Bristol Is A Battleground
Quick… what's the first thing you think of when you think about when you hear the phrase "Bristol Motor Speedway battles?"
For me - and a great many others - I think about Tony Stewart firing his helmet at Matt Kenseth's car during last August’s IRWIN Tools Night Race. That was definitely a defining moment in that race – and further proof that there’s no shorter fuse than that of a driver who’s doing battle at Bristol.
When I think about other driver run-ins, I also think of the infamous Earnhardt-Labonte dust-ups, which to date are ALWAYS number one in the minds of fans when they start ranking the Bristol battles.
Nobody who was here – or watching on TV – will ever forget the August 1995 melee that occurred. Dale Earnhardt, who considered Bristol his own personal playground, and Terry Labonte, were racing hard for the Night Race win with Labonte on point. With just a few laps to go Earnhardt, who was running second, nudged Labonte, spinning him. Somehow Labonte was able to stay in front of him and crossed the finish line backward. One of the most memorable moments ever came when Labonte steered his wreck of a ride into victory lane.
But a few years later, Earnhardt was the one who came out of a battle with Labonte on the winning end. Again the two were the dominant cars and both spent time leading. With one lap remaining in the Night Race, Labonte got around The Intimidator but Earnhardt was having none of it and driving deep into Turn 1 to move around Labonte, he hit him. Labonte went spinning and Earnhardt went on to win his ninth, and final, race at BMS.
What do I remember most about that night? Earnhardt, always beloved in Bristol due to his take-no-prisoners approach to racing, was booed like I’ve never heard before. The entire place, it seemed, stood and in unison took out their displeasure on the Man in Black. To this day, it remains the most surreal moment I’ve ever experienced at this Speedway.
Oh, and I also remember Earnhardt’s famous line… as Labonte seethed over the last-lap move, Earnhardt told reporters in victory lane that all he meant to do was "rattle his cage." It’s still one of the most memorable victory lanes in Bristol history.
While there are lots of other feuds (remember when Rusty Wallace threw a water bottle at Earnhardt after a race and when Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch went after each other on the cool down lap?) the other one that really stands out in my mind involved Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle.
It was 2002 and Biffle and Harvick got together late in the race with Biffle sending Harvick into the wall. A very angry Harvick climbed out of the car and walked straight to Biffle’s pit and then stood there, waiting for the race to end.
I happened to be in the pit area, waiting to take the top three finishers to the media center for their interviews so I had a front seat for what happened next…. When Biffle exited his car after the race ended, out of nowhere comes Harvick, leaping over the hoods of Biffle’s car, Dukes of Hazzard style.