NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway: Welcome To the Terrordome
This week NASCAR rolls into Bristol, and as history has proven, anything can and will happen.
Short track racing takes skill and patience. It can bring out the best and most exciting racing of the season, but it can also fuel the fire of short tempers and spawn some of NASCAR’s most memorable melees.
With the track's variable banking in the corners and measuring just .533 miles around, NASCAR racing at Bristol is often compared to racing "jetfighters in a gymnasium."
The very fast, door-to-door racing style can bring out the ugly in even the most even-keeled temperaments; just one quick bump on the track can unhinge in the most docile of drivers.
Take for instance the shoving match between Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth after the 2006 Food City 500.
On the final lap, Kenseth nudged Gordon to inherit his third place position and sent Gordon's Dupont Chevrolet spinning.
After the checkered flag flew and Kurt Busch made his way to victory lane, a far more entertaining display was taking place on pit road.
Still donning his helmet and HANS device, Gordon exited his car like a bat out of hell and in a moment of anger, shoved Kenseth who was approaching the driver of the No. 24 Chevy with hands outstretched in an effort to apologize for the on-track incident.
NASCAR officials and crew members from both teams rapidly stepped in and separated the pair.
Kenseth took the blame, stating, “It was my fault that I took Jeff out. I didn’t mean to get in the back of him but I did.”
Gordon not only suffered the consequences by finishing a dismal 21st, but was also fined $10,000 for letting his primal instincts shine and was put on probation until Aug. 30, 2006.
One of the best Bristol brawls occurred during the Nationwide Channelelock 250 in March 2002 after Biffle struck Harvick’s Action Diecast Collectables Chevrolet on lap 241, sending him hard into the wall.
As Harvick's demolished racecar came to rest on the frontstretch, the driver made a hard charge towards Biffle’s crew chief Randy Goss to let him know that his driver had another thing coming.
“I’ve always said Greg Biffle was a good guy, but he’s the most impatient thing I’ve ever seen,” Harvick said. “I will be waiting for him when he gets (out of the car).”
During the final laps of the race, Harvick stood perched atop of his pit box waiting for Biffle to roll down pit road.
Moments after Biffle emerged from his car a furious Harvick literally leaped over the barrier and Biffle’s No. 60 Grainger Ford to confront his nemesis.
The drivers entered into a heated exchange that quickly turned into a wild mob of team members, media, and camera crews.
Fans roared with delight as NASCAR officials all but pried the two apart.
Despite being charged a hefty $15,000 fine and being put on probation until Aug. 28, 2006 for his actions, Harvick had the final say.
“My side of the story is pretty apparent—I let Greg Biffle get away with some stuff last year, and he comes and just rams me in the ass, ruins my brand new car,” Harvick said. “I ain’t gonna leave without telling him how I feel. That’s Biffle for ya. Biffle’s an idiot, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps the most notorious of events took place during the 1995’s Goody’s 500 where the on-track terror was lead by the one and only Dale Earnhardt Sr.
The “Intimidator” was involved in not one, but two controversial clashes as well as a handful of notable beating and bangings along the way.
The first saw Earnhardt take out race leader Rusty Wallace by tapping the rear bumper of the Miller Genuine Draft Ford, sending it spinning into the wall.
After the race, a salty Wallace approached Earnhardt and attempted to start an up close and personal “in your face” showdown.
In typical Earnhardt fashion, he downplayed the incident, stood back casually, and simply flashed Wallace his mischievous mustached grin.
An enraged Wallace hurled a plastic water bottle at the driver of the infamous black No. 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet, bouncing it right of the Intimidator’s nose.
The second skirmish involving Earnhardt was an attempt to make a last ditch move on Terry Labonte during the last lap of the race.
Earnhardt, who was running second, got into Labonte's Kellogg's Corn Flakes Chevrolet, attempting to spin him for the lead.
Despite having his cage rattled, Labonte managed to hold onto his position and finish the race in first place, sliding across the finish line sideways, just .10 seconds in front of Earnhardt.
As the checkered flag waved, Labonte then hit the wall head-on, crushing the front end of No. 5, but went to victory lane unharmed and un-intimidated, making it one of the best finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history.
What will this Sunday's Food City 500 have in store for drivers and their fans? Tune in to find out, but boy I wanna warn ya, it'll turn into a Bristol blitz!
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