Forget the Montoya/Newman feud
, that's so last week.
Today it's all about the war that erupted between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick that saw words and fists fly in pit lane between drivers and between their pit crews.
It started with a late-race accident during the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Busch and Harvick were three-wide with Clint Bowyer following a restart. Bowyer wrecked into the wall and Harvick sent for a spin, while Kyle Busch also got bodywork torn up by the collision, and the race proceeded to a green-white-chequered finish. Harvick, who had led 47 laps during the evening, ended up in 17th place as a result of the altercation while Busch managed 11th; Bowyer was unable to resume and ended up classified 31st.
Immediately after the finish, an incensed Harvick was gunning for Busch whom he blamed for the accident. The #29 chased the #18, and Kyle stopped in an attempt to avoid the confrontation; both cars took to pit road with Harvick still in pursuit, and Harvick stopped his car in front of Busch's to force him to a halt.
"I was just trying to get away from the situation with Harvick and unfortunately he got to pit road before me,so I pulled in behind him," said Kyle Busch. "[Harvick] let the #47 go, but I knew if I tried to turn left or right he was going to run into me or block me or something. I just stayed behind him. I was just going to sit there, not worry about it and let him cool his head for a second and let him figure out that we just needed to go back to the garage area."
Instead, Harvick then got out of his car, ran over to the driver-side window of the #18 to throw a punch at Busch. Kyle saw it coming and gunned his engine to avoid the encounter, pushing Harvick's driverless car aside in order to get past.
"My choices were limited," said Busch after explaining that his reverse gear was broken as proved to NASCAR officials later. "I was either going to get punched in the face and then wait for Harvick to get back in his car for me to go or just drive through his car and push it out of the way so I could get out of there and not try to get hit."
Shoving the car aside on pit road, where various pit crew workers were in the vicinity, is a serious matter as someone could have been injured.
"Unfortunately there were some men walking down pit road. I hate it that somebody could have gotten hurt, but I was just trying to get away from it and get back to my hauler and go on with my own business," Busch said. "I just made a judgement call there and it wasn't one of the best choices that I had."
With the teams ironically situated side-by-side on pit road, the fury between the two drivers inevitably spilled out onto pit road with the pit crews exchanging harsh words and shoves before NASCAR officials stepped in to separate them.
"Y'all are a bunch of [expletives]!" Harvick directed at the Joe Gobbs Racing crew, before a NASCAR official interceded with a stern "You are coming with us to our hauler now" to him. Asked later what had transpired in the hauler, Harvick ruefully grinned and replied: "Not much."
He added: "I don't have any answers for you. I'm really excited for Regan Smith, and I hate that you're not over there [in the media center] talking to him."
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp also sought to play down the incident and redirect attention toward Regan Smith's emotional win instead. "We had a discussion with them, more about what happened post-race than anything during it," he said, explaining that any sanctions toward either driver or team would be decided at NASCAR's Tuesday post-race wrap-up meeting.
"Let's put it this way: it was a discussion where they both aired their opinions, voiced their opinions," Tharp said. "To have them be able to do that after the race is a good thing. And to look at it again is also a good thing."
As to the original on-track incident that triggered this confrontation, it was unclear exactly who might be to blame.
Busch blamed Harvick: "It was tight racing after the restart there and Harvick was up on the top, a little bit loose, and I gave him room," he explained. "He kind of came off the wall - that's a bad angle, obviously - and then lifted early to let me go into Turn 3 and I thought it was all good. Then he drives into the back of me there, so ... it made my car loose all the way through the exit.
"And then obviously Clint wrecked, bouncing off Harvick. It was just uncalled-for; it was unacceptable racing. I know it's the last couple of laps, but I gave him room coming off 2 and I didn't get the room."
Harvick obviously disagreed but was more taciturn: "Obviously we were just racing hard and doing what we had to do at the end. And things happen. That's it."
And Bowyer was equally succinct: "It's the nature of the beast," Bowyer said. "There's no room to race at the end. I knew when the caution came out, all hell was going to break loose. And it did."
The incident did unfortunately rather overshadow celebrations in victory lane for the first win by Regan Smith after 105 Sprint Cup starts.
A complete race report
from Darlington is also available, along with Full race results
are available in the results section.