Auto Club Speedway is launching a "Track Reunion Awards" promotion in which each week it will ask questions such as, "Who is NASCAR's class clown?"
That, in fact, was precisely the question the track put to drivers for the first installment of the promotion, which you can check out on the ACS website page by clicking here.
Meanwhile, it got us thinking about some of greatest class clowns in NASCAR -- not only in the present, but in the past as well. Here's the dirty dozen we came up with, along with some of their more memorable pranks.
Getty ImagesJared C. Tilton
Wallace once set up and participated in a fake ESPN SportsCenter interview with broadcaster Tim Brando in which Brando pretended to be asking the late Dale Earnhardt questions about Wallace, then one of Earnhardt's on-track rivals. Every time Earnhardt began to answer, Wallace started talking in the background -- and through Earnhardt's earpiece -- about what a superior driver to Earnhardt Rusty Wallace was.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
Johnson once staged a scene where a reporter who had criticized him in print found himself surrounded by Johnson "supporters" who were threatening to kick the reporter's butt. Then Johnson suddenly drove up in a car, screeched to a halt, and acted like he was saving the reporter's life -- all in an elaborate effort to curry favor with the scribe for the long run.
Everyone has heard the story of Jocko Flocko, the pet monkey that rode with Tim Flock in a publicity stunt gone bad. In this case, you could say Flock accidentally pranked himself when Jocko broke free from his shoulder harness in the middle of a race and suffered a burn that sent him careening crazily about the inside of the car. Flock couldn't get the little beast off his neck and had trouble seeing where he was going until he finally pulled into the pits and flung the animal out the driver's-side window.
Bowyer once successfully pulled the ol' exploding golf ball prank on fellow driver Kevin Harvick, a noted prankster himself. Another time he posed as a Texas Motor Speedway employee, acting like an annoying videographer who antagonized a group of season ticketholders before eventually revealing who he was.
Weatherly was the legendary Curtis Turner's partner in crime on the road. One time, the two got to arguing about who was the fastest driver -- so they rented the fastest automobiles they could find and tore off down the highway, beating and banging against each other. When they were done trying to prove their point, they returned the smoking cars to the rental agency, which was not amused.
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Busch has admitted he is fond of putting a smattering of grease on door handles of fellow drivers' cars (we assume rental cars and not their race cars). Then he'll stick something on the inside of their windshield that they inevitably will try to remove, thereby getting the nasty, messy grease all over the place.
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Harvick once pranked a PR intern so badly that the intern feared for his job. He's also been known to take a hammer to his business manager's phone (or so his business manager thought), go with the old pie-to-the-face classic on a crew member, and even had the guts to prank his father-in-law by messing with his truck so it would start bellowing out smoke.
Getty Images for Texas Motor SpeRobert Laberge
All you need to do is watch him go to work undercover in some of the Pepsi commercials to know that Gordon, the recently retired Cup Series driver who now works as a FOX Sports NASCAR analyst, has what it takes to pull off a quality prank.
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Dale Earnhardt Jr.
From punking unsuspecting race fans by providing the voice for a talking deer head in a convenience store for a Mountain Dew commercial to scaring fellow driver Aric Almirola and others with a fake snake during another photo shoot, Junior knows what he is doing.
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The elder Earnhardt was a notorious prankster. If Wallace got him with a fake interview, for instance, he immediately put it on his calendar to get Wallace back double "and make sure everyone was there, watching." Other times, he'd punk someone privately -- like taking them deer hunting and tearing off down an old dirt road at 100 miles an hour, pretending he was going to fire his gun out the window at an animal that wasn't really there. Or taking someone deep in the woods and then pretending he was lost.
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Stewart once doused the pants legs of a crew member who was working underneath his race car with brake fluid and lit him on fire for a few seconds, then doused him with a fire extinguisher just as the crew member's panic reached its highest level. Among many other pranks, he also put brake cleaner in Denny Hamlin's seat (it burns) once before a race and was at least accused of peeing in Earnhardt Jr.'s seat another time.
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Turner was the all-time NASCAR prankster. A private pilot, he was fond of taking colleagues up in his plane and acting like the engines had cut out. He once put good buddy and fellow driver Joe Weatherly in an all-out panic with that one, gliding with both engines off before eventually turning them back. Another time, he landed on a street in a small town in South Carolina because he was in search of a good bottle of whiskey (he lost his pilot's license over that one). Another time, he parked a rental car in the pool at the hotel where he and other drivers were staying.