Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: How Much Do Teammate Rivalries Help a Team?

With Circuit of the Americas leaving several drivers furious with the way the race ended, perhaps one of the biggest stories was Trackhouse Racing teammates Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain visibly displeased with one another following the race.

Oh boy. Justin Marks has got his hands full with this one.

But with a team like Trackhouse, an organization in which Marks has publicly touted as aggressive — such was his defense after Chastain was a moving cannonball at World Wide Technology Raceway last season — is a teammate rivalry a good thing? Let’s look at the history of some teammate rivalries and how they worked out.

Kevin Harvick vs. the Dillon Brothers (2013)

OK, this one isn’t exactly teammates, per se, as the issue arose while Harvick was driving in a one-off Craftsman Truck Series race for Richard Childress Racing’s satellite team, NTS Motorsports. After a run-in with Ty Dillon at Martinsville Speedway, Harvick made several attempts to turn Dillon under caution. And when the two battered trucks came into the pits, Harvick parked his No. 14 in the No. 3 team’s stall. When ordered to move, one of Dillon’s crew members threw a giant hammer at the truck.

See also
What Is NASCAR's Respect Problem, & How Can It Be Fixed?

After the race, Harvick held nothing back in his post-race interview.

“… Exactly the reason why I’m leaving RCR, because you got those kids coming up, and they got no respect for what they do in this sport, and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon. … It’s a shame you got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”

At this point in the 2013 season, Harvick had already announced that he was leaving RCR to drive a new fourth team for Stewart-Haas Racing. How did that work out? Well, Harvick won a championship in his first season with SHR, while Richard Childress Racing (and Ty Dillon, in particular) has been in rebuilding mode since Harvick left. Austin Dillon has gotten a couple of lucky wins but really nothing doing with the team until 2022, when Tyler Reddick reeled off three wins and Kyle Busch has only built on that momentum since replacing Reddick in the No. 8 in 2023.

Kyle Busch vs. Denny Hamlin (2010)

In 2010, Busch was a man on a mission in the final segment of the 2010 All-Star Race, as he was able to march to second with nine laps to go, right behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. As Busch moved to the outside of Hamlin, the latter blocked the No. 18 right into the outside wall. A few laps later, Busch blew a tire and took out Kasey Kahne in the process. Busch was visibly upset as he climbed out of his battered Toyota and went into his hauler.

“Somebody better keep me away from Denny Hamlin after this race,” an irate Busch said over the radio on the way back to the garage. “I had this race won. It was won.”

The two later talked (with mediation from Joe Gibbs) and seemed to have reconciled, going on to be (seemingly) good teammates for an additional 12 years. However, the move was still questionable, as Hamlin ended up losing the lead a few corners later to Busch’s older brother Kurt.

See also
Kyle Busch, William Byron No Match for Tyler Reddick in Triple Overtime Cup Finish at COTA

Jimmie Johnson vs. Jeff Gordon (2010)

A rivalry between four-time champions is one thing. A rivalry between four-time champion teammates (where one of them is part-owner of the other’s car) is a completely different thing.

After Johnson closed out 2009 with his fourth straight championship, Gordon publicly came out and said that he’d had enough of the No. 48’s domination. After some contact at Texas Motor Speedway in 2010, Gordon uttered over the radio, “Four-time’s a little upset.” After his spotter talked about the contact, Gordon then said, “Aw, he’s treated different than everybody else.”

After Gordon was eliminated in an accident late in the race, he said he was disappointed in the way Johnson raced him, and Johnson said the same thing at the end of the race.

Later, at Talladega Superspeedway, Gordon tried to go underneath Johnson but Johnson blocked the whole lane, which stacked up the field and eventually ended in a crash that took out Gordon. After the race, Gordon told reporters, “The No. 48 is testing my patience, I can tell you that. It takes a lot to make me mad, and I am pissed right now.”

The situation seemed to be resolved at the end of the 2010 season. Good thing, too, as when the series returned to Texas, Johnson’s crew was consistently slow on pit stops, and in the midst of a championship run, change was needed. So Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus swapped crews mid-race with Gordon’s crew, who were putting up much faster times on pit stops. Johnson rebounded for a ninth-place finish. Who know what would have happened had the crews not been swapped — a fifth-straight championship may not have happened.

Gordon and Johnson had no more public issues after that. Johnson picked up two more championships, and the pair went down as two of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history.

Kevin Harvick vs. Jeff Green (2000-03)

In what may be described as a healthier teammate rivalry, Harvick and teammate Jeff Green were rivals dating back to 2000, when Green beat Harvick for the then-Busch Series championship (now the NASCAR Xfinity Series). Harvick followed that up by beating Green for it the following year. In 2002, they became teammates together on the Cup Series circuit with RCR, but it wasn’t until 2003 where it all came to a grinding halt.

At Richmond Raceway, Harvick ran into Green’s bumper and sent him into the outside wall. Harvick apologized over the radio for the contact, but it didn’t stop Green from confronting Harvick’s then-crew chief, Todd Berrier, and then telling TV, “Tough to be teammates when it seems like there’s only one car at RCR.”

Well, that backfired on Green, as Richard Childress immediately fired Green the next day, stating the relationship soured and change was needed. As Harvick was clearly the flagship driver of the organization already at that point, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was not the driver let go.

Greg Sacks vs. Bobby Allison (1985)

You can read more about this teammate battle here, but in short, Sacks won the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway in a second DiGard Racing car that was meant to be a Research and Development car. It was his only career win in the Cup Series. Meanwhile, Allison was so angered that the team was focusing on a test car that he outright left the team the following week. One thing led to another and DiGard Racing shuttered its doors just two years later.

So What Does This Mean For Trackhouse?

Teammate rivalries aren’t necessarily a bad thing if they’re used in the competitive spirit, but the track record of teammate rivalries has not been good. Especially in the case of DiGard, a two-car team folded because the flagship driver outright left the team. Of course, this was nearly 40 years ago, but Marks needs to get his team together for a cool-down meeting so there isn’t an interdepartmental meltdown in the Trackhouse shop. If there hasn’t already been one, that is.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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janice

you forgot about earnhardt sr and skinner rivalry at rcr. those two did not like working together.

i’m just waiting until austin gets fed up of busch’s performance vs. his and has a meltdown. sure austin told rc to contact busch, but austin wants to be top dog at rcr.

DoninAjax

I wonder if Grampa will ever get the message that he needs a new number Two driver?

janice

i seriously doubt it…but anyone with half a brain sees that kyle is there to hopefully win another championship before he hangs up his helmet.

WJW Motorsports

They aren’t teammates. They are competitors that happen to share the same car owner.

DoninAjax

I imagine it would be okay with Grampa if the 3 punted the 8 for a win but what if it was the other way around?

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