Views from the Grandstands

Kay Bell | July 12, 2011

Hail to the Bad Boys

It’s time to quit worrying about corporate image and celebrate the NASCAR drivers who bring passion, thrills and fans to the sport.

Within a one-week span this summer, a four-time NASCAR champion claimed an historic victory and a young driver got beat up by one of the sport’s legendary owners.

Guess which event we’re still talking about?

Kevin Harvick

 Congratulations and all to Jeff Gordon, whose June 12 win at Pocono was the 84th of his career, tying him for third on the all-time list with Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

But what we all really want is details on the smackdown that Richard Childress gave Kyle Bush after the June 4 truck race. How mad was Richard? Did Kyle put up any fight before doing his turtle impression after Childress popped him? Where the heck is the YouTube video?

Details of the confrontation remain scarce, but even today it fascinates race fans. Heck, even non-NASCAR folk were talking about it. And that’s precisely why we need more.

Now I’m not advocating violence. And pit-lane brawls every week sure would make it hard for race crews to get their work done. But that fight’s passion is exactly what’s in short supply at NASCAR.

So it’s time for the sport to fully embrace its bad boys.

NASCAR’s leadership is trying, as evidenced by its “boys have at it” message to encourage on-track rivalries back in 2010. But it’s only worked to a degree.

NASCAR’s reigning bad boy, Kyle Busch, has had some run-ins with competitors, most notably Brad Keselowski. But after some name-calling, which wasn’t even face-to-face, their feud fizzled.

Another brouhaha, however, seems to be brewing. It again involves Childress Racing and the younger Busch brother. This time, though, it’s Kevin Harvick who’s warning Kyle, through both some aggressive on-track moves at Pocono and post-race comments, that “he ain’t seen nothing yet.’’

You go, Kevin!

I applaud Harvick not just because I’m no Kyle fan, but because of all of today’s drivers, he’s the closest in spirit and action to NASCAR’s classic bad boys.

Harvick’s “Happy” nickname belies his intensity. Dale Earnhardt Sr. saw it; that’s why Ironhead personally selected Harvick as his successor. Now it’s time for Harvick to fully assume the Intimidator’s hard-driving, take-no-prisoners mantle.

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