COMMENTARY | If NASCAR fans need a little something to spice up the mundane "action" the new Gen-6 car has provided so far to the Sprint Cup season, perhaps skipping the actual event and watching only the post-race coverage is the best recipe for real entertainment.
The pressure, intensity, and the potential of having a great run spoiled on the final lap makes a NASCAR race like a Crock-Pot when it comes to taking tempers from a simmer to a boil during the long course of a day.
From the classic infield brawl between Cale Yarborough and the Allison brothers after the 1979 Daytona 500, to the more recent post-race skirmish March 24 between Tony Stewart and Joey Logano in Fontana, Calif., fist and verbal fights between drivers always add personality to what is otherwise 43 guys making left turns all afternoon.
So in celebration of NASCAR finding a new way to grab headlines this season, I've compiled a list of the "Surly Six" bad boys from the present and past. This is an unscientific list of drivers you wouldn't wanna mess with on pit road or in the garage area, since not much is happening on the track so far this season.
6) Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Wt: 165 lbs.
The Skinny: What "The Intimidator" lacked in size, he more than made up for in driving style and a no-bull approach to his craft. Earnhardt didn't do much fist fighting later in his career, because the respect level he commanded kept all comers from even dreaming of trying their luck.
Quotable: "You go back to the start of time, one cave guy was fighting another cave guy because his club was bigger than his, or his woman had longer hair. That's competition."
5) Jimmy Spencer
Wt: 230 lbs.
The Skinny: Spencer had feuds with many, the most passionate and longstanding with Kurt Busch. Add to Spencer's long memory an inability to play well with others, his imposing size, and an unending quest for revenge and verbal shots toward his rivals, and he was a lock for this list.
Quotable: "NASCAR had to do something to restore a sense of respect towards the sport on Kurt's (Busch) behalf, because he seems to consistently flaunt his disrespect for everything and everyone in the sport."
4) Kevin Harvick
Wt: 175 lbs.
The Skinny: Harvick is a tough one to gauge because he's been in so many skirmishes during his 12-year NASCAR career, but his crew typically finishes what the driver starts. But we still admire "Happy's" short fuse, willingness to pick a fight at any track, and his bullying of Kurt Busch -- all enough to make the list.
Quotable: "The sport was made on fights. We should have more fights. I like fights. They're not always fun to be in. Sometimes you're on the wrong end. But fights are what NASCAR is made of."
3) Tony Stewart
Wt: 170 lbs.
The Skinny: Stewart will never be the fittest driver on the circuit, but ask Logano, or Brian Vickers, or Matt Kenseth, or Kurt Busch (again) about what it's like ticking him off -- or cutting him off -- on the track. Stewart's fearlessness and his punch-first-ask-questions-later persona make him a legit contender for baddest boy on the block.
Quotable: "I guess I lead the pack of the bad boy group. I think there are fans out there that are looking for that guy. Dale Earnhardt didn't get his reputation or popularity by being a good guy. He got it by being aggressive and he was probably the bad boy in his era."
2) Clint Bowyer
Wt: 175 lbs.
The Skinny: Any athlete who makes a guest appearance on the hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" has to be a roughneck at the very least. Add to that, Bowyer's memorable sprint down the frontstretch at Phoenix last season to find Jeff Gordon after a crash, and a confrontation that caused an all-out brawl in the garage area, and he becomes a great candidate for baddest boy. Bowyer has the size and the 'tude to whoop 'em all … except one.
Quotable: "It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion (Gordon) and one of the best the sport's ever seen to act like that, it's completely ridiculous."
1) Cale Yarborough
Wt: 175 lbs.
The Skinny: Not the tallest guy in the garage, Yarborough was still not to be messed with. The pride of Timmonsville, S.C., was a star high-school athlete. He also played semi-pro football and was a golden gloves boxer. The last five letters of his last name say it all. And at age 74, Yarborough could probably still pound on most of today's drivers.
Quotable: "I think (the famous Daytona 500 fight) turned the whole sport around. It got everybody's attention. People who were watching TV live, they were jumping up and down in their living rooms."
Buddy Baker, the Allison boys, ill-tempered Mike Skinner, beefy Ryan Newman, mouthy Darrell Waltrip, fitness freak Carl Edwards, and even diminutive Mark Martin are all honorable mentions for the list. But when size, attitude and a rap sheet are put together, the six above are the baddest boys not to be messed with on any given raceday.
Of course, all of these are open to debate.
Todd Burlage lives in South Bend, Ind., where he covers automotive news for Wheelbase Communications and University of Notre Dame athletics in print, online and on radio for a variety of media outlets. His automotive stories have run in print and on websites throughout North America, including on newsday.com. Follow him on Twitter @toddburlage.
- Sports & Recreation
- Motor Racing
- Tony Stewart
- Cale Yarborough
- Dale Earnhardt
- Kurt Busch