Hot tempers upstage Smith’s first career victory

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DARLINGTON, S.C. | Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick again have focused the NASCAR spotlight on who’s fighting instead of who’s winning.

One race after Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Newman traded wrecks and words at Richmond, Harvick squared off with Busch following a late crash that took both from contention at Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500 on Saturday night.

Busch slowly followed Harvick into the pit area when the race was done, Harvick eventually jumping out of his car and attempting to punch or grab his rival through his window. Busch then slammed into Harvick’s driverless car to clear space and drive off.

It was an ugly way to end Regan Smith’s first Sprint Cup win in 105 career races. But it’s a spat sure to keep fans and drivers buzzing all week long leading to Sunday’s race at Dover International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he couldn’t wait to get “on the Internet tonight and check it out. I don’t know what happened.”

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said Sunday the organization will review both the disputes this week.

Fighting among NASCAR drivers is nothing new. High speeds, long races and high temperatures often lead to hot tempers. Before the 2010 season, the organization even gave its sanction for drivers to show more emotion and verve with NASCAR’s vice president for competition, Robin Pemberton, saying, “We will put it back in the hands of drivers, and we will say, ‘Boys, have at it and have a good time.”’

And there’s been no shortage of dust-ups since.

At Richmond International Raceway, Montoya and Newman were involved in two different on-track incidents. The first caused Montoya, the pole-sitter, to brush the wall and repairs in pits put him three laps down. He later ran into the back of Newman, who was running eighth, and Newman vowed his payback would come after the race.

The bad blood continued at Darlington with the two meeting with NASCAR on Friday in a session Tharp acknowledged “did not go as well as had hoped it would.”

Whispers popped up that Newman had punched Montoya during the meeting, something both drivers brushed aside later that day.

“With conflict there are varying opinions, that’s what causes the conflict. I’m past it,” Newman said.

although with different versions of what happened.

Busch said Harvick’s racing was “unacceptable racing.”

“I gave him room off of two, I didn’t get the room,” Busch said.

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