Without rivalries, NASCAR just isn’t NASCAR.
Drivers taking on former teammates, mortal enemies from the start and star-crossed (and, sometimes, even car-crossed) lovers—the storylines grip us and keep fans coming back each season for more.
Here are the top five rivalries in NASCAR right now.
1. Danica vs. Ricky
It might have started with a kiss, but it got more interesting with a crash. When Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., announced in January that they were dating off the track, fans knew it would only be a matter of time before they ended up at odds on the track.
And, sure enough, at the Coca-Cola 600 in May, it happened: Stenhouse rammed Patrick’s car, sending her careening into the wall. Stenhouse finished fourteenth, but Patrick was unable to finish the race.
Watch the now-infamous crash:
2. Clint vs. Jeff
In real life, Nos. 24 and 15 add up to 39. On the track, they add up to an explosive mix that makes for great rivalry watching. It’s been brewing for some time, but the rivalry really blew up last year in Phoenix when Jeff Gordon crashed Clint Bowyer.
Check out the ensuing crew brawl, in full-on Sharks-and-Jets mode, here:
3. Chevy vs. Ford
The Wall Street Journal called it a “rivalry older than NASCAR itself” and “the Yankees and Red Sox” of NASCAR. It’s no mystery why: the two American automakers’ rivalry goes back to the conception of the mass-produced automobile in the 1920s.
4. Jeff vs. Jimmy
NASCAR’s favorite frenemies, once mentor and protege, are always a great race to watch. In many ways, the student, Jimmy Johnson, has become the master, raking in five Sprint Cup titles. That, while the once-master, Gordon, has seen his fortunes fall in recent years.
5. Tony vs. Matt
To throw your helmet at someone, you’ve got to be pretty mad. And that’s exactly the situation Tony Stewart found himself in after he tried to take the lead of Matt Kenseth by coming down on him.
In June, Stewart got the best of rival Kenseth, when he won the FedEx 400 by besting Jimmie Johnson, who had led the race for 143 laps. Stewart dusted Kenseth, who finished 39 cars behind Stewart, at 40th.
Watch the incident below. The best part? The commentators take on Stewart’s helmet-throwing technique (“He’s a southpaw, too!” they note, hilariously).