NASCAR's Top 15 Bullies of All Time (With Video!)
NASCAR drivers are no strangers to heated exchanges, as the photo above should illustrate. In November 2010, after an accident under caution ended both of their days, Jeff Gordon decided to attack Jeff Burton as a way of releasing his frustration.
Neither driver is particularly renowned for his pugilistic skills or dirty driving, and as such neither has a spot on this list. In fact, you can ask just about every driver in the garage, and they'll probably tell you about a time when they lost their cool. It's the ones who do so repeatedly that pose problems.
This list is dedicated to those personalities, the biggest "bullies" in NASCAR, if you will. These guys are the ones that you've heard about whenever somebody brings up a tiff in the garage. They're usually involved when you see somebody getting wrecked on the race track.
But most of all, they keep things interesting and entertaining in a sport that has lost a little bit of flavor due to increased corporate involvement. Without further ado, here are the top 15 bullies to ever make a living in NASCAR.
15. Russ Wheeler
What's that? Russ Wheeler wasn't a real NASCAR driver?
No. He was only a character in Days of Thunder, but he had a hell of an attitude. In the clip above, Wheeler sabotages protagonist Cole Trickle's race with some dirty tricks to take the victory before Trickle gets his revenge.
If Wheeler was a real driver, he'd probably make the top five.
14. Jean Girard
I'm not going overboard with movie characters, I promise, this is the last one. But there's no way that Jean Girard's character in Talladega Nights couldn't make this list.
I mean, no doubt, Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. themselves weren't the nicest of fellas now and again, but at least they didn't come in from Formula 1 and expect to come out and win everything. (Ahem, like somebody else on this list.)
13. Tony Stewart
Smoke is, no doubt, one of the most talented drivers on the Sprint Cup circuit. He's also definitely learned to keep his temper in check over the years.
But that doesn't mean that he's not willing to tell it like it is. Occasionally, the media is his target; sometimes, it's other drivers. This video may be the most interesting of all, as he voices his displeasure with a sprint car officiating crew in 2008.
12. Ernie Irvan
You know that you've got some on-track issues when your nickname is "Swervin' Ernie Irvan."
1991 was a rough year for Irvan. He went from that season's Daytona 500 winner to pariah when two accidents that he triggered, at Talladega and Pocono, led to the creation of the nickname and this apology at a drivers' meeting before that season's second race at Talladega.
In the video, Felix Sabates claims that, "Ray Charles could see that he caused both of those accidents." Irvan admitted to reckless driving and became a more patient driver as time went on.
11. Juan Pablo Montoya
At his best, Montoya is a world-class driver who has wins in the Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of Daytona and Grand Prix of Monaco. At his worst, he's an impatient driver with the inflated ego that comes with a few years at the top of Formula 1. (Jean Girard, anyone?)
This is an example of how impatience leads him to make stupid decisions to tear up equipment. His whining and swearing on his mother's life that he didn't speed down Indianapolis pit road in 2010 to throw away the Brickyard 400, is an example of the ego. Montoya thinks he's the best, no matter when or where, and it doesn't always come across well.
10. Brad Keselowski
Keselowski's learned a little bit of give and take since sending Carl Edwards into the Talladega catchfence in 2009—partially because Edwards returned the favor in Atlanta the next season. But that doesn't mean that Keselowski is suddenly a quiet driver.
Later in 2010, during the famous driver self-intros at the Bristol Motor Speedway, Keselowski took to the microphone to call Kyle Busch an ass. He was greeted with a cheer of over 104 decibels. He may not be so guilty of bullying as much as pandering.
9. Robby Gordon
No, Gordon didn't cause this incident with Michael Waltrip at Loudon, but he did exacerbate it by throwing his helmet at Waltrip's car and later calling Waltrip a piece of excrement on live television.
Many claim that Gordon is reduced to owner-driver status because he's so difficult to get along with, while others insist that it's because he tears up so much equipment, whether it's his own cars or those of others.
