NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Frontstretch 5: Feuds That Could Brew Again in NASCAR Playoffs

This past weekend’s events at Bristol Motor Speedway brought out the best of moods for spectators and the worst of moods for the drivers. New feuds were born and they all may be something for fans to keep an eye on as these playoffs continue.

Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick’s memorable post-race scrum at Bristol was one of the key highlights of the season, let alone the playoffs. For Harvick, it may have not been as physical as many of his past altercations were. But both drivers made sure to send their messages to the other on pit road. Keep in mind, there are still seven more races they need to deal with each other. And should they each be in championship contention at Phoenix Raceway, who knows what will happen between them?

But of course, they’re not the only drivers this year who have had their buttons pushed. As famously said by Mike Joy, racers have longer memories than elephants. As tense as these playoffs are, another feud is bound to happen. 

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Grab yourself a cup of coffee, because these five feuds are likely to brew as these playoffs ensue.

1. Kyle Busch vs. Brad Keselowski

Kyle Busch has a history of ticking drivers off at Bristol Motor Speedway. That’s only one of many reasons why he was booed so aggressively before Saturday’s (Sept. 18) Bass Pro Shops Night Race. One of those drivers in particular is Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski and Busch have one of the longest-lasting feuds over the past decade and a half. Their 2010 Xfinity dust-up at Bristol is one of their most notable clashes, with some entertaining words (“Kyle Busch is an ass!”) by Keselowski during Cup driver introductions. Almost every year since then, each on-track contact and each post-race comment toward the other have only kept snowballing the feud even larger.

Fortunately, they’ve managed to steer clear of any altercations during the regular season. But now that the playoffs have begun, Keselowski and Busch will have to go through each other once again in pursuit of another championship. They were a part of the final four in 2017, but neither won the title. If both make the championship round again in Phoenix, fans will be treated to quite the battle between the two foes.

2. Kyle Larson vs. Christopher Bell

Whether it be in a sprint car or stock car, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell have contested numerous times on the track. But this year, the ensuing battles between them have risen to new heights.

Their first Cup Series altercation happened on the dirt at Bristol in March. Bell lost control in front of Larson and set off a wreck, resulting in heavy damage for both drivers and ruining their chances to win. Then at Watkins Glen International in August, Bell received contact from Larson, spinning out of second place while Larson went on to win. After that race, Bell’s frustration toward Larson was as evident as it ever was.

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They may not be exchanging Christmas cards, but with the way things seem, they’re certain to exchange more paint. Martinsville still lies ahead on the schedule, you know.

3. Austin Cindric vs. AJ Allmendinger

In a finish reminiscent of the first Dale Earnhardt/Terry Labonte clash in 1995, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric seemingly tried to replicate that finish in Friday’s Food City 300.

Fighting for the win and regular-season championship, both drivers slammed doors and clashed throughout the overtime restart, ultimately sliding sideways across the line and into the inside wall. Allmendinger prevailed while Cindric, who led much of the event, was left dejected.

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That didn’t mark their first spat of 2021. The duo slammed fenders coming to the end of stage one in the second race of the season at the Daytona International Speedway road course. The wreck ruined their chances of winning at a road course, a track style that suits their skill sets best.

Both drivers have been strong all year. It’ll be interesting to see how strong they can hold in their emotions as the playoffs begin in Las Vegas. They have Final 4 potential. The question then becomes, can they both get there cleanly? And if they do, will the fans in Phoenix see another sideways finish between them for the ultimate prize

 

4. Noah Gragson vs. Xfinity Field

He may just be 23, but Noah Gragson is a seasoned veteran in having physical post-race disagreements with other drivers.

Yes, Gragson’s two wins at Darlington Raceway and Richmond Raceway are noteworthy positives. But the two incidents of 2021 that brought out his furious side came early this season. His on-track incident with David Starr at Homestead-Miami Speedway when he got wrecked out of the lead preceded his pit-road altercation three weeks later with Daniel Hemric at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 2020, he roughed up his teammate Justin Allgaier for the win at Bristol and threw a few fists against Harrison Burton at Kentucky Speedway.

There’s no doubt that Gragson has the skill to contend for wins in the upcoming weeks. But he should be careful to not ruffle up too many feathers along the way. Otherwise, his march to a championship may fall short once again.

5. Sheldon Creed vs. Chandler Smith

Like Cup and Xfinity, the Truck Series had its own temper-filled finish in Thursday’s (Sept. 16) UNOH 200 at Bristol.

Chandler Smith, who needed a win to advance into the second round, shoved his way past a dominant Sheldon Creed during the final restart. Creed’s left-rear tire went down as a result of the contact and settled for 19th while Smith enjoyed his first career win in his 34th start. Needless to say, Creed did not have polite words for the rookie driver on his radio.

With just four races remaining on the schedule, Creed isn’t going to let Smith stop him from pursuing his second consecutive championship in Phoenix. But Smith, on the other hand, has much more confidence within him and could certainly steal the spotlight away from the reigning champ with his short-track finesse. Time will tell how they race each other through the end of the year.

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Carl D.

The only one of those I consider an ongoing feud is Busch vs. Keselowski. Their animosity towards each other is well documented. With the title on the line, I don’t see that ending any time soon.

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