Commentary

The top five NASCAR throwdowns

Updated: April 6, 2011, 10:13 AM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- There's not a Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier "Thrilla in Manila" moment in NASCAR, but there have been some pretty good fights that make the Jeff Gordon-Jeff Burton skirmish at Texas Motor Speedway this past fall look tame at best.

Here's a look at five of my favorites:

1. Nicole Lunders versus Eva Bryan -- 2006, Texas

We often accuse drivers of acting like girls, so for the sake of humor and because the incident happened at the scene of this weekend's race at Texas, we're going to rank this catfight No. 1.

Let's start by properly identifying the contestants. Lunders was Greg Biffle's girlfriend and later-to-be wife. Bryan was Kurt Busch's fiancée. Apparently, Lunders was worried about her man's well-being more than her man was after Busch hit the back of the No. 16 to cause a wreck that ended Biffle's day.

TV cameras caught Lunders slamming a water bottle on Biffle's pit box, then marching down pit road and climbing onto Busch's pit box, where she got into a fiery exchange with Bryan.

It was so heated that NASCAR officials had talks with the women and issued a friendly reminder that entering another team's pit box is frowned upon.

C'mon. Everybody loves a good catfight.

[+] EnlargeCale Yarborough & Donnie Allison
Getty ImagesCale Yarborough, right, helped put NASCAR on the national map by taking on the Allison brothers at the 1979 Daytona 500.

2. Cale Yarborough versus Bobby and Donnie Allison -- 1979, Daytona 500

This brawl in the Turn 3 infield after the 1979 Daytona 500 certainly was the best publicized and had the biggest impact on the sport.

The fists and helmets flying, not to mention a naughty word or two, was captured by CBS TV cameras while most of the East Coast was snowed under. Many credit this moment for taking NASCAR to a national platform.

It happened after Yarborough and Donnie crashed each other going for the win on the last lap. With their cars parked on the grass, Bobby stopped to see whether his brother was all right.

Next thing you know ... well, Bobby's quote sums it up best:

"All I know is that all of a sudden I found Cale Yarborough's nose pounding on the end of my fist," he said.

By the way, Yarborough was a Golden Gloves boxer in his early years.

3. Tim Richmond versus David Pearson -- 1984, Firecracker 400

Most remember this for Richard Petty's 200th career win with President Ronald Reagan watching.

But in the Daytona garage after the race, Richmond felt strongly enough that Pearson should have parked his car -- which was spewing oil -- that he got in his face and said something along the lines of, "Listen, old man."

The "Silver Fox" apparently didn't appreciate that and landed Richmond on his rear end with one punch that also left the driver with a black eye.

[+] EnlargeKurt Busch
AP Photo/Tracy T. Mendez/Daily JournalKurt Busch showed his displeasure with Jimmy Spencer (41) after crashing in the 2002 Brickyard 400.

4. Jimmy Spencer versus Kurt Busch -- 2003, Michigan

You could pick several from this pair of hotheads, but the best was at Michigan because much was recorded.

According to tapes of radio chatter, Busch intentionally tried to flatten Spencer's bumper several times during the race. Afterward, the in-car camera caught Busch egging Spencer on when Spencer came to discuss the situation.

Spencer obliged, giving Busch a bloody nose and chipped tooth with a hard jab through Busch's car window. That earned Spencer a suspension from the following week's race at Bristol.

But because NASCAR viewed Busch as the instigator based on the tapes, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion was placed on probation for the rest of the year.

Smile; you're on candid camera.

5. Carl Edwards versus Kevin Harvick -- 2008, Charlotte Motor Speedway

The pictures of Edwards with his right hand around Harvick's throat as they scuffled in the Nationwide Series garage in Charlotte got this one on the list.

It actually began a week earlier at Talladega Superspeedway when Edwards triggered a 12-car wreck that collected Harvick. Afterward, Harvick described Edwards as a "pansy" for his race strategy of hanging around the back most of the day.

Before leaving Talladega, Edwards left a note on Harvick's plane that sarcastically said, "I was really trying to screw up everyone's day. Love, Carl."

When Edwards confronted Harvick the following week in the Charlotte Nationwide garage, they ended up on the hood of Harvick's car.

There were plenty more to choose from, but these are my favorites. What's yours?

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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