There are always events to report when it comes to the world of NASCAR. Most of those events are crashes, or fires, or something that has the whole world stopping and staring at their screens just hoping that the man inside will be just fine. However, at Darlington over the weekend, there was a different type of ‘scuffle’ that erupted on the track. In fact, it looked way more like a boxing match or a football scuffle than having anything to do with cars.
We take you to pit road, where the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing crew actually hauled off and charged the No. 51 Phoenix Racing crew. No, I’m not kidding. It was actually freaking hysterical. In fact, if these men had the ability to sing and dance it would have made a great new version of West Side Story.
On Saturday night, following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the scuffle broke out. It was a super humid evening and the race was filled – as always – with minor nicks and scrapes. But it would be when Kurt Busch found his No. 51 Chevrolet running into the wall while being immersed in the top 15 drivers that the fireworks began. The wall caused a cut to his front tire, and it came from the fact that Ryan Newman had to check up to avoid coming in contact with Aric Almirola in Turn 2.
But it wasn’t the actual butt into the wall that made life difficult for the hardworking crews. It was when Busch came to pit road for repairs to his tire and then proceeded to exit through the No. 39 stall, which – in all fairness – was next to his pit. The crews grew seriously angry.
It was Busch’s crew chief, Nick Harrison, who explained that: “We came in to do a little damage repair and the 39 guys were mad because Kurt blew out of our pit stall. There was nothin’ I could do at that point. We were just trying to get to the end of the race.”
Randy Newman’s crew chief, Tony Gibson, said he had absolutely nothing against Busch or the Phoenix Racing crew, but his people were forced to “jump out of the way” to avoid being hit. Gibson made a point to say that: “When you come ripping through someone’s pit box like that, he could have taken out five or six guys plus the officials pretty easy. It’s a miracle someone didn’t get hurt.”
An over-exaggeration? Hmmm, perhaps. But he also took it one step further by saying: “The guys were out on pit road working when Busch did his burn out. We had just finished our stop. It was kind of uncalled for to come ripping through our pits like that when you could have run everybody over. His emotions were high and hot and our guys were scared, hot and mad.”
Oh yeah they were. We are talking a whole lot of men who literally looked like they were in a roadhouse bar brawl that got out of control…and fast. Both teams sat and spoke to NASCAR, and it seems that NASCAR will be handling the situation from here on out.
Gibson said his crew was told to just “keep their cool, stay focused and go on.”
The Busch statements were a little more vague. After the race, the Phoenix Racing crew was asking for Busch’s locale at the track. After Busch and Newman found each other on pit road, after the No. 51 ran into the back of the No. 39 Chevrolet – it was the No. 39 team’s gasman, Andy Rueger, that first charged the Phoenix Racing team causing a NASCAR official to be knocked down in the process.
“Their gasman (Rueger), a big boy that used to be at Brewco, came in there wanting to fight Kurt, raising hell. It was hard racing. We had a great run tonight, ran up front a lot. We just didn’t get the finish we were looking for. Kurt was a little frustrated and spun off the pit road. I guess he was a little close to some of the pit road guys, but that’s between them and Kurt. As far as on the track racing, I don’t think there’s any hard feelings with the 39 and us. But they came down there with a bunch of drama. It’s just part of racing. I think that’s great for the sport. If they want to come down and fight, so be it.”
See that? Another like me who loves the ‘agony of defeat’ part. Let’s face it, guys – without the scuffles racing is just a bunch of cars going around in a circle…boring!
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said, the sanctioning body had yet to speak to Busch and was taking the incident under review. Despite speculation that Busch had jeopardized his position with the Phoenix Racing team because of his ill-timed burnout, James Finch, the owner, said that wasn’t the case. And Harrison said that the whole team remained committed to its driver.
In the end, neither one was at the top of the heap. In fact, Busch and Newman finished 21st and 23rd, respectively.
Now, this scuffle – although fun to watch – thankfully was more like something you would expect in the humid air filled with pent-up emotions. To me, the worst still occurred in the lead up to the Kobalt Tools 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when Robbie Gordon and Kevin Conway got into it.
It was on a Friday night when Robby Gordon supposedly “ambushed” Conway in the garage area at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (said to have been completely unprovoked.) Gordon had previously confronted Joe Nemechek, Gordon’s car owner on pit road during Cup series qualifying, by shoving him and warning him that he was looking for Gordon and would assault him.
According to Conway’s statements, there were many witnesses, including a crew chief that signed a police report documenting the physical attack on Conway.
So, although I am a lover of scuffles, I am most definitely not a proponent of moronic ‘bullies’ who seem to want to test the theory that their…talent is longer than the other guy’s. Really, that is just so high school.
I say, keep NASCAR as clean as possible BUT – a little West Side Story on a hot May night never hurt anybody!
Until Next Time, Everybody,
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