On Sunday at the AdvoCare 500 in Phoenix, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Jeff Gordon took a whole season’s worth of frustration out on Clint Bowyer on the very last lap of the race, running the guy into the wall. That, of course, sparked a huge brawl between the two drivers and their respective crews, and earned Gordon a $100,000 fine and a 25 point deduction.
So, like it or not, Sunday was one of the most memorable days in NASCAR history. And this got me to wondering: where does this fight rank among the other famous skirmishes in NASCAR history?
Well, I’m no NASCAR historian, but this list represents my best attempt to answer that question. If I left any big ones out, by all means please mention it. However, the fights presented here are all noteworthy for one reason or another, so I think you’ll enjoy the list no matter what. So let’s get to it.
These two drivers had a run-in at the 2010 Ford 400 in Miami, which was the last race of the season. The bad blood then simmered for a while before finally boiling over in the 10th race of the 2011 season, the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington. At Darlington, the two came into contact again, and afterward, with the caution flag up, Busch spun Harvick around into the outside wall.
This set the stage for a final throwdown after the race. However, it turned more hilarious than violent. Harvick pulled in front of Busch as the two were pulling into pit road, parked his car, and jumped out to go confront Busch. But before Harvick could land a punch, Busch pulled away, bumping into Harvick's car—which then took off, without its driver, and crashed into the wall.
9. Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch
What? Kevin Harvick again?
Yeah, you're going to notice a theme, here: it always seems to be the same guys getting into fights. In this case, as in the last one, the fight started because Kevin Harvick got taken out by another driver—namely Greg Biffle, at the 2002 Channellock 250 at Bristol. As you can see, Biffle runs into the back of Harvick, taking him out. So Harvick tells reporters he'll be waiting for Biffle after the race, and sure enough he makes good on his word, going so far as you jump over his car to get to Biffle.
8. Kevin Harvick vs. Greg Biffle
This past Sunday wasn't the first time Jeff Gordon was involved in a NASCAR throwdown. At the 2010 Auto Club 500, Jeff Burton failed to slow down fast enough when the caution flag came out and ran into the back of Gordon's car, sending him to the wall and ending his race. Burton claimed it was an accident, but the announcer and Gordon were not buying it. So while the announcer remained in the booth, Gordon hopped out of his car, ran across the track, and started an old-fashioned hockey fight with Burton. (If they weren't wearing overalls, Gordon probably would have pulled Burton's shirt up over his head.)
7. Jeff Gordon vs. Jeff Burton
At the Miller Genuine Draft 400 at the Michigan International Speedway on Fathers' Day, 1995, a then-unknown and winless Michael Waltrip took exception to how close Lake Speed was racing him all day. So after everyone was finished (Jeff Gordon won his first career race that day), Waltrip pulled up in front of Speed and hopped out to give him a piece of his mind. And by "mind" I meant "fist."
6. Michael Waltrip vs. Lake Speed
This clash from a 2011 Nationwide event called the Bubba Burger 250 (you can't make these names up) looks a lot like the classic fight we just saw. It gets placed one spot higher on the list, however, because it was preceded by something much more dramatic.
You see, Greg Biffle didn't just walk up to Jay Sauter's car and punch him in the face because Sauter raced him too close. He did it because Sauter intentionally wrecked Biffle—which is something that tends to piss people off, given the whole "wrecks kill people" thing.
5. Greg Biffle vs. Jay Sauter
At the 2004 Tropicana 400 in Chicago, in a pretty wild restart, Tony Stewart bumped into the back of Kasey Kahne, spinning him around and into the wall, collecting Dale Jr., John Andretti, Dave Blaney, Jeff Burton, and Scott Riggs in the process. Then Stewart went on to win the race.
As you can imagine, a lot of people were pissed off at Stewart afterward, but none more than Kasey Kahne's crew. So after the race, they got into a wild free-for-all brawl with Stewart's crew on pit road.
4. Tony Stewart vs. Kasey Kahne
NASCAR introduced the All-Star race in 1985. It wouldn't count in the Cup standings, but it would carry a prize of (in the early years) $200,000, which is nothing to sneeze at. So, unlike All-Star "extravaganzas" in other sports (I refuse to call them "games"), NASCAR drivers took this thing seriously from the outset. And in 1989 we saw just how seriously they took it when Rusty Wallace took out Darrell Waltrip and won the race, because afterward their crews mixed it up pretty good.
3. Rusty Wallace vs. Darrell Waltrip
At #2 we have the Gordon-Bowyer fight, and there are are several distinct aspects of this that make it so memorable.
First, of course, is the way Gordon violently drives Bowyer into the wall on the last lap—drivers die from seemingly minor wrecks like that. Second is the actual tussle, which is pretty heated. But third, and most importantly, is Bowyer's awesome sprint to join the fight. He looks like a WWE wrestler running from back stage to rescue a buddy who's just been ambushed in the ring.
It was just a classic fight.
2. Jeff Gordon vs. Clint Bowyer
The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first to be televised nationally, and man did American get quite the show. Down to the final lap, it was just a two-car race between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison. When Yarborough tried to make his move to the inside, Allison blocked him, sending both cars first into the wall, then into the infield—allowing Richard Petty, in a relatively distant 3rd, to win his 6th Daytona 500.
But that wasn't the end of it. On the infield, Yarborough and Allison began duking it out. Then Donnie's brother, Bobbie, showed up to help his brother take on Yarborough.
It was an absolutely wild finish, and a pretty insane way to introduce NASCAR to the wider American public.