Certainly did not expect to read an article on Sports Illustrated online this week that began “The most popular driver in NASCAR has become, well, kind of boring lately.” This after weekend races produced verbal sparring that would make most 13-year-olds proud.
The weekend driver feuds began with the Nationwide Series race Saturday. The motorracingnetwork.com reported that Regan Smith and Elliott Sadler collided on the final attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Prior to the contact, Sadler was third on the restart, Smith fifth. After the race, Sadler stormed the garage, looking for Smith. “You got a problem with me? You got a problem with me?
You can talk all you want … that’s dirty-ass pool. I even moved up. You re-watch the tape. You re-watch the tape. I moved up and gave you room. You race like that. You will not win the championship. Mark my word.” Smith: “You want to start racing like that, that’s cool man.’’ Sadler: “I am. Because you’ve already started today. I’m going to finish it.’’
Sunday, tempers continued to flare.
Kyle Busch called Ryan Newman “a big ogre” after Newman was involved in a crash with his brother Kurt near the end of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. “I mean, Ryan Newman’s the biggest stupid idiot out here and he’s a big ogre and can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody’s butt. So no sense in getting in a fight with him, but glad he’s out of a job.”
To which Newman responded, “I’m just afraid if I re-arranged his face I might fix it. He’s frustrated finishing third or wherever he was after hitting me first and then getting a little rub down the straightaway. Just imagine how I feel. It is what it is. We know that he’s not very bright. He’s a heck of a talent but he’s not very bright. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Okay, very mature comments from both drivers.
Before wrecking boyfriend and fellow driver Rickey Stenhouse Jr., taking them and several other drivers out of the race, the Sporting News.com reports a radio exchange between Danica Patrick and her spotter after AJ Allmendinger spun her car to move it out of his way. “Let the 51 spotter know that I think it’s bull(expletive) that he’s a lap down and he moved me out of the way.”
Spotter Brandon Bensch: “10-4” Patrick: “Thank you. … Was he the lucky dog, the 51?” Bensch: “The 51 was the first car lap down.” Patrick: “Mother (expletive).” Bensch: “Exactly. He said he’s sorry.” Patrick: “No he’s not. He’s not (expletive) sorry at all. He got his lap back…It makes me so mad. He tried to do it the lap before, but I gave enough room. But that time I held my line and he just took me out.”
Take away? Don’t mess with Danica.
Feuds are not new to NASCAR and have provided great entertainment over the years. Fox Sports features the Top Feuds in NASCAR History this week. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was involved more than once, but son Dale generally maintains a polite, positive demeanor.
Not to say Jr.’s competitiveness hasn’t incurred the anger of fellow drivers on occasion—or that he hasn’t taken exception to another driver causing him to hit the wall or spin out. However, just cannot imagine Dale Jr. engaging in a Kyle Busch/Ryan Newman style exchange in the media. Does that make Junior boring?
No that’s not it, according to the Sports Illustrated article. It’s Dale Jr’s consistent finishes between eighth and fourteenth recently that take him a step towards… well, boring.
Not presuming to speak for the Junior Nation legion of fans, but a fifth-place ranking in points thus far this season, a couple of near wins, and consistently placing in or near the top ten does not indicate boring in this house. Maybe he’ll never capture the Holy Grail of the Sprint Cup Championship, but this driver will continue to produce a thunderous roar each time he takes the lead, continue to draw new fans to the sport, and remain the face of NASCAR, which could not wish for a better ambassador. Dale Jr. will never define boring.
Postscript—Kyle Busch clarified his remarks about Ryan Newman on Twitter July 16:
“I want to clarify that I was answering what I felt was two separate questions asked to me at the same time in an interview following the race in Loudon. The first was about how fast Kurt was and the second was how I felt about Ryan Newman blaming me for him getting wrecked.
First I answered the Kurt part. He was fast… Great to see them running well… Was a shame to see him crashed… Nowhere there did I place blame on who wrecked who. I didn’t see it and I still haven’t seen it.
My second answer came from being upset over an incident I had with RN on the track during the race. I answered it in the same response, but it was intended as a completely separate answer.
I was upset because I felt RN raced me poorly, making contact and causing damage to my RF fender that affected the handling on my racecar. This isn’t the first time that I’ve been raced poorly by RN either, which added to my frustration. All this built up and allowed my emotions to spill over for how I felt. I’m not sorry for how I feel in those moments, but could have expressed it better and certainly my comments about someone’s livelihood went too far.”