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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Ellen’s NL column

Today’s Featured Commentary
NASCAR Rivalries: Ongoing Feuds Keep Fans Watching
by Ellen Richardson

Although competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has continued to improve this season, the true heat was found on Sunday in the final laps of the Auto Club 400. Watching Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano share sheet metal until one or the other wound up in the wall, on the last lap of this race, I knew that this rivalry had gone from a war of words to the kind of NASCAR rivalry that fans will continue to remember.

The funny thing is, I never expected another rivalry to emerge at the end of this race. So, I was somewhat surprised when Tony Stewart climbed from his No. 14 Chevrolet and started wailing on Logano for blocking him on the final restart.
In fact, the buzz among both NASCAR fans and media following Sunday’s race has been centered on Smoke’s attempt to make Sliced Bread into burnt toast, followed by Stewart’s post-race rant and Hamlin’s injury, regardless of Kyle Busch’s weekend sweep.

Feeling the excitement in the air following Sunday’s wild finish, I was interested to see how active both Facebook and Twitter would be with fan comments. One of these comments came straight from a fan who works directly within the sport:

“I think Tony Stewart is one heck of a race car driver, but I don’t feel that Joey really did anything wrong. It was a restart and he was holding his position trying to win the race. Stewart has and would’ve done the same thing. However I do feel like Stewart was correct on speaking his mind on how he felt about the situation. Instead of holding his feelings and true emotions back he said what he felt. I also do not like what Logano said about Hamlin getting what he deserved. Their racing was good for the sport because it was a lot of battling for position, but I feel that Logano used up Hamlin and it cost both of them a chance to win. This battling is good for our sport. However drivers getting hurt is not, I do feel that if Hamlin wouldn’t have tried to get Logano back he wouldn’t have hit the wall quite as hard as he did. Just my two cents worth!!!”

Call it “Boys Have It” or what you will, NASCAR’s rivalries are what keep us all tuning in, filling the stands and talking. Whether you choose to deny it or not, this has been the case since the early days of this sport when Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers brought national publicity to NASCAR following their unforgettable on-track and off-track battle at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500.

As well-known pit road reporter, Dick Berggren stated, “Nobody knew it then, but that was the race that got everything going. It was the first ‘water cooler’ race, the first time people stood around water coolers on Monday and talked about seeing a race on TV the day before.”

This would be one of many NASCAR rivalries that would keep fans standing around the proverbial water cooler, or what we might all now refer to social media, talking about. Some of my favorite rivalries include:

• Darrell Waltrip vs. Rusty Wallace – The battle that ensued following Rusty Wallace’s last lap spin of Darrell Waltrip in the 1989 All Star Race is one that long-time NASCAR fans continue to talk about. In fact, hearing Tony’s rant on Sunday was very reminiscent of Darrell’s comment following this race, “I hope he chokes on the $200,000, that’s all I can tell him.”

• Dale Earnhardt vs. Jeff Gordon – This rivalry went on from Gordon’s initial start in the sport. Earnhardt called Gordon “Wonder Boy” throughout their time racing together just to mess with his head. This rivalry actually led to a large fan split, similar to that of Carolina and Duke basketball fans.

• Kevin Harvick vs. Joey Logano – Here’s yet another feud that Logano had himself mixed up in. After Harvick spun Logano on the last lap of Pocono Raceway’s Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 in June 2010, Logano jumped out of his car and went straight to Harvick’s to begin yelling at both Harvick and his team. The post-race interview with Logano led to one of the most memorable marketing phrases that fans everywhere will long remember: “It’s probably not Harvick’s fault, his wife wears the firesuit in the family.”

• Clint Bowyer vs. Jeff Gordon – This was the race that everyone was talking about last year. After a season’s worth of ongoing tension exploded into pandemonium in the pits at Phoenix International Raceway, following Bowyer and Gordon colliding with seven laps lap to in the AdvoCare 500 and Gordon retaliating by wrecking Bowyer three laps later. The battle royale that ensued between Bowyer’s and Gordon’s crews kept fans talking far into the offseason.

Witnessing the rivalries that have already formed this early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, I will be tuning in’ to see who will be next to make rivalry history.

Ellen Richardson is a Newsletter Contributor for Frontstretch.com. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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