The fact is, depending on the day and who you ask (Tony Stewart might have a word or two about fighting with Gordon, while Marcos Ambrose can certainly talk about getting wrecked), it could be either.
8. Kevin Harvick
Harvick has gotten into his share of fights over his career, but going after Joe Nemechek after a wreck in the 2005 All-Star race might have been the most ridiculous.
Really? You're going after a guy who got turned into you in a non-points race? If this is the championship-deciding event, or even Harvick's own equipment in question, I might understand. But this was a pretty bad example of Harvick's temper boiling over.
7. Curtis Turner
Those of you who know little to nothing about Turner should watch this 1964 promo film, produced by Ford to show how street car innovations were originally developed at the race track. Turner, though, wasn't a golden boy.
On the track, he wouldn't hesitate to move a driver out of the way with his front bumper, and off of it, he had a reputation for wild drinking and raging parties. Turner was also briefly banned from NASCAR for trying to start a drivers' union, a concept that NASCAR founder Bill France utterly despised.
6. Darrell Waltrip
Modern fans will likely have a revised view of Jaws, thinking of him more as a mouthy announcer than a despised driver, but that's exactly what he was in the 1980s.
In the video above, a promo for the Christian organization Athletes in Action, Waltrip talks about his time on top in the 1980s, during which he developed one of the biggest egos in the sport. Think Kyle Busch in a full-size Buick Regal.
5. Kurt Busch
For those of you who only heard about the final straw in Kurt Busch's employment with Penske Racing—the outburst on Dr. Jerry Punch after falling out of the Homestead race—here it is.
Yes, it had been a tough season for Busch, who once likened his team to a "monkey humping a football" during the season and feuded with Jimmie Johnson. But the utter lack of professionalism proved the final straw for a team that prides itself upon that very trait. It's almost hard to believe that this wasn't a scene out of Talladega Nights. Be warned, James Finch. Be warned.
4. Jimmy Spencer
Speaking of Kurt Busch, ever hear about the time that he got punched by Jimmy Spencer? Well, here's the in-car video of it as it happened after the race.
You can see Spencer walking around the front of the No. 97 car, and if you turn up your speakers, you can hear the war of words (and Spencer's fist) that resulted from it. Spencer sat out the next weekend's race at Bristol in the wake of this incident, only one of a handful that marred his career.
3. Kyle Busch
The Camping World Truck Series usually runs on Friday or Saturday night races, when a bunch of ex-Cup drivers and some career second-tier racers are more likely to get some hot tempers. But this incident, in which Rowdy decided to administer some vigilante justice to Ron Hornaday under caution for what wasn't even that bad of a wreck, is about as bad as bullying gets in NASCAR.
As a result, we may not see Busch at all in Trucks or Nationwide this upcoming season, as Cup sponsor M&M's wants him to get his act together. If he doesn't, don't be surprised if Joe Gibbs dumps him, just like Roger Penske dumped his brother.
2. Carl Edwards
Yeah, you can talk about Edwards flipping Brad Keselowski at Atlanta in 2010. You can refer to him spinning Keselowski at Gateway in a Nationwide race that same season, too.
But this video of Edwards threatening Matt Kenseth after a race at Martinsville a few years before might be the worst instance of them all. Edwards plays the nice guy for the most part, but he's more than willing to be a punk now and again. (Bonus: The fun part about this video is that Edwards and Kenseth have been teammates for Edwards' entire Sprint Cup career.)
1. Dale Earnhardt
Sure, Earnhardt was beloved by most NASCAR fans, but he drove to wreck people. Never was this more apparent than this 1999 Bristol race, when Earnhardt paid back Terry Labonte's clean pass with a front fender to the rear of Labonte's car.
Have you ever heard of something as surreal as boos to an Earnhardt victory? Well, now you have. And he deserved it. Earnhardt was a great driver, but he wouldn't think twice about playing dirty over the 20 years or so that his career lasted.
That's what makes him the biggest bully in NASCAR history.