Bump ‘n’ grind: Get ready for some Southern short-track road rage

Mayhem ensued at Martinsville in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 last October, but that was nothing new for the short track whee tempers often flare.

If you want to see some good, old-fashioned Southern short-track road rage, then Martinsville Speedway is the place to be.

This tiny .526-mile track has all the elements necessary for tempers to overheat and explode, which is a virtual certainty in Sunday’s STP 500 (FOX Sports 1, 1 p.m. ET). There are too many cars and too many drivers crammed into too little racing space and a claustrophobically small pit road. 

Over the course of 500 laps, it’s inevitable that drivers will make contact and get angry with each other. And that anger can escalate quickly.

In the three practice sessions Friday and Saturday, there were at least half-a-dozen disagreements on track: Tony Stewart and Matt DiBenedetto; Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray; Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon were among the drivers angry at each other.

And that was just practice.  

There have been some pitched battles in races, too.

The most famous incident probably was the one that occurred in the spring of 2012, when Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were leading going into the first green-white-checkered restart, only to have Clint Bowyer attempt an impossible pass below them on the inside lane.

Bowyer’s banzai pass attempt sent Johnson into the wall and Gordon spinning up the track, with Ryan Newman racing from fifth place to steal the win. It was an especially emotional moment because Hendrick Motorsports at the time had 199 victories and Martinsville was the place that 10 family members, friends and associates died in a plane crash in 2004. To be wrecked out at the end of the race here understandably infuriated Gordon.

Jumping for Joey: Logano is fastest in qualifying for the STP 500 at Martinsville

Later that year, in the penultimate race of the season, Gordon deliberately wrecked Bowyer at Phoenix, sparking a huge brawl between the two teams in the garage.

Last October at Martinsville, Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers took turns wrecking each other — three times to be exact, before NASCAR got on the radio and told both teams to stop it at once.

In 2013, Kevin Harvick and Ty Dillon took turns doing their level best to wreck each other in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

Vickers and Matt Kenseth crashed each other repeatedly in 2011, both their cars looking like they came from a demolition derby.

Then there was Carl Edwards cocking his fist at teammate Kenseth after a race in 2007 and the epic battle between Tony Stewart and the late Kenny Irwin in 1999, which ended with Stewart throwing his heat shields at Irwin and trying to punch Irwin through the window of his car. 

Will there be anything to rival those moments on Sunday? 

No one knows.

But you get bet your last dollar there will be bent sheet metal and bad feelings at some point in the race. OK, several points in the race. And that’s what makes this historic track both a throwback to NASCAR’s early roots and place where the action genuinely qualifies as must-see TV.

VIDEO: Watch the trailer and then tune in to see the entire legendary story of Martinsville at 6 p.m. Sunday on FOX Sports 1

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