Drama-filled night at Darlington
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Darlington, SC (Sports Network) -
Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway had a little bit of everything at the end. Yeah, it took a lengthy three hours and 54 minutes to complete 505 miles, but if you watched the finish, you saw another long shot winner in NASCAR this season, as well as the next episode of "boys, have at it."
Regan Smith pulled off the second big upset in the early season by winning his first race in NASCAR's premier series. Trevor Bayne shocked the racing world in February when he won the Daytona 500, one day after he turned 20 years old. Unfortunately, Smith's win wasn't the highlight of the Showtime Southern 500 when it wrapped up shortly before midnight (et) at Darlington.
Instead, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick stole the spotlight with their post-race brouhaha on pit road.
With the air temperature dipping into the upper 50's at Darlington, tempers flared in the closing laps when Busch, Harvick and Clint Bowyer tangled during a three-wide battle for position. Bowyer slammed hard into the inside wall. Busch then made contact with Harvick and sent him into the outside wall.
Busch and Harvick finished on the lap. Then the ruckus between the two began.
As Smith made his victory lap around the tricky 1.366-mile Darlington oval, Harvick pulled next to Busch on pit road. Busch attempted to flee Harvick by putting his car in reverse and trying to back up, but he damaged the reverse in his transmission.
Harvick hopped out of his Chevrolet, headed towards Busch's Toyota and then appeared to throw a punch at Busch while he was still in his car.
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick (above) stole the spotlight with their post-race brouhaha.
"I was just trying to get away from the situation with Harvick, and unfortunately, he got to pit road before me, so I pulled in behind him," Busch recalled. "He let the 47 [Bobby Labonte] go, but I knew if I tried to turn left or right, he was going to run into me or block me or something.
"I just stayed behind him. I was just going to sit there, not worry about it and let him cool his head for a second and let him figure out that we just need to go back to the garage area. Instead of him doing that, he wanted to get out of his car and wanted to fight."
While trying to escape the wrath of Harvick, Busch nudged Harvick's car out of the way and into the inside wall on pit road.
"I pushed his car out of the way on pit road, and unfortunately, there were men walking down pit road," Busch said. "I hate it that somebody could have gotten hurt, but I was just trying to get away from it and get back to my hauler and go on with my own business."
The altercation didn't end there. When Busch and Harvick made it back to the garage, the crews for both teams engaged in a shouting and shoving match. NASCAR officials summoned the two drivers and their team owners to the NASCAR hauler for a discussion, which lasted roughly 15 minutes.
Harvick spoke with the media following the meeting, but did not get into detail about the incident.
"That's it," he said. "What do you do? That's racing, I guess."
Busch ended up finishing 11th, while Harvick settled for 17th.
Perhaps Bowyer, who got the worst end of the deal, summed it up best after his 31st-place finish by saying, "That's Darlington."
The feud between Busch and Harvick comes one week after Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman clashed at Richmond. Montoya and Newman captured the spotlight up until the start of the Darlington race. The two met with officials on Friday to settle their differences.
Montoya had a run-in with Jimmie Johnson early in the race, putting Johnson into a spin. Montoya managed to stay out of trouble from there.
Busch and Harvick will be more of a topic of conversation than Smith's stunning win when Sprint Cup arrives in Dover, DE later this week. But that doesn't seem to bother the 27-year-old Smith, who held off points leader Carl Edwards during a green-white-checkered finish for the victory at Darlington.
In fact, Smith was unaware of Busch and Harvick's incident at the time he was celebrating with his Denver, CO-based Furniture Row Racing team in victory lane.
"I can honestly tell you I don't have an idea what happened behind me, except Carl Edwards didn't pass me, some of the other details on the restart with Brad [Keselowski] and stuff like that," Smith said. "I have no clue what happened in the race other than us winning. You know what, if that's what's talked about [this] week, so be it. I don't care. It's not going to take away from the feeling I've got right now."
No one would have guessed that Smith would be the one who "tamed" Darlington this time, but after Bayne's win at Daytona, anything can happen in Sprint Cup these days.
"[Fifth-place finisher] Ryan [Newman] grabbed me and said, 'You're 500-to-1 odds in Vegas. Hopefully, somebody made some money tonight'." Smith said.
Two guys that could lose money this week are Busch and Harvick. NASCAR is currently reviewing their altercation at Darlington and could assess penalties to both drivers in the coming days.