It’s October, and only seven races remain in NASCAR’s playoffs. (On a side note, I’m still stymied regarding the reason why NASCAR changed the name of its post-season competition. The Chase was a pretty cool moniker, once you got used to it. The Playoffs, well, that name is just done to death.)
Anyhow, yet another random act of tweeting during the race weekend at Dover reminded me once again of one of my favorite things about NASCAR: When the going gets tough, the tough get snarky.
Although stock car racing has seen its share of physical altercations over the years – Cale Yarborough vs. the Allisons is always the first and best one that comes to mind – in recent years most of the competitors seem content to engage in wars of words rather than the harsher, and more painful, alternative.
Let’s take Kurt Busch and Jimmy Spencer, for example. It’s common knowledge that these two were never the best of buddies, but after an on-track incident in 2002 at The Brickyard, when Spencer wrecked Busch, taking him out of the race, Kurt expressed the opinion that Spencer was nothing but a “decrepit old has-been.” He later softened up and changed his mind, deciding instead that Spencer was actually a “never-was.” Ouch.
Another great (and by great I mean silly) incident was the verbal scuffle between Boris Said and Greg Biffle at Watkins Glen in 2011. Said felt that Biffle was racing him too aggressively for someone who was multiple laps down. Things got testy after the race when Boris really got out of line, going on a verbal tirade that included calling The Biff an “unprofessional little scaredy-cat” and “a chump.”
Wow. Call the censors. Language that salty simply can’t be tolerated on national television. There are kids watching.
More recently, events at Dover International Speedway last weekend included a thrilling finish, the elimination of four drivers from championship eligibility, and a little war of words between Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon.
Gordon just can’t seem to drag himself away from the No. 24 car (full disclosure, he owns an equity stake in the NAPA Chevrolet). The four-time champion watched Chase Elliott racing very hard, and very well, as he fought Kyle Busch for his first Cup Series victory. Poor Newman was just fighting to stay on the lead lap, and basically got in Elliott’s way, blocking his progress.
Afterward, as Gordon walked past Newman on pit road, he said, “Thanks for the help.” Newman, never known for keeping his mouth shut when challenged, retorted, “You don’t think I was racing for my own position? Just watch what you say, man. You said it as a smarta**.” (Takes one to know one, Newman.)
“You know, I’ve been known to bring a little drama to the sport,” Gordon said shortly after the incident. “I prefer the drivers do that themselves on the track, and I probably from now on will just walk by a situation. I thought that’s what I was doing, but it didn’t work out that way.”
I just love it when Jeff Gordon gets into, we’ll call them “spats,” because he never really fights. There was a near-fracas on pit road involving Jeff and Clint Bowyer back in 2012, and the four-time champion had an issue with Jimmie Johnson a few years ago which I compared – in writing, talk about bad decisions – to “a slap fest between Strawberry Shortcake and Blueberry Muffin” (I got quite a few emails on that one). For the most part, though, his career was pretty calm.
My favorite recent mini war of words comes to us courtesy of Joey Logano and the Harvicks, Kevin and DeLana.
You probably remember the Harvicks’ little tiff with Logano back in 2010, when Joey was on the wrong end of some contact from Harvick late in the race, afterwards commenting to the media that Kevin’s wife, DeLana, “wears the fire suit in the family.”
Words do come back to haunt us, don’t they? After winning at Michigan in June of this year, Logano tweeted the news from Victory Lane that he and his wife, Brittany, are expecting their first child in early 2018.
Not to be outdone, DeLana fired back a tweet of her own: “Congrats. Now you’ll really see who wears the fire suit in the family.” You go, girl. Give him the business.
This type of atmosphere and attitude in professional sports is practically begging for Mark Cuban and company to step in and gobble up a piece of the action. NASCAR presents Snark Tank does have kind of a nice ring to it …
Cathy Elliott can be reached at email@example.com.