Fighting mad: 10 memorable driver confrontations during the Chase

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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.’’

 

 

Kyle Busch to run five Truck races for KBM in 2023

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Kyle Busch Motorsports announced Wednesday the five Craftsman Truck Series team owner Kyle Busch will race this season.

Busch’s Truck races will be:

March 3 at Las Vegas

March 25 at Circuit of the Americas

April 14 at Martinsville

May 6 at Kansas

July 22 at Pocono

Busch is the winningest Truck Series driver with 62 career victories. He has won at least one series race in each of the last 10 seasons. He has won 37.6% of the Truck races he’s entered and placed either first or second in 56.7% of his 165 career series starts.

Zariz Transport, which specializes in transporting containers from ports, signed a multi-year deal to be the primary sponsor on Busch’s No. 51 truck for all of his series races, starting this season. The company will be an associate sponsor on the truck in the remaining 18 series races.

Myatt Snider to run six Xfinity races with Joe Gibbs Racing

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Myatt Snider is the latest driver to be announced as running a select number of Xfinity races in the No. 19 car for Joe Gibbs Racing this season.

Snider will run six races with the team. Ryan Truex (six races), Joe Graf Jr. (five) and Connor Mosack (three) also will be in JGR’s No. 19 Xfinity car this year.

Snider’s first race with the team will be the Feb. 18 season opener at Daytona. He also will race at Portland (June 3), Charlotte Roval (Oct. 7), Las Vegas (Oct. 14), Martinsville (Oct. 28) and the season finale at Phoenix (Nov. 4).

The deal returns Snider to JGR. He worked in various departments there from 2011-15.

“We’re looking forward to have Myatt on our No. 19 team for six races,” said Steve DeSouza, executive vice president of Xfinity and development. “Building out the driver lineup for this car is an opportunity for JGR to help drivers continue to develop in their racing career, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Myatt continues to grow.”

Said Snider in a statement from the team: “With six races on our 2023 schedule, I’m looking forward to climbing into the No. 19 TreeTop Toyota GR Supra with Joe Gibbs Racing this year. Having worked with JGR as a high schooler and a young racer, it’s an awesome full circle moment to return as a driver to the team that taught me so much about racing itself.

“It’s good to be reunited with (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff as we have an awesome history working together. With many memories and wins from 2013 and 2014 when I worked on the No. 20 Toyota Camry under Jason’s leadership, the team has always been more of a family relationship to me. I’m glad to be returning to the JGR family and looking forward to continuing to learn and grow as a driver.”

Daytona will be Snider’s 100th career Xfinity start. He has one series win and 21 top 10s. He was the rookie of the year in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2018.

Tree Top will be Snider’s sponsor for his six races with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Also in the Xfinity Series, Gray Gaulding, who will run full season with SS Green Light Racing, announced that he’ll have sponsor Panini America for multiple races, including the Daytona opener. Emerling-Gase Motorsports announced that Natalie Decker will run a part-time schedule in both the ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series for the team.

 

Travis Pastrana ‘taking a chance’ at Daytona

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In so-called “action” sports, Travis Pastrana is a king. He is well-known across the spectrum of motorsports that are a bit on the edge — the X Games, Gymkhana, motorcross and rally racing.

Now he’s jumping in the deep end, attempting to qualify for the Daytona 500 and what would be his first NASCAR Cup Series start.

Pastrana, who is entered in the 500 in a third Toyota fielded by 23XI Racing, will be one of at least six drivers vying for the four non-charter starting spots in the race. Also on that list: Jimmie Johnson, Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill.

MORE: IndyCar driver Conor Daly entered in Daytona 500

Clearly, just getting a spot on the 500 starting grid won’t be easy.

“I love a challenge,” Pastrana told NBC Sports. “I’ve wanted to be a part of the Great American Race since I started watching it on TV as a kid. Most drivers and athletes, when they get to the top of a sport, don’t take a chance to try something else. I like to push myself. If I feel I’m the favorite in something, I lose a little interest and focus. Yes, I’m in way over my head, but I believe I can do it safely. At the end of the day, my most fun time is when I’m battling and battling with the best.”

Although Pastrana, 39, hasn’t raced in the Cup Series, he’s not a stranger to NASCAR. He has run 42 Xfinity races, driving the full series for Roush Fenway Racing in 2013 (winning a pole and scoring four top-10 finishes), and five Craftsman Truck races.

“All those are awesome memories,” Pastrana said. “In my first race at Richmond (in 2012), Denny Hamlin really helped me out. I pulled on the track in practice, and he waited for me to get up to speed. He basically ruined his practice helping me get up to speed. Joey Logano jumped in my car at New Hampshire and did a couple of laps and changed the car, and I went from 28th to 13th the next lap. I had so many people who really reached out and helped me get the experience I needed.”

Pastrana was fast, but he had issues adapting to the NASCAR experience and the rhythm of races.

