Feud between Stewart, Kenseth has making of good rivalry
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
CONCORD, N.C. -- Tony Stewart vs. Matt Kenseth.
Two series champions bumping and banging on the race track, then trading barbs off of it.
Add in Stewart going nose-to-nose with Kenseth's crew chief -- while Kenseth's cronies lurked nearby -- and the showdown turned out to be far more exciting than the race going on around them.
Round 2 of Stewart-Kenseth -- the first was during the season opener at Daytona -- started in the final segment of Saturday night's All-Star race, when both were racing for the $1 million prize.
Stewart was having a rocky night, and his Chevrolet had been damaged in an earlier six-car accident. But a quick trip down pit road for repairs had him all fixed up and back in contention.
Kenseth was having a much cleaner race, lurking back in the pack until it was time to make his move.
But the drivers eliminated themselves 18 laps from the finish when they crashed while fighting for the same piece of real estate.
Madness, NASCAR-style, ensued.
"At the finish line, I could see that Tony was getting a run and I was going to try to stay on the bottom," Kenseth said. "Maybe he was ... in there and I squeezed him off. I didn't think he could have got in there that good to have that good of a run, but he must have."
Stewart, who can be somewhat of a loose cannon in the heated moments of competition, was stewing inside his hauler when he saw Kenseth give his version of the accident on TV.
"I had a pretty definitive view from what I saw. I got a run on him, at least he got that part right," Stewart sniffed. "That's a pretty demented view in my opinion. I think he screwed up on this one.
"If he thinks I did that and that was my fault, he's screwed up in the head."
Then things got really interesting. As Kenseth's team was milling in the garage, Stewart confronted crew chief Robbie Reiser in a heated verbal exchange that quickly drew a crowd.
"That's racing, boys," Reiser shrugged after Stewart had been pulled away.
But Kenseth took exception to Stewart confronting his crew chief.
"Robbie don't drive the car, he should come confront me if he's mad," Kenseth said. "Tony is always mad at somebody. I'm not going to go out there and do the name calling like he does every week."
NASCAR officials didn't assign blame, and didn't appear to be very concerned with the dust-up on Monday.
"It was two objects trying to occupy the same place at the same time, and it doesn't work," said competition director Robin Pemberton. "One was coming up and one was in the hole, it was just hard racing. But it was an All-Star race. I don't think they would have been driving that hard if it was a points race."
Stewart and Kenseth had an earlier run-in this season at Daytona, when Stewart shoved Kenseth's car out of his way and into a spin through the grass that sent him into the wall. Kenseth retaliated by running Stewart off pit road, and both drivers were penalized.