CUP: Wanna Dance? Not With You

It’s a given that everyone needs a dancing partner to succeed at Talladega Superspeedway. It’s NASCAR’s version of Dancing With The Cars.

Sometimes teammates help teammates in the draft. Sometimes drivers tied to the same manufacturer link up. Sometimes long-time friends form drafting lines.

If recent history – recent history being Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway – is an indicator, some pairings might not work especially well in the Talladega draft.

More than a few drivers left Martinsville Sunday with feathers ruffled. Cold times there are not likely to be forgotten soon.

Case No. 1 was an exceptionally uncomfortable feud between Richard Childress Racing teammates Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick. After Harvick became upset because of what he considered a cutoff pass by Burton, Burton barked at Harvick over the team radios and didn’t hold back after the race in discussing their difficulties or Harvick’s personality.

“I can assure you I didn’t do anything wrong, and I would do it again a thousand times,” Burton said. “Because if what I did was wrong, then I will just quit racing.

“There will come a point when he [Harvick] realizes that everybody in the world is not against him. And every time it’s a conflict, he is involved. And you would think over the amount of years that he has done it, that he would get the hint that he is always in the middle of it and maybe sometimes if he just backed up a little bit and caught his breath, he would be OK.

“I’m not out to harm him. I am a teammate of his, and I am trying to help him, and there comes a point where he needs to just catch his breath and realize that it’s my race track, too. And I didn’t do anything wrong. If he thinks I did anything wrong, then we can’t race, and there is nothing that I did that I regret and there is nothing I won’t do next week.”


Next week is now this week. And it’s Talladega.

Given the chance to push Harvick to a win in the final lap this week, Burton might think twice.

There also was more negative carryover from a busy day at Martinsville.

Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon had a significant problem in the third turn – Gordon bumping Busch as he went by on the inside, and Busch was so infuriated that he not only crashed Gordon on the frontstretch but also dipped back in history to remember Gordon’s short-track disputes with Rusty Wallace when Wallace drove the No. 2 car Busch currently pilots.

That’s a long memory for you.

Speaking of Busches, Kyle Busch and Gordon’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, also had some on-track disagreements and bumper-banging at Martinsville, and neither is likely to be extremely neighborly with the other this weekend.

And Johnson and Gordon also bumped a time or two.

If it takes two or more to tango at Talladega, some folks might be in trouble Sunday.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.