Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway – site of the upcoming Sharpie 500 – is one of those races where feelings and fenders are bound to get wrinkled. Even some of the best in the business lose their cool in the mountains of east Tennessee.
5. Dale Jarrett and Bobby Hillin. In April 1993, during the Food City 500, Hillin was off the lead lap because of an earlier accident. As Jarrett described it, an “idiot who was laps down drove off into the corner and into the side of me.” Jarrett’s Joe Gibbs Racing machine wound up behind the wall for repairs while Hillin continued on. During the caution flag, Jarrett walked onto the track with his helmet, waited for Hillin, wound up and fired a direct hit on the driver’s door. Bullseye.
4. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Gordon is usually one cool customer, but not on this March day in 2006. Racing for position, Gordon passed Kenseth with a little more than one lap remaining. On the final lap No. 17 spun out No. 24 and took the checkered flag. On pit road Kenseth walked to Gordon’s car to apologize but Gordon didn’t give him a chance. With his helmet still on, Gordon jumped from his Chevy and shoved Kenseth. Team members quickly came between the two and defused the scrap.
3. Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon. The spring 500-lapper in 2001 brought a late race duel between the two champions. Battling for fourth position, Gordon spun out Stewart on the final circuit. A furious Stewart chased down Gordon’s car on pit road after the race and knocked him sideways. A $10,000 fine and probation awaited the Home Depot chauffeur inside the NASCAR trailer.
2. Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt spun Wallace early in the August 1995 night race. Earnhardt received the black flag and was sent to the rear of the field. Wallace lost a lap and suffered some car damage. After the race, Wallace confronted Earnhardt. Reports at the time had a water bottle bouncing off Earnhardt’s nose.
1. Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle. Probably the most dramatic face-to-face confrontation at Bristol. Biffle knocked Harvick into the wall late in the 2002 spring Busch Series race. After climbing from his wrecked car Harvick criticized Biffle on television and said, “I’ll be waiting when he comes in here.” True to his word, when Biffle pulled into pit lane after the checkered flag, Harvick jumped over the pit road barrier and Biffle’s deck lid. He grabbed Biffle’s fire suit and words were exchanged. A lot of yelling and shoving that made for good television took place. Harvick went straight to the NASCAR hauler because he knew he would be called there anyway.
(Patrick Reynolds is a professional racing mechanic who has worked for several NASCAR teams.)