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Dropping the Hammer: The Reasons for the NASCAR Punch Heard Around the World

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had plenty of reasons to throw “The Punch” at North Wilkesboro Speedway (not to be confused with “The Haymaker” thrown by Ross Chastain last year).

You could chalk it up to how early Kyle Busch set out to wreck him in misguided retaliation on Lap 2 of Sunday’s (May 19) NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race.

“I’m pretty calm, I don’t really get super angry,” Stenhouse said on Corey LaJoie’s “Stacking Pennies” podcast. “(It’s the) second lap. That was [Busch’s] side (of it). He’s like, hey, it’s first lap. … the water didn’t get hot.”

Maybe it was because Busch, despite not having seen the replays everyone else saw, was adamant Stenhouse walled him on the first lap.

“He kept on about that,” Stenhouse recalled.

Or maybe he was set off by Busch having “that smirk on his face that he always does,” Stenhouse continued.

On top of all that, despite the purse not having increased in decades, a $1 million prize to win the All-Star Race is still a lot for a one-car team like JTG Daugherty Racing.

Heck, just being in the main event is “huge.”

“We won the (Daytona) 500 (in 2023),” Stenhouse said. “It’s still a big deal, right? And made the playoffs.

“Another thing that was pretty frustrating is we are a single-car team, there’s 35 employees that have to do this each and every week and there’s a lot of times I feel like we punch above our weight, no pun intended.”

And as a team, JTG Daugherty has “struggled on the short tracks.” The All-Star race offered them a chance at redemption from what’s been a tough year: one lap led, one top-five finish and 26th in the current point standings.

“We threw something totally different in (the car),” Stenhouse said. “We had a decent practice on Friday. We’re good on average, everybody’s close, everybody’s tight. And it’s like ‘Alright, we’re gonna see what we got now that everybody’s on the same tires and stacked up with each other. For a lap and a quarter, it felt pretty good.”

If there’s anyone who can relate to Stenhouse when it comes to struggling, it’s Busch.

The Richard Childress Racing driver has just two top fives through 13 points races and five top 10s.

“I suck just as bad as you!” Busch yelled at Stenhouse from his hauler.

It’s two Chevrolet teams who aren’t as far apart as you might think. Before Sunday’s race, Stenhouse and Busch’s crew chief, Randall Burnett, spent about an hour in the garage talking about their team’s respective problems in 2024.

“We were out there talking about Darlington, because that was the freshest race,” Stenhouse said. “I’m back there struggling, we were a 33rd-place car last week, which by far is the worst we’ve ever done (at Darlington). We were good there the last two years. So, we were just talking about why we think that is and talking about, sim stuff and just whatever.”

“It doesn’t take very much to be very bad,” LaJoie remarked.

“And it doesn’t take much to be very good, either,” Stenhouse added. “So we were talking about that for a while and yeah, I think (Busch’s) been frustrated.”

In case you were wondering what Stenhouse said to Busch’s team members on their pit box after parking his No. 47 car in front of them…

“I told Randall ‘hey, nothing against y’all, I know y’all weren’t driving, but can you tell him over the radio that I’ll see him afterwards’?