The cramped half-mile Martinsville Speedway is well-known as being a pressure cooker and it's rare to have a race where one driver doesn't end up furious with another. In Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500, it was Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne who ended up going to war.
The feud started 160 laps into the 500-lap event, when Vickers spun out in turn 4 after being hit from behind by Kahne, damaging the rear of the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and incensing Vickers in the process. For his part, Kahne insisted that the contact hadn't been his fault.
"I was actually passing him off of 2 and he didn't give me room and I was going to hit the wall so I lifted a little," Kahne explained. "Then he kind of went high into 3, and that's where I was entering so he blocked.
"I went low to pass him and then he chopped low across and spun himself out. I was surprised that he thought he could use the whole race track right there. So, he spun himself out and then," added the Hendrick Motorsports driver.
"I didn't really think he'd be mad at me. I didn't think I did anything wrong in this situation, but that's the way it goes," Kahne added.
Vickers emphatically disagreed: "He definitely wrecked us on purpose the first time, I mean look at the video," he said after the race. "He just hooked us in the bumper and just wrecked us, I don't know why."
Despite some heavy damage, Vickers was able to continue after repairs and it was soon appeared that he had one aim above all others for the remainder of the race - to get his own back on Kahne for wrecking his car and his day. He made contact with the #5 on lap 221 and spun Kahne around into the outside wall to bring out another of the race's 15 cautions, but he insisted afterwards that this hadn't been intentional; at least, not entirely.
"I was dragging the splitter and the car just went straight when I got down to turn 1," he told the MWR crew over the team radio.
Of course that wasn't how Kahne felt, and now he too was on the revenge trail which resulted in a third incident between the pair on lap 277 when Kahne managed to spin Vickers.
"We owe him another," was Vickers's tart response over the radio. "We can do this all day long."
In fact they couldn't. For one thing, NASCAR's patience was wearing thin and the word came down from race control that the matter was settled and they should just focus on the racing, or else they were going to step in and settle it for them. 'Boys have at it' has a limited tolerance this deep into the Chase, where title contenders could easily get caught up in someone else's feud and have their entire season destroyed as a consequence.
In any case, Kahne was soon put out of the race for good by an accident on lap 435, when Brad Keselowski suffered a transmission failure on his car and ended up wiping out a number of drivers in a multi-car wreck that required an 11 minute red flag to clear up. Some of the other drivers were on their radios to enquire whether this was the latest chapter of the Vickers/Kahne running battle that had caused previous stoppages, but this time Vickers was well away from the incident.
"I just didn't really see [Keselowski] slowing down," Kahne admitted. "I think my spotter was spotting me and I think he saw it last second. As soon as he said it I hit the brakes, but it was way too late.
"I was just looking at [Martin Truex Jr.] and then he started slowing up and then I was into him too. It was a pretty good hit," he added. "I thought we had a great car early ... and then the incident with Vickers and then we were behind and we never got going. But I think we had a much better car than where we were running."
Kahne - who was eliminated form the Chase play-offs by just three points after last week's race at Talladega Superspeedway - ended up classified in 40th position after his retirement. Vickers meanwhile managed to keep going to the end, although he was four laps off the lead and was shown in 27th place when the chequered flag came out despite all that had happened earlier in the day.
"I don't know what happened. It's a shame because Kasey should have known better than to wreck us,” Vickers noted. “I don't know what he was thinking, but it didn't work out too well for him."
Sprint Cup Series championship - Top non-Chase standings
9. (--) Kyle Busch 2230pts
10. (+2) AJ Allmendinger 2198pts
11. (+2) Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2196pts
12. (-2) Jimmie Johnson 2186pts
13. (+1) Greg Biffle 2178pts
14. (-3) Kasey Kahne 2173pts
15. (--) Kurt Busch 2155pts
16. (--) Aric Almirola 2124pts
17. (--) Kyle Larson # 981pts
18. (--) Clint Bowyer 923pts
19. (--) Austin Dillon # 910pts
20. (--) Jamie McMurray 906pts
21. (+1) Paul Menard 856pts
22. (-1) Brian Vickers 847pts
23. (--) Marcos Ambrose 802pts
24. (--) Martin Truex Jr. 773pts
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