that, including his helmet-throwing antics, cost him a total of $35,000, 50 driver points and 50 car owner points.
8. Joey Logano vs. Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart, 2013
Joey Logano probably left Auto Club Speedway earlier this year singing the line from the Coasters' 1959 hit "Charlie Brown": "Why's everybody always pickin' on me?"
First, in a feud that dated back to the season-opening Daytona 500, Logano and former teammate Denny Hamlin got into it at Bristol in mid-March, with Hamlin spinning Logano into the wall. A week later on the final lap at Fontana, Logano got his revenge.
The two cars came together—it's still debatable who caused the crash—and Hamlin wound up getting the worst of the deal, hitting the inner retaining wall so hard that he suffered a compression fracture in his lower back that would cause him to miss the next four races.
But just moments after that happened, Tony Stewart—also former teammates with Hamlin and Logano—came stalking for Logano for another incident during the race, when Logano apparently drew Stewart's ire for blocking him on a late-race restart. Stewart's actions left Logano dumbfounded that Stewart would be so angry.
Crews from both teams also got involved before calm was restored.
7. Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch, 2011
It's no secret that Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch do not like each other. They've had a number of run-ins over the years, not just in Sprint Cup racing, but Nationwide competition as well.
But the May 7, 2011, race at Darlington escalated the ongoing feud to a new level.
Busch and Harvick were racing hard late in the race when contact occurred between the two, sending Harvick into teammate Clint Bowyer. Like a tiger ready to pounce on its prey, Harvick slowed down in front of Busch on pit road after the race, stopped, climbed out and made a beeline to confront Busch, who was still behind the wheel.
When he saw Harvick coming, Busch quickly pile-drove Harvick's driver-less car into the pit road wall to escape the wrath of the oncoming foe, causing members of Harvick's pit crew to scramble for safety, just barely avoiding the wayward car. Harvick tried to throw a punch at Busch, but he missed.
6. Jeff Gordon vs. Matt Kenseth, 2006
This incident was both surprising and comical.
Wonder Boy, aka Mr. Nice Guy, aka Jeff Gordon, got into it with another typically mild-mannered driver, Matt Kenseth, on May 26, 2006, at Bristol.
Leading with just five laps to go, Kenseth was pushed aside by hard-charging former Roush Fenway Racing teammate Kurt Busch. Kenseth was shuffled back to third (Kevin Harvick also got past him), where Gordon moved him out of the way with two to go to take the spot. Kenseth then attempted a similar move, instead taking Gordon out on the last lap.
Once the race ended, Gordon vented his unhappiness on Kenseth. Kenseth sought Gordon out on pit road to reportedly apologize, according to Ed Hinton, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel (h/t the Daily News). But Gordon would have none of it. As Gordon approached, Kenseth appeared to be smiling. But the grin was quickly wiped off his face when Gordon, wearing an oversized helmet that made him look like a space monster, shoved Kenseth.
According to MSN.com, Gordon later said, "I'm sure he didn't mean it and all that stuff, but I wasn't happy about it."
5. Carl Edwards vs. Matt Kenseth, 2007
Brothers fight, but teammates aren't supposed to. Yet Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth came close to blows following the Oct. 21, 2007, race at Martinsville.
In a feud that had been building for some time, Edwards pushed Kenseth during a TV interview. He then pulled back, as if preparing to punch him, before stalking away.
Edwards later implied that it was a joke, but it sure didn't look like he was joking when the incident happened. Perhaps Edwards realized that had he gone a step too far and that it was caught on TV. It obviously would not have looked good, so he wisely backed off at the last second.
Interestingly, Kenseth wasn't the only teammate Edwards has had an issue with. Just a few weeks ago, per Bob Pockrass of SportingNews.com, Edwards called out Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle for not helping him out in the Michigan race.
Biffle said he would have helped Edwards out in any other instance, but he had a dominating lead in the race at the time and didn't want to give that up.
It was a wise move for Biffle, as he wound up winning the race, while Edwards finished eighth.
4. Brad Keselowski vs. Carl Edwards
Let's face it: These guys just don't like each other, and they haven't liked each other for a long time.
While they haven't had many battles of late, earlier in their respective careers, both on the Nationwide and Sprint Cup side of things, the two battled it out on more than one occasion.
