By admin | August 26, 2012
By Richard Allen
Both Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart are former NASCAR champions and both are among the sportâ€™s biggest stars. However, those two things are about all theyâ€™ve had in common in 2012. For that matter, the rivalry that goes back several years has only intensified this season.
During the 2006 Daytona 500 the two drivers had contact with each other, which sent Kenseth spinning through the grass and eventually back onto the track. Afterwards, there was an exchange of hand gestures and accusations.
Kenseth called Stewartâ€™s move across the track and into the side of his car an â€œintentional cheap shotâ€ and believed the incident cost him a chance to win NASCARâ€™s biggest race. While for his part, Stewart claimed that Kenseth was to blame because of earlier contact between their two cars. â€œHe started the whole thing, and I finished it,â€ he declared.
Since then, the perennial championship contenders have had a somewhat contentious on track relationship. And that relationship has grown hotter in 2012. Issues between the two had occurred in Sonoma, California and Indianapolis leading up to Saturday nightâ€™s explosion at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
On lap 333 of the 500 lap â€˜Irwin Tools Night Raceâ€™, Kenseth was leading with Stewart closing fast. The driver of the #14 car made a bold inside move to take the top spot, sliding up in front of the #17 car in the process. Going into the next set of turns, Kenseth attempted to return the favor by diving inside of Stewart.
Coming off of turn four, the two cars slammed together and veered out of control. Eventually, they ended up banging off each other and the inside wall. Stewart was forced to go behind the pit wall for repairs while Kenseth continued on at a slower pace.
Perhaps the highlight of the incident came as Kenseth drove down pit road just as Stewart was getting out of his car. The defending Sprint Cup champion flung his helmet at Kensethâ€™s passing machine, seemingly using the Ford emblem on the nose of the car as a target and scoring a direct hit. Stewart then whipped his arm around in recognition of the crowdâ€™s cheers of approval, further stirring the masses.
Stewart immediately blamed Kenseth for the wreck and offered a few pointed comments regarding his rival to waiting media members as he left the infield care center. â€œIâ€™m going to run over him every chance Iâ€™ve got from now until the end of the year,â€ he declared.
Needless to say, Kenseth had a different view of the situation. â€œIâ€™m a little confused,â€ he said. â€œI was running the top leading and he got a run and he went into turn one like I wasnâ€™t there and just went straight to the fence. If I wouldnâ€™t have lifted, like he chose not to do the next corner, we would have wrecked, so I let him have it and I got a run back, drove all the way alongside of him and we just kept going.
â€œI mean, I lifted down there or else we would have wrecked and he chose not to lift and wrecked us both, so I donâ€™t know,â€ Kenseth went on. â€œHeâ€™s already had two in this series heâ€™s pretty much taken us out of and I told him after Indy I was gonna race him the way he raced me and I did the exact same thing down there that he did down there â€“ the exact same thing, except he didnâ€™t give it to me. I guess he just wanted to do all the taking, so thatâ€™s where we ended up.â€
This doesnâ€™t sound like a problem that is going to get solved anytime soon. The rest of the season could offer some more fireworks and hot tempers between these two great drivers.
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