Family spats. We've all had them. Father against son. Brother against sister. Cousin against cousin. Aunt against nephew. Dog against cat. And so on.
The Coca-Cola Racing Family is no exception. Over the years, its drivers have met in head-to-head feuds that probably could have been avoided had everyone just sat down and settled their differences over an ice-cold Coke. The most-famous example, probably, is the feud between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano that started at last year's Daytona 500, kicked up several notches a year ago this weekend at Bristol, and finally boiled over with disastrous results at Fontana. In the process, Tony Stewart had his own moment with Joey after the Fontana race. The whole scenario made those Coca-Cola Racing Family Road Trips ad seem a bit awkward, though it seems - hopefully - that all has been forgiven among the trio of combatants.
Denny, Joey, and Tony are far from the first members of the Coca-Cola Racing Family to go at it, however, though one of them has found himself in more than a couple of scraps with his "siblings."
After a tangle while racing in the top-five at Sonoma, Jeff Burton promised retribution against fellow Coke charter member Dale Jarrett. That never went any further, though the pair did touch off a huge crash at the 2002 Coke Zero 400 with an ill-timed block. In 1999, Stewart and the late Kenny Irwin had a battle of their own at Martinsville. Stewart spun his old USAC rival twice in the early laps - once unintentionally, then intentionally after some roughhousing from Irwin - and then found himself parked in paperclip's first turn with the back-end knocked out of his Pontiac. Stewart waited until Irwin came back around, threw his heat shields at the windshield of Irwin's Taurus, and then tried to grab his fellow Hoosier through the right-side window.
How did Tony manage to get after Kenny, you ask? Well, that was thanks to Dale Earnhardt, another Coke driver. The Intimidator, mischievous as ever, knew Stewart and Irwin had a bone to pick with one another, and so when he passed Tony's wrecked car, he stopped just long enough to let them have at it.
Some folks may not remember this, but for a brief time Carl Edwards was a Coke driver. In 2006, he and Stewart (noticing a pattern here?) had a highly-pubicized spat after an incident that also involved another one-time Coke family driver, Clint Bowyer at Pocono. Edwards commented that, if not for his respect for the sport, Stewart would have been bleeding in the Pocono garage. Stewart responded by calling Edwards "the Eddie Haskell of NASCAR." Their feud continued, largely out of the limelight, until Edwards won the 2007 Prelude to the Dream at Tony's Eldora Speedway. There, the hatchet was finally buried - and no, not in Carl's chiseled physique.
In July 2007, then-Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Hamlin and - you guessed it - Smoke tangled while running first and second at that year's Coke Zero 400. Heated comments by both afterwards shedded light on a growing feud between the veteran and his sophomore teammate, whom Stewart referred to as wanting "to be a one-man band." Things were not smoothed over between the pair until a week later, when Joe Gibbs himself - at the time pre-occupied with his head coaching duties with the Redskins - flew to Chicagoland for a coming-to-Jesus meeting with his two drivers.
In 2010, it was Hamlin again who found himself in a two-on-one fued with two other then-Coke drivers. Everyone probably remembers tow-truck gate: Bowyer won the Chase opener in Loudon, then ran out of gas while celebrating. His car was pushed to victory lane by a tow-truck. The car failed inspection, the team was hit with a huge penalty, its appeal of that penalty failed, and Bowyer was taken out of title contention as quickly as he'd entered it. Hamlin made remarks about Bowyer and the rest of the RCR team, saying they had been warned for months by NASCAR that they were perilously close to exceeding the tolerances allowed by the rulebook. None-too-pleased by this, Kevin Harvick (a Coke driver until his sponsorship deal with Budweiser) gave Hamlin a shot on the track during practice at Dover. The pair then went face-to-face in the garage area.
Feuds in have been around probably since the time the second automobile was completed. As long as no one gets hurt -as unfortunately was the case in the Hamlin-Logano squabble - it is all mostly harmless. It is inevitable that, racing 39 times a year (in Cup races alone) in such a pressure-packed environment, two drivers will have a scrap now and then. Sometimes, it might even be a teammate or a fellow member of the Coca-Cola Racing Family. At the end of the day, though, they are all family. Stewart himself once declared NASCAR to be "like the Waltons on steroids."
Seems a pretty accurate description, wouldn't you say?