NASCAR may have a somewhat unfair reputation for attracting rowdy redneck fans, who like nothing better than to drink and fight while watching races, but the truth is that any bad behavior is not always restricted to the grandstand.
Drivers have been known to take out competitors – whether deliberately or by accident – and these on-track disputes can often spill over into the post-race paddock or press conference. Some racers have held grudges for years against their rivals, and the feuds in NASCAR are legendary when compared to other sports.
In a sport that is full of big egos and competitive men and women, the names on this list go above and beyond even what NASCAR fans have come to expect, and these are the racers who truly are impossible to work with.
20 Denny Hamlin
Florida-born Hamlin has been racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 2005, winning the prestigious Daytona 500 twice in that time. He has also managed to fall out with just about every other racer on the circuit at one time or another and even traded blows with former teammate Joey Logano after a 2013 race at the Bristol Motor Speedway track.
19 Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski grew up around motor racing, which explains both his talent on the track and his temperament off it! The outspoken driver is not shy of criticizing other racers, or even his own team on occasions, and came under fire himself when he gave a very obviously inebriated post-race interview after celebrating his 2012 Sprint Cup win.
18 Kyle Busch
You just know that any racer who has earned the nickname “Rowdy” is going to be trouble, and Kyle Busch certainly lives up to his moniker. His aggressive racing style not only upsets other racers but also the crowd, although Busch seems to revel in the chorus of boos he often receives from NASCAR fans.
17 Robby Gordon
Veteran racer Robby Gordon may have quit the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but his exploits are still fondly remembered by fans who loved his larger than life personality. Another aggressive driver, Gordon is also known for his off-track altercations, including an incident at the New Hampshire Speedway track when he threw his helmet at Michael Waltrip.
16 Tony Stewart
There aren’t many people who escaped the wrath of Tony Stewart during his career. He had a particular disdain for reporters and was even forced to undergo anger management counseling after a few outlandish outbursts. Stewart also criticized tire manufacturers and car manufacturers themselves for outing drivers’ safety at risk.
15 Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick has been involved in so many NASCAR fights, that fans would be well within their rights to question whether or not he should have taken up boxing as a career instead of motor racing. In 2002, Harvick launched himself over a crashed car in order to take a swing at Greg Biffle, while his altercation with Keselowski sparked a mass brawl between the two pit crews.
14 Kurt Busch
Kurt is the older brother of Kyle “Rowdy” Bush, and it would seem that bad behavior runs in the family if his antics are anything to go by. He has served several bans and probation periods over the years for altercations with team bosses, fellow drivers and reporters, and even received a police citation for reckless driving when he took his track driving to the regular road.
13 Tim Richmond
Tim Richmond was the playboy driver who was the inspiration behind the Tom Cruise character in the movie Days of Thunder, and his recklessness put himself and other drivers in danger. He even failed two tests for illegal substances during his racing career and died tragically young at the age of just 34.
12 Joey Logano
Joey Logano may be one of the younger NASCAR stars, but that hasn’t stopped him being involved in more than his fair share of controversies. He has a long-running feud with Kevin Harvick and was even involved in post-match fights with NASCAR heavyweights Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Tony Stewart.
11 John Wes Townley
Even dedicated NASCAR fans might struggle to recall the name John Wes Townley, who enjoyed a short career between 2014 and 2017 racing for a team owned by his father. He is undoubtedly best known for a brawl with fellow driver Spencer Gallagher, which was unfortunately captured by the assembled television cameras.
10 Rusty Wallace
Usually, NASCAR rivalries involve two drivers from opposing teams, but occasionally bad blood can even develop between teammates. This is what happened with Rusty Wallace and his Penske teammate Ryan Newman. Wallace began to resent the younger man’s success and began making barbed comments to the press.
9 Jimmy Spencer
Jimmy Spencer had a long-running feud with the older Busch brother, Kurt, which involved a number of on and off-track altercations. The final straw came when Busch pretended to run out of gas, causing Spencer to rear-end him, finishing both their races. Spencer saw red and punched Busch right in the face when they got to the pit lane.
8 Michael Waltrip
The younger brother of NASCAR commentator Darrel, Michael Waltrip was another driver who had a long-running feud, this time with Jeff Green who he bumped out of a race in Darlington. However, his most inauspicious moment came in 1995 when he was fined $10,000 for punching fellow driver Lake Speed at the Michigan International Speedway.
7 Steve Wallace
The son of Rusty, Steve Wallace always faced allegations that he only made it in the sport because of his famous father; and his nickname “The Wrecker” would seem to back up that assertion. He was once taken out of a race, but instead of heading to the pit lane, he took off in pursuit of the driver who had bumped him to try and get revenge.
6 Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth was a hugely successful NASCAR driver, and yet even he had his bad days at the office. He was banned for two races in 2015 for intentionally ramming the car of rising star Joey Logano, and it seems that the two drivers have a bit of a personality clash, as Kenseth was filmed warning Logano after a race earlier the same season.
5 Smokey Yunick
Smokey Yunick still enjoys a reputation as the ultimate NASCAR rule-breaker. Although he had a limited racing career, his strength was in car design – and in pushing those cars to the limit (and sometimes way beyond the limit) when it came to NASCAR rules on what was allowed on the track.
4 Dale Earnhardt
Nicknamed “The Intimidator” Dale Earnhardt Sr was one of those drivers who were happy to risk a race-ending crash if it meant that he finished in first place. Safety standards in his day were not as impressive as they are today, and his racing style was always destined to lead to the disaster of his death in a 2001 race.
3 Junior Johnson
Junior Johnson started stock car racing in the days when the cars were still being used to transport illegal alcohol, and he even served time in jail for having an illegal moonshine still. Such a natural rule-breaker was never going to fit into the restrictive world of modern NASCAR, and as a team owner, he was always pushing his cars beyond the sport’s rulebook.
2 Darrel Waltrip
Modern fans will know Darrel Waltrip as the voice of NASCAR on Fox, but in his day, he was a successful and controversial driver in his own right. Nicknamed “Jaws” Waltrip had high-profile feuds with rivals like Bobby Allison, Rusty Wallace, and Cale Yarborough, and even tried to get himself released from his contract with DiGard Racing in 1980.
1 Curtis Turner
A bit of a wild child both on and off the track, there was one big reason that the NASCAR authorities found Curtis Turner a nightmare to work with; he was one of the first racers to try and set up a union for NASCAR drivers in 1961. Bill France Sr initially banned Turner from the sport for life, though this was reversed in 1965.
Sources: NY Times, ESPN, USA Today, AP News