This week, FOXSports.com will offer its own series of NASCAR awards to close out the 2011 season. In this segment, NASCAR on FOX’s Darrell Waltrip, Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond, FOXSports.com Senior NASCAR Editor Jorge Mondaca, SPEED Editor in Chief Tom Jensen, FOXSports.com Senior NASCAR writer Lee Spencer, FOXSports.com NASCAR writers Holly Cain and Rea White and SPEED NASCAR writer Mike Hembree weigh in on the drivers who just couldn’t find a way to get along this season.
NASCAR Feud of the Year
Waltrip: My gosh, we could talk about Juan Pablo Montoya/Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick/Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart/Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth/Vickers – there were a number of little flare-ups throughout the year. But a feud to me lasts a long time, and so there’s one that has lasted a long time – Kyle Busch vs. Kevin Harvick, Kevin Harvick Inc., and Richard Childress Racing. When I think about team owner Richard Childress confronting Busch and wanting to whup up on his head, and that’s been going on for quite some time – ever since Busch started his Truck team. Back then, Busch went to Kevin and DeLana Harvick to talk to them about their own Truck operation, how to get it started and all that. The Harvicks were an open book and as soon as Kyle left there he hired Rick Ren (KHI’s team manager) and Eric Phillips (KHI’s crew chief), two of the best people Kevin had. That started this whole feud and it just went on and on. You look at Darlington Raceway this year, Harvick and Busch were ticked and they went at each other on pit road and they got fined for it. Then Busch got into one of Childress’ trucks, so he took care of that business. That’s what a feud is.
McReynolds: Obviously of late it would be certainly Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth, it seems to be more of a feud on Brian Vickers’ side than it does Kenseth, but I think from start to finish it would have to be Kyle Busch versus, not necessarily a driver, but the organization. It appeared to be Kyle Busch versus Kevin Harvick Inc./Richard Childress Racing. There’s a very long list: Kyle Busch versus Kevin Harvick at Darlington, versus Joey Coulter’s truck at Kansas, versus Elliott Sadler’s truck at Bristol, versus Ron Hornaday’s truck at Texas. It appeared more between Kyle and Kevin, but the organization seems to be the one that took the blunt of it.
Hammond: The feud of the year is real simple: Kyle Busch and the world. He fought with everybody and had I don’t know how many people upset with him during the course of the season, from the Truck to the Nationwide to Sprint Cup series and, on top of that, he had an owner come after him. So, to me, it’s Kyle Busch versus the world.
Jensen: The Busch brothers vs. the world. Not only did the brothers lose, they failed to cover the spread — badly.
Spencer: The ongoing antics between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick provided race fans with one entertaining exchange after another in 2011. Certainly, the rivalry hit a crescendo in May, when the pair tangled at Darlington Raceway on the track and pit road following the race. Both were fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the next four races. However, that didn’t stop Harvick from antagonizing Busch at Pocono Raceway before the probation period ended. The conflict carried over to the Truck series at Texas Motor Speedway, where Busch punted Kevin Harvick Inc. driver Ron Hornaday, who at the time was a title contender. NASCAR had the last word, opting to park Busch for the remainder of the weekend.
Cain: Anyone named Busch versus . … anyone. Brothers Kurt and Kyle maintained multiple battle fronts this season, feuding with other drivers, team owners (their own or others), the media, even in-car cameras. The only drivers they didn’t tangle with were each other. Their immense talent behind the wheel is matched only by their immense proclivity to meltdown. It will be the difference in either of them winning a championship to complement their impressive resume of race wins.
White: Certainly there were many feuds that merit consideration in this category, from the Kurt Busch-Jimmie Johnson bang-up that left Johnson exiting early at Richmond to the Matt Kenseth-Brian Vickers saga that cost Kenseth his shot at the title. But the winner here is the ongoing, simmering Kyle Busch-Kevin Harvick fracas. The highlight of their showdown came at Darlington Raceway, where Busch tagged Harvick on the track, then was confronted by him on pit road. Harvick blocked Busch and jumped from his car on pit road, Busch stayed in his and pushed Harvick’s empty car out of the way and rolling down pit road with no driver, both earned probation – and yet they still take digs at one another and keep fans delighted and awed.
Mondaca: The driver-on-driver feuds in 2011 were great, but years from now we will mark this year as the return of rivalries between manufacturers in NASCAR. This year, each car make scored multiple wins with multiple drivers and each had at least one signature win (Ford at Daytona, Chevrolet at Indianapolis, Dodge at Bristol and Toyota at Kentucky). Also, all four manufacturers had representatives during NASCAR’s title Chase – which eventually led to a thrilling finale where a Ford and a Chevrolet team battled for the crown (and whispers of drivers from each camp helping their own).
Hembree: Kurt Busch vs. Everybody. And Everybody won.