Martinsville always brings out the best in any driver’s emotions, as you never know what will blow out of proportion. As seen on Sunday, there was a feud among two Chase drivers who’s chances are slowly slipping away (Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch) and also two Chase drivers that are teammates (Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton).
Feud No. 1: Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon
On lap 385, Gordon made slight contact with Busch as he passed him off of turn four. Busch followed this up by turning Gordon into the frontstretch wall.
There are signs that this is not over as when Busch spoke about the incident after the race to Sporting News, he implied things were not over.
"I didn't mean to get into him that hard,” Busch said. “But over the years with Gordon here, back in the 97 car (which Busch drove for Roush Racing), wrecking the 2 car, whether you're a Kurt fan or an ex-Rusty (Wallace) fan—he's wrecked the 2 car a lot here."
Busch has been known to display his temper at times as through a feud with Jimmy Spencer, so Gordon knew it was coming.
"I said it here, more than once, that I probably made the move a little late,” Gordon said. “I was going to get into him. It wasn't much. But I gave him enough of a reason that, whatever things he has from past history or whatever thoughts he has in there, it sparked it, you know? At that point, he was determined to wreck us."
The feud does not look like to be simmering over throughout the week. As of Tuesday, Busch and Gordon haven’t talked, as according to Gordon.
"There have not been any conversations with Kurt, and I doubt that there will be," he said on NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody. "The way I look at it, I race everybody the way they race me. I'm smart enough to know who I'm racing, and I look at every crash I've ever been in and ask what I could have done different. I dove in under him a little late and figured his spotter would see that I was there. I gave him a reason to lose his temper and wreck me, and I blame myself for that."
This is not the first incident between them either, as Gordon wrecked Busch earlier this year at Infineon Raceway.
So what does this hold for the future? Probably more drama between them, as every time they get beside each other, they’re both bound to think of the past. Most drivers, like Gordon said, race other drivers like they are raced. If Gordon feels Busch has rubbed him wrong, he’ll be the first to do it back. That also draws back to Busch, as seen at Martinsville on Sunday with his quick retaliation.
Though a point to think about is over the years, Gordon has been seen as the golden boy and one not to enter the feud circle. Sure, he did spruce up some words with Tony Stewart before, but that was it.
As of these past couple of years, Gordon seems to be involving himself in more battles, including Matt Kenseth and his own teammate Jimmie Johnson. Could this be due to him growing older and feeling he is in the right role to stand up for himself, knowing how the sport works? Or could it be due to his annoyance with the lack of championships as of late and how good the No. 48 team has been?
Feud No. 2: RCR Teammates Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton
With approximately 140 laps to go, teammates Harvick and Burton exchanged some thoughts under caution about Harvick’s displeasure on how Burton raced him.
“We were just racing.” Harvick said after the race, as according to the Roanoke Times.
Burton, however, had a different take on the incident.
"I don't understand what he is mad at,'' Burton said.”I think he is just wound up and racing for a championship. I can assure you I didn't do anything wrong and I would do it again a thousand times. Because if what I did was wrong, then I will just quit racing.
"There will come a point when he realizes that everybody in the world is not against him. And every time it's a conflict he is involved. And you would think over the amount of years that he has done it, that he would get the hint that he is always in the middle of it and maybe sometimes if he just backed up a little bit and caught his breath, he would be OK. I'm not out to harm him. I am a teammate of his and I am trying to help him and there comes a point where he needs to just catch his breath and realize that it's my race track too.''
Since the creation of multi-car teams, it’s been debated as to how teammates should race each other. At the beginning, there was the philosophy of two separate teams under one banner—as displayed in the movie Days of Thunder.
However, over time, owners discovered if they have teams working together, they can come to a discovery that will help both teams rise to the top.
The philosophy then came out by Rick Hendrick that, “teamwork is common people doing uncommon things.” This basically means that teammates work together off the track in the shop.
However, when they get to the track, they are supposed to race each other, just like they would race other competitors. Oh, and also, they don’t go out and wreck each other.
With the teammates feuding, it fights against that theory as by having that under caution discussion, they could have damaged each other's cars, therefore hurting the other person’s chances.
However, in looking at this feud in particular, there are two things to think about—their placement in the points and their relationship.
Currently, Harvick sits third in points in the thick of it, while Burton sits on the outside-looking in with regards to his championship chances. Could Harvick be all up in the face of Burton due to feeling his chances being violated? Could Harvick hold the theory that Burton should not be racing him as hard so he can get the most points possible?
Though also, the RCR teammates are perceived to have a good relationship, yet here they are feuding. Plus, to hear Harvick’s comments on his radio during the race stating this is not the first time that this has happened, stating two previous times.
If this has been an issue in the past, then why has not Harvick approached Burton and discussed it if they’re good friends? Or this the “good friends” part just there to therefore look good on the surface and feel at the same level of the Hendrick working system?
No matter the motives behind the feuds, no matter how they boil down, there’s one thing for sure—feuds are never over. Drivers have memories and never forget. Don’t be afraid if you see these types of issues coming back down the road with the same drivers.