Fighting mad: 10 memorable driver confrontations during the Chase


MARTINSVILLE, Va. – They’ve cussed and fussed, wrestled and wrangled and beat and banged.

NASCAR’s Chase not only determines the champion but provides the settling for driver confrontations on and off the track.

As the series prepares for Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, a question asked is if Matt Kenseth will retaliate against Joey Logano for their run-in earlier this month at Kansas Speedway. If not, might there be another driver conflict ready to explode this weekend?

With that in mind, here’s a look at the top 10 driver confrontations involving at least one title contender during Chase races only.

10 – Kevin Harvick vs. Matt Kenseth, Martinsville 2014

Upset with Kenseth about contact that wrecked him, Harvick said after the race: “He won’t win this championship. If we don’t, he won’t.’’

Kenseth takes the blame. He wheel-hopped entering Turn 1 and slid up the track, striking the left rear of Harvick’s car and sending it into the wall.

Harvick proves to be right. Kenseth doesn’t win the title because Harvick does.

9 – Greg Biffle vs. Jimmie Johnson, Martinsville 2013

While Johnson is about to do an interview after the race, Biffle approaches from behind, grabs Johnson around the shoulder and spins him around.

Biffle is upset with contact the two had during the race that damaged the rear of Biffle’s car and forced him to pit.

After a brief confrontation – “You better watch it,’’ Biffle tells Johnson – Biffle turns to walk away. Johnson grabs him by the arm. “You want to talk about it?’’ Johnson asks. “I just did,’’ Biffle said.

8 – Kyle Busch vs. David Reutimann, Kansas 2010

Reutimann spins during the race after contact from Kyle Busch. Later in the race Reutimann, who is not in the Chase, runs into Busch, who is in the Chase, forcing Busch’s car into the wall. Busch finishes 21st and drops from third to seventh in the points.

7 – Kevin Harvick vs. Jimmie Johnson, Chicago 2015

Johnson makes contact with Harvick when he tries to get off the apron and back on the track on a restart. The contact causes Harvick’s left rear tire to go down a few laps later and his car to crash. Harvick opens the Chase finishing 42nd. After the race, Johnson seeks Harvick to explain what happened. Harvick responds by striking Johnson in the chest.

6 – Carl Edwards vs. Matt Kenseth, Martinsville 2007

As Kenseth prepares to do a TV interview after the race, Edwards, his teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, approaches and places his hands on Kenseth’s chest, pushing him back to talk. Later, Edwards reaches out with his left hand to grab Kenseth while balling his right fist and faking a punch. Kenseth flinches. Edwards smiles at Kenseth before walking away. Edwards later apologizes and says the two have barely talked in a six-month period.

5 – Jeff Gordon vs. Jeff Burton, Texas 2010

They wreck under caution. As they walk toward each other on the backstretch, Gordon lunges and shoves Burton twice. Officials step between them but Gordon continues to display his displeasure. Gordon later said: “I wanted to show him how upset I was, but I wanted to do a whole lot more than that.’’ Burton said the incident was his fault and he understands Gordon’s reaction: “He was mad and he should have been mad.’’

4 – Brad Keselowski vs. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart, Charlotte 2014

Denny Hamlin chases after Brad Keselowski as they both drive back to the garage after the race. Hamlin gets out of his car but is held back by his crew. Moments later, Matt Kenseth runs after Keselowski between the haulers and puts him in a headlock.

Problems begin with about 60 laps left when Kenseth is squeezed into the wall while racing Keselowski for the lead on a restart. During a late caution, Kenseth had the free pass. When he drives by the field, he cuts across Keselowski’s nose and damages Keselowski’s car.

On a restart with two laps to go, Keselowski pushes Hamlin into Turn 1. After the race, Hamlin jams his brakes in front of Keselowski to show his displeasure with what Keselowski did at the end of the race. Then Keselowski drives down pit road to chase Kenseth and sideswipes Kenseth’s car. Kenseth was undoing his safety belts as he drove down pit road, angering him and leading him to run after Keselowski in the garage. Stewart stops his car on pit road and backs into Keselowski’s car.

Said Keselowski: “I figured if we’re going to play car wars under yellow and after the race, I’ll join, too.’’

3 – Carl Edwards vs. Kevin Harvick, Charlotte 2008

This incident starts the week before at Talladega when Edwards triggers a multi-car crash. Harvick calls Edwards a “pansy” in a TV interview for riding in the back much of the day and said “if he had been racing all day, maybe he would have known how long the front of his car was.’’

Edwards responds by leaving a note on Harvick’s airplane that states: “I was really trying to screw up everyone’s day. Love, Carl.’’

The following week at Charlotte, Edwards approaches Harvick in the Nationwide garage. Witnesses describe it as a heated discussion. As Harvick turns to walk away, Edwards grabs him by the shoulder and spins him around. Harvick shoves Edwards, forcing Edwards on to the hood of Harvick’s car. The two are separated.

2 – Brad Keselowski vs. Jeff Gordon, Texas 2014

Keselowski went to split a gap between Gordon and Jimmie Johnson late in the race but makes contact with Gordon’s car that led to a tire going down and Gordon spinning.

After the race, Gordon stops his car on pit road next Keselowski’s and walks toward Keselowski. After a brief discussion, Keselowski steps away before Kevin Harvick pushes him back toward Gordon, inciting a melee that leads to NASCAR suspending four Hendrick Motorsports crew members. Both Gordon and Keselowski emerge from the scrap with cut lips.

1 – Clint Bowyer vs. Jeff Gordon, Phoenix 2012

Jeff Gordon is sent into the wall after contact with Bowyer while running fifth with seven laps to go. Gordon circles slowly, waiting for Bowyer and turns Bowyer into the wall, collecting Joey Logano.

Gordon drives his car to the garage. Bowyer stops on pit road.

As Gordon climbs from his car, members of Bowyer’s crew run over and a fight between the crews ensues. Bowyer sees the fracas on a video board, climbs from his car and sprints to the garage as fans cheer. Bowyer runs to Gordon’s hauler before NASCAR officials stop him.

“It’s just things have gotten escalated over the year, and I’ve just had it,’’ Gordon said. “I’ve had it and was fed up with it and got him back.’’

Said Bowyer: “It’s pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion and what I consider one of the best the sport’s ever seen to act like, it’s completely ridiculous.’’



Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

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“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

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Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

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And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”