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Ingram: Busch And Harvick Feud Still Warming Up

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 16 2011

Bobby Allison – and his Junior Johnson-owned car – came home second best at North Wilkesboro in 1972.

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

From the Monday Morning Crew Chief™:

I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the Kyle Busch versus Kevin Harvick feud. It’s merely been put on hold until after the four-race probation that started at Dover. There couldn’t be anything better for NASCAR and its TV ratings than a driver feud among two contenders for the championship – the kind five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson has so skillfully avoided. Ultimately, I’m more interested in a good old-fashioned rivalry.

Something along the lines of Richard Petty and Bobby Allison in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. That rivalry culminated in the infamous bashing contest at North Wilkesboro in 1972, where Petty came home first and Allison and his heavily smoking Chevy second. “It looked like a Demolition Derby,” was the way Petty described the beating and banging between the two drivers at that time. For his part, Allison said he always raced Petty harder than the other drivers and that Petty thought he was a “personal threat” to his lofty status.

In addition to the personal antagonism between these two – long since patched up between the Hall of Famers – Petty and Allison were in the running for a championship in 1972 when the rivalry finally peaked. Interestingly, it was the beginning of major corporate sponsorships. Petty was in his first year with STP gracing his Dodges and Allison had Coca-Cola on the flanks of his Junior Johnson-owned Chevy. But that didn’t change anybody’s manners.

In all, the two drivers finished one-two 13 times during that 31-race season. Petty ultimately won the war of words by declaring that Allison had “a Richard Petty complex,” and won the battle on the track

Kyle Busch is probably not going to soften his driving style. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

by clinching his fourth championship by a narrow margin after winning eight of the one-two finishes.

Similarly, Busch and Harvick figure to be in the thick of things for race victories and in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship this year. Just like at Darlington and Dover, they will likely be in the same neighborhood quite often and when the late-race, double-file restarts get interesting. Like Petty and Allison at the time of their feud, these two really don’t like each other and there’s not much respect for the way the other guy drives. And, there’s a lot at stake: each one is seeking his first championship and to become the guy who knocks off the current king, Jimmie Johnson.

Probation or not, Busch will continue to take bigger risks than most drivers, such as passing five cars on the final re-start at Dover and beating all the other drivers who got mired in the pack after changing four Goodyears, including Johnson. For his part, Harvick will continue to press forward in the points and in Victory Lane. It’s likely they’ll continue on a collision course all the way to Homestead, where Harvick parked Busch into the wall last year.

At the moment, Busch would rank higher on my scorecard not only because he’s farther along in the points and tied with Harvick and Dover winner Matt Kenseth for the most victories with two. At

Is Kevin Harvick just waiting for probation to end? (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Darlington, Harvick was caught by his own rear bumper cam looking awfully lonely after Busch dumped his car into the pit wall.

The younger Busch tweaked Harvick this week for the latter’s hockey comments regarding the “gloves” being “down,” dismissing  stick and puck games as not measuring up to motor racing.

Harvick, who can be acid-tongued and accurate, has yet to score verbally, even after Busch called him “two-faced” last year at Homestead. Harvick dug himself a deeper hole on the public relations front by trying to shift the focus to supposedly no clear guidelines to the “boys have at it” stance of NASCAR. As if somebody needed to tell him in advance that “having at it” on the pit road with cars was not allowed.

In truth, I miss the old Kevin Harvick, the one who danced on the wall at Bristol in order to get into

Greg Biffle’s face. These days, he seems to be trying to have it both ways by being a team owner who guards his comments and as well as a driver ready to defend his turf. It’s a different kind of a dance and not nearly as interesting. You just wish sometimes that Harvick would come out of the politically correct closet.

Busch, now working as a team owner himself, seems better able to freewheel between the roles of an entrant and driver. He recognizes that as long as he continues to win races as well as be aggressive, he can withstand the slings and arrows of complaints about his recklessness. It appeared he got too greedy coming off Turn 2 at Darlington when he hit Harvick, the contact that started off the festivities.

As for “have at it,” who’s got the better alternative? The big problem is getting drivers to recognize that

The crowd is on its feet as it watches the Cup race at North Wilkesboro in 1972.

wrecking the opponent due to losing a position or two – or even a lap or two – just ain’t kosher. It’s dangerous for the fans and other drivers, plus brings up the specter of NASCAR intervening once again. If Allison and Petty could finish first and second at North Wilkesboro after beating on one another for 250 miles, why can’t the modern day boys learn to merely humiliate in retaliation and not annihilate?

A photo from North Wilkesboro back in the day shows not only the fans standing on their feet watching Petty and Allison “have at it.” There’s merely a steel guard rail separating the drivers from the pit road – and an official standing right next to it!

Since Darlington, NASCAR has further restricted officials’ on the pit road until all the cars have halted. Certainly, nobody is stationed trackside during the races. Some things change and sometimes for the better.

Quote of the Week: “Apparently he’s watching too much hockey.” — Kyle Busch, when commenting on Kevin Harvick’s description of events at Darlington.

See ya! …At the races.

– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com

Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, May 16 2011
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