“It was extremely difficult for me not growing up in NASCAR,” he said. “I come from motocross, where there’s a shorter duration. It’s everything or nothing. You make time by taking chances. In pavement racing, it’s about rear-wheel drive. You can’t carry your car. In NASCAR it’s not about taking chances. It’s about homework. It’s about team. It’s about understanding where you can go fast and be spot on your mark for three hours straight.”

MORE: Will Clash issues carry over into rest of season?

Pastrana said he didn’t venture into NASCAR with the idea of transferring his skills to stock car racing full time.

“It was all about me trying to get to the Daytona 500,” he said. “Then I looked around, when I was in the K&N Series, and saw kids like Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. They were teenagers, and they already were as good or better than me.”

Now he hopes to be in the mix with Elliott, Larson and the rest of the field when the green flag falls on the 500.

He will get in some bonus laps driving for Niece Motorsports in the Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.

“For the first time, my main goal, other than qualifying for the 500, isn’t about winning,” Pastrana said. “We’ll take a win, of course, but my main goal is to finish on the lead lap and not cause any issues. I know we’ll have a strong car from 23XI, so the only way I can mess this up is to be the cause of a crash.

“I’d just love to go out and be a part of the Great American Race.”

 

Front Row Motorsports adds more Cup races to Zane Smith’s schedule

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Reigning Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith, who seeks to qualify for the Daytona 500, will do six additional Cup races for Front Row Motorsports this season, the team announced Tuesday. Centene Corporation’s brands will sponsor Smith.

The 23-year-old Smith will drive the No. 36 car in his attempt to make the Daytona 500 for Front Row Motorsports. That car does not have a charter. Chris Lawson will be the crew chief. 

Smith’s remaining six Cup races will be in the No. 38 car for Front Row Motorsports, which has a charter. Todd Gilliland will drive the remaining 30 points races and All-Star Open in that car. Ryan Bergenty will be the crew chief for both drivers this year.

Smith’s races in the No. 38 car will be Phoenix (March 12), Talladega (April 23), Coca-Cola 600 (May 28), Sonoma (June 11), Texas (Sept. 24) and the Charlotte Roval (Oct. 8). 

He also will run the full Truck season. 

Centene’s Wellcare, which offers a range of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be Smith’s sponsor for the Daytona 500, Phoenix, Talladega and Sonoma. Centene’s Ambetter, a provider of health insurance offerings on the Health Insurance Marketplace, will be Smith’s sponsor at Texas and the Charlotte Roval. 

Smith’s sponsor for the Coca-Cola 600 will be Boot Barn. 

The mix of tracks is something Smith said he is looking forward to this season.

“I wanted to run Phoenix just because the trucks only go to Phoenix once and it’s the biggest race of the year,” Smith told NBC Sports. “I wanted to get as much time and laps as I can at Phoenix even though it’s in a completely different car. I wanted to run road courses, as well, just because I felt road course racing suits me.”

Smith also will be back in the Truck Series. Ambetter Health will be the primary sponsor of Smith’s Truck at Homestead (Oct. 21). The partnership with Centene includes full season associate sponsorship of Smith’s Truck and full season associate sponsorship on the No. 38 Cup car. 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Zane Smith holding the Truck series championship trophy last year at Phoenix. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Smith’s connection to Centene Corporation, a St. Louis-based company, goes back to last June’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis. Smith made his Cup debut that weekend, filling in for Chris Buescher, who was out with COVID-19. Smith finished 17th.

“It’s cool to see how into the sport they are,” Smith said of Centene Corporation. “It started out with an appearance I did for them (at World Wide Technology Raceway). I’ve gotten to know that group pretty well.”

Centene also is the healthcare partner of Speedway Motorsports and sponsors a Cup race at Atlanta and Xfinity race at New Hampshire. 

Smith’s opportunity to run select Cup races, including major events as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600, is part of the fast trajectory he’s made.

In 2019, he made only 10 Xfinity starts with JR Motorsports and didn’t start racing full-time in NASCAR until the 2020 season. Since then, he’s won a Truck title, finished second two other times and scored seven Truck victories.

“I feel like I’ve lived about probably three lifetimes in these four years just with getting that part-time Xfinity schedule and running well and getting my name out there,” Smith said.

He was provided an extra Xfinity race at Phoenix in 2019 with JRM and that proved significant to his future.

“That happened to be probably one of my best runs,” he said of his fifth-place finish that day. “We ran top four, top five all day and (team owner) Maury Gallagher happened to be there. He watched that.”

He signed with Gallagher’s GMS Racing Truck truck.

“It was supposed to be a part-time Truck schedule and (then) I won at Michigan and it was like, ‘Oh man, we’re in the playoffs, we should probably be full-time racing.’ I won another one a couple of weeks later at Dover.”

His success led to second season with the team and he again finished second in the championship. That led to the drive to a title last year.

The championship trophy sits in his home office and serves as motivation every day.

“First thing you see is when you come through my front door is pretty much the trophy,” Smith said. “It drives me crazy now thinking I could have two more to go with it and how close I was. … Really just that much more hungrier to go capture more.”