Among the pair's highlights—or lowlights, if you prefer—were a number of on-track incidents.
1. Talladega, Spring 2009: Keselowski tags Edwards' car, sending him into the catchfence, with debris injuring several spectators.
2. Atlanta, Spring 2010: Keselowski again wrecks Edwards. After lengthy repairs, Edwards comes back onto the track and proceeds to promptly wreck Keselowski, sending him spinning into the catchfence.
3. Gateway, Summer 2010: The pair go at it again, with Edwards spinning Keselowski on the last lap to go on and win the Nationwide Series race.
But Keselowski may have gotten the last laugh in the big picture. He won his first Sprint Cup championship in 2012, while Edwards is still looking for his first Cup title (although he admittedly came close in 2011, losing to Tony Stewart on a tiebreaker).
3. Kyle Busch vs. Ron Hornaday Jr., 2011
If there was ever a classic case of pointless road rage, it was at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2011.
It's no secret that Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick had a long ongoing feud. But this particular Friday night at Texas, Busch took it out on a then-Kevin Harvick Inc. driver, Ron Hornaday Jr.
While competing in a Camping World Truck Series race, Busch and Hornaday jousted for much of the race with each other. When Hornaday got into Busch late in the race, the younger Busch brother took matters into his own hands, ramming the back of Hornaday's truck and pile-driving him almost head-on into the wall.
Busch was suspended for the rest of the weekend, including for the Sprint Cup race that Sunday. Primary sponsor M&Ms also withdrew its support of Busch's No. 18 Toyota Sprint Cup car for the remaining two races that season, almost pulling its sponsorship entirely.
But Hornaday wound up losing the most. He was in contention to win the Truck Series championship up until Busch's road rage incident. Had it not happened, Hornaday may have gone on to win a fifth career Trucks championship. Instead, he finished the season in a disappointing fourth place, and he can forever thank Busch for that.
2. Jimmy Spencer vs. Kurt Busch, 2003
This incident is both prolific and pointless in NASCAR annals.
Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch had jousted several times dating back to 2001. More often than not, Spencer got the worst end of the deal, like when Busch pushed him out of the way en route to a win at Bristol in 2002.
But not this time at Michigan International Speedway. After another on-track flare up between the pair, Busch stopped in front of Spencer's hauler after the race and revved his engine loudly.
Spencer, in turn, ran into the back of Busch's car and before Kurt had a chance unbuckle, Spencer had bounded over to his opponent's car and proceeded to punch Busch in the nose, drawing Spencer a one-race suspension.
1. Jeff Gordon vs. Clint Bowyer, 2012
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had the Thrilla in Manilla. Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer had the Phalanx in Phoenix last November.
The two drivers had gone through the entire season butting heads—or bumpers—numerous times. But it all came to a head in the closing laps when Gordon decided he'd had his season's fill, intentionally wrecking Bowyer.
Bowyer started things by having contact with Gordon late in the race, pretty much ending the latter's chance for a top-10 finish in the race. And given that his championship chances were out the window as well at that point, Gordon decided to intentionally wreck Bowyer (also inadvertently wrecked Joey Logano and Aric Almirola in the process).
In so doing, Gordon essentially ended Bowyer's bid for the Sprint Cup championship. As a result, crew members from both teams engaged in a near-riot on pit road that went on for several minutes, even with the best efforts of NASCAR officials and sheriff's deputies to try and stop it.
And then, when things had finally calmed down, Bowyer came trotting along, attempting to find Gordon in his hauler, only to be restrained. Gordon was fined $100,000.
Interestingly enough, in the following race, the season finale at Homestead, both drivers raced each other clean. Gordon won the race and Bowyer finished second.
But even more telling, Bowyer also ultimately finished second to Brad Keselowski in the Sprint Cup championship, losing a bid at the title by a mere 39 points.
Had Phoenix not happened, it's likely Keselowski's championship-deciding margin would have been a lot smaller...or maybe Bowyer may have wound up winning the crown.
We'll never know, obviously, but something tells me if the roles are reversed somewhere down the road and Gordon is on the verge of winning a fifth career Cup championship, he better keep a watchful eye in his rear-view mirror for Bowyer, just in case.
Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski