NASCAR: The 10 Most Intense Feuds in NASCAR History

Christopher Leone@ChristopherlionSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2012

NASCAR: The 10 Most Intense Feuds in NASCAR History

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    For the past few years, the final weeks of the NASCAR season have played host to some of the hottest tempers of the year. In 2010, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch got into a run-in at Homestead, while the next year saw Busch tangle with Ron Hornaday at Texas.

    This year, the "feud du jour" belongs to Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, whose incident at Phoenix just a few short weeks ago hasn't yet left the sport's consciousness. Gordon, frustrated by multiple perceived on-track slightings by Bowyer, deliberately wrecked both of their cars in that race's final laps, leading to a major fight and serious fines.

    But is it really one of the most intense feuds in NASCAR history?

    Sure, what Bowyer and Gordon went through was significant on a level that's been somewhat lacking in the sport in recent years. But before Phoenix, not only did they never have any major altercations, they were buddies.

    Gordon called Champion's Week in Las Vegas "awkward" because Bowyer wouldn't talk to him, while Bowyer did his best to avoid discussing the incident entirely.

    No, there have been crazier ones throughout the sport's history. We've seen brothers tangle, public perceptions flipped, and championships won and lost. We've even seen one driver pistol-whipped, literally, by his opponent's wife. Gordon and Bowyer have been the poster children for recklessness in racing of late, but they've got nothing on these 10 feuds:

1994: Geoff vs. Brett Bodine

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    An incident in the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 was the cause of this spat, which kept the brothers Bodine from talking to one another for over a year.

    On a lap 100 restart, Brett led Geoff down the backstretch, but Geoff nudged Brett to take the lead in the third turn. A frustrated Brett then spun Geoff out, relegating him to a 39th place finish, while Brett would finish second to Jeff Gordon.

    After the race, Geoff angrily suggested that Brett had wrecked him on purpose, and Brett admitted to it. "We were going to win that race, there's no doubt," Geoff lamented.

    That incident, combined with off-track problems, kept the brothers from talking to one another until 1996, when they began to reconcile at their father's funeral.

1989: Darrell Waltrip vs. Rusty Wallace

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    One incident can completely flip around the public perception of two drivers, and such was the case after these two former Cup champions and current racing analysts tangled in the 1989 Winston at Charlotte.

    With just over a lap to go in the final 10-lap segment of the annual all-star race and $200,000 on the line, Wallace spun Waltrip, going on to win the race.

    In response, Waltrip's crew went on to confront a dismissive Wallace, leading to a major post-race fight in the infield.

    Though Wallace would go on to win his only championship later in the year, the formerly maligned Waltrip—"Jaws" was not always an endearing nickname—became a fan favorite, winning his first of two consecutive Most Popular Driver awards to break a five-year run by Bill Elliott.

2009-10: Carl Edwards vs. Brad Keselowski

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    The issues between these two former Nationwide Series champions started when Keselowski's last-lap move at Talladega in the spring of 2009 sent Edwards on a horrifying mid-air ride into the catchfence.

    The two continued to battle in 2010, with Edwards the key aggressor; after an early-race incident at the spring Atlanta race, Edwards took his damaged car back on track and flipped Keselowski on the frontstretch.

    The feud spilled over into Nationwide in July, when Edwards wrecked Keselowski on the last lap of a race at Gateway. In response, Keselowski's father Bob famously declared, "he's not gonna kill my boy."

    The sweetest revenge for Keselowski came on the scoreboard, as Brad won his first Sprint Cup before Edwards did.

1979: Cale Yarborough vs. Donnie Allison

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    The perfect storm that brought NASCAR to the forefront of American sports for the first time came in 1979, during the first unabridged live broadcast of any 500-mile race in television history.

    CBS benefited from a major snowstorm that kept much of the country at home, while viewers were treated to Cale Yarborough's valiant effort to make up two laps and chase down the dominant car of Donnie Allison.

    Allison led Yarborough on the final lap before contact on the backstretch caused both drivers to wreck in the third turn. While Richard Petty won the sixth Daytona 500 of his career, Allison and Yarborough began to argue, with Allison's brother Bobby showing up after the initial argument to provoke the fight.

    Cameras cut away from Petty's celebration to focus on the fight, which made the front page of the New York Times and cemented NASCAR as more than a regional sport.

2001-03: Jimmy Spencer vs. Kurt Busch

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    From 2001 to 2003, Spencer and Busch were the two drivers with the most significant bickering in the NASCAR garage—one at the end of a career of feuds, the other just beginning his.

    Their incidents began at Phoenix in 2001 and continued through the next season, with Busch taking his first career win by bumping Spencer out of the way at Bristol in March 2002.

    It was at Michigan in August 2003 when this feud spilled over, with Spencer punching Busch in the garage and earning a suspension for the next week's race at Bristol.

    While the two reportedly made peace in 2005, Spencer has been critical of Busch over the past year, calling for him to be suspended even before the Bob Pockrass incident at Dover.

2010-11: Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick

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    It's only natural that two hot-tempered drivers like Busch and Harvick would get to fighting eventually. This one got started in the 2010 season finale at Homestead, when Harvick wrecked Busch to bring out a late-race caution; Harvick said Busch raced him like a "clown" all day.

    Things heated up in 2011, when Busch and Harvick engaged in a major altercation on pit road at Darlington that saw Harvick leave his car to throw a punch and Busch pushing the unmanned No. 29 into the inside wall.

    Later in the year, Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday's Harvick-owned truck in that series' Texas race, earning himself a one-race Cup suspension.

1970: Bobby Isaac vs. Rumors of Illiteracy

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    Think of Isaac, NASCAR's champion for 1970, as the spiritual predecessor to Kurt Busch, both in talent and temper.

    The winner of 37 Cup races in 308 starts was well known for having a short fuse, especially when it came to a discussion of his background—rumors have persisted, even after his death, that he could neither read nor write because he dropped out of school at age 13.

    Though Isaac's on-track success coincided with the improvement of his off-track behavior, during his championship season, Isaac biographer Steve Lehto noted that a Car and Driver writer took things too far.

    The writer, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, suggested that Isaac was would "have been an armed robber" had he not raced and that his wife "teaches him a new word over the breakfast table each morning."

    Not surprisingly, Isaac punched the reporter the next time they saw one another.

1990: Jack Roush vs. Richard Childress

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    Ford and Chevrolet have always been bitter rivals in NASCAR. In 1990, Mark Martin led the points for most of the season until Dale Earnhardt took the lead with two races to go, relegating Martin to his first of five runner-up finishes in series points.

    While Martin and Earnhardt weren't known for headline-dominating feuds, their team owners, Jack Roush and Richard Childress, weren't so cordial.

    After the second race of the season at Richmond, Childress complained that race winner Martin had an oversized carburetor spacer in his car, aiding fuel mileage. NASCAR agreed and penalized Martin 46 points; he would lose the championship by 26.

    It was later revealed that the spacer plate had been bolted on rather than welded, which was not technically illegal, but the damage had been done. Martin has never won a championship, while Earnhardt would add three more for a total of seven.

    Roush's revenge has come of late in the Nationwide Series, where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has edged Childress' drivers for the past two championships.

2011-12: Kurt Busch vs. The Media

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    Though Busch has always been known for his hot temper, it was last year when he began to really have problems with the media.

    At Richmond in September, Busch had separate incidents with NASCAR.com's Joe Menzer and the Associated Press' Jenna Fryer, which included Busch ripping a transcript from Fryer's hands in the media room after the race.

    Then, after a spat with Dr. Jerry Punch after falling out of the season finale at Homestead that was captured on amateur video, Busch lost his job at Penske Racing.

    But perhaps the worst incident, or at least the final straw, came at Dover after a Nationwide race in June. The Sporting News' Bob Pockrass asked Busch if being on NASCAR probation affected the way he raced that day, and Busch responded with a threat of physical violence that led to a one-race suspension at Pocono the next week.

    He has since attempted to improve his media relations, a process documented in "Kurt Busch: The Outlaw," with mixed results.

1957: Tiny Lund vs. Lee Petty

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    Tiny Lund would join Petty Enterprises in 1957, making five early-season starts for the team in Dodges and Oldsmobiles before switching rides at the end of March.

    A few weeks later, before a race in Greensboro, N.C., Lund and Petty got into a dispute during driver introductions about Lund's payment.

    But contrary to his nickname, Lund was one of the biggest drivers in NASCAR history, four inches taller than Petty and maybe 100 pounds heavier.

    It took the entire Petty family to end the fight. Sons Richard and Maurice jumped in to aid their father, but it was mother Elizabeth who delivered the final blow to stun Lund—a shot to the head with her purse, within which she had a handgun.

    Interestingly, Lund would actually return to the team in 1967 for races at Daytona, Atlanta and Charlotte, scoring top five finishes in both the Daytona 500 and World 600.

    For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.

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