May 9, 2011
By Matthew Pizzolato
Although NASCAR got its start from the early days of running moonshine, it wasn't the moonshiners who made NASCAR into what it is today. It was the feuds between drivers that launched NASCAR into the mainstream.
From the Hatfield and McCoy feud to the Lincoln County War, feuding is something that is deeply embedded in the America psyche. Whether right or wrong, a feud marks its participants as someone that fans can identify with because it displays so many emotions.
There have been quite a few famous feuds throughout the history of NASCAR, several of which were integral into building the sport.
The biggest rivalry between two drivers was the one between Richard Petty and David Pearson. It was probably one of the longest running feuds as well because they finished first and second to each other 62 times.
However, the conflict that pushed NASCAR into the mainstream was the 1979 Daytona 500 and the battle between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison, both on the track and in the infield grass after the race concluded.
Of course, one can't discuss NASCAR feuds without mentioning Dale Earnhardt Sr. It's been said that just about every driver feuded with him at one time or another. However, the two biggest involving Earnhardt would be his feud during the 1980's with Darrell Waltrip and the one with Jeff Gordon during the 1990's.
There's something about feuding in NASCAR that inspires greatness. Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt, Waltrip, Yarborough, and Gordon are all are legends in the sport with multiple Championships to their names.
Sadly however, since the Earnhardt / Gordon feud of the early '90's there hasn't been a feud or even a rivalry for any considerable length of time. Sure, ever so often a couple of drivers have an altercation on the track and go back and forth for a couple of weeks or months but eventually it simmers down.
With the way the point system is structured, drivers really can't afford to be involved in accidents of their own making when every point is critical for qualifying for The Chase. And in today's politically correct society, the "eye for an eye" mentality is generally frowned upon.
In order to keep drawing fans to the sport, NASCAR needs drivers that fans can identify with. Perhaps NASCAR officials realized this when they instituted the "Boy's Have at It" policy.
Last week at Richmond saw the rekindling of some hostilities that had been on the back burner for a while. Ryan Newman and Juan Pablo Montoya made contact with each other several times on the track. Afterwards, neither driver was apologetic or willing to back down.
In a press conference this weekend at Darlington, Ryan Newman was asked what started the altercation between himself and Montoya.
"I'm not really sure. I know he's a really hard racer, he's really physical. There's nothing wrong with that as long as you have an amount of respect. I think the respect went out the window Saturday night at Richmond. I'm not real sure why."
Montoya, on the other hand, had a different story.
“I’ll tell you the truth, with Newman it’s been since my first Cup race. In my first Cup race the guy that wrecked me was him and after that I’ve been wrecked a couple times more by him," Montoya was quoted as saying in a press conference at Darlington. "Really never wanted to have a problem with him and it’s just a pain in the ass when you are trying to race smart and the give and take, you let everybody by and then you expect people to do the same. It’s just unnecessary."
“It just adds up. It gets to a point where too much is too much and I felt it had to stop, you know what I mean? I could have done it a lot more aggressively and completely knocked him out of the race but that wasn’t really the plan," Montoya said. "I just felt he could have given me about an inch and nothing would have happened but over and over and over has been the case. I’ve been wrecked by him a couple of times. I didn’t mind so much that he did it, I minded that at this point we both need the points and I didn’t feel I was being treated fair. Do what I do, what I had to.”
NASCAR officials called the two drivers together to settle their differences and it is rumored that the meeting came to blows. However this hasn't been confirmed and neither driver would comment on it.
Perhaps this is the beginnings of a feud that NASCAR desperately needs. Only time will tell.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
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