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Woody: What Happens When Hard Heads Collide?

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 11 2011

Some of the most memorable moments in NASCAR history feature the boys having at it. Remember this one at Daytona in 1979? (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are two of the most talented drivers in NASCAR.

They also are two of the most temperamental.

What happens when the two opposing forces collide? Sheet metal and fists fly.

That’s what occurred last Saturday night at Darlington when Busch and Harvick tangled while scrambling for the same slab of asphalt during the waning laps.

Who was at fault? Both of them. Neither of them.

It was just hard racing with a boil-over at the end.

Some gentler souls who tisk-tisk such boorish behavior should have been around in the old days. Back then lug wrenches weren’t kept in the pits just to change lug nuts.

A stock car race often was like a hockey game – fans came to watch a fight and a race broke out.

A good smack in the nose – pardon the allusion – is just what NASCAR needed. There had been so much sugar and sweetness in the sport that the American Dental Association issued a warning.

Drivers can be best buds off the track but when they’re racing stock cars they’re not supposed to play nice. Dale Earnhardt was a classic example. He put his pal Terry Labonte into the wall at Bristol, then they went elk hunting together.

I doubt that Kevin and Kyle will be going elk hunting – or bowling or dancing the Charleston or doing

Kevin Harvick gave fans something to talk about last Saturday night in Darlington. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

anything else together any time soon, That’s OK. Nobody says they have to send flowers and candy. A little track tension is good for business.

That’s why NASCAR is privately going he-he over the Darlington brew-ha-ha.

I’m reminded of the big Daytona donnybrook in 1979. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough were battling for position when they wrecked each other and spun to a stop in the muddy infield. Donnie’s brother Bobby pulled up to “check” on his sibling and then made the mistake of “checking” on Cale.

All heck broke loose. Fists and helmets were swinging as millionaire drivers wrestled in the mud on national TV.

NASCAR was horrified. Absolutely aghast.

“They called Donnie and Cale and me into the office and chewed us out,” Bobby later recalled. “They said we’d embarrassed ourselves and embarrassed the sport.”

He paused, chucked and added:

“Then they proceeded to use footage of the fight to promote the next race.”

That Fight of ’79 has become one of the most memorable moments in racing history, and NASCAR continues to exploit it even today.

The same thing will happen with the Darlington smack-down. How many times will the fracas be re-played on TV? How many minutes of air time and column inches will the fight get, compared to minutes and inches devoted to Regan Smith’s victory?

I know. You know. NASCAR knows.

There’s only one thing to be said for the boorish behavior of such ruffian rascals:

Attaboy.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 11 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Chapman Rackaway says:

    Well done, Larry! Sense prevails and you’ve got it right. We shouldn’t sanitize or water down the human drama in racing, unless we become the stick and ball sports. Tempers flared, nobody got hurt, boys have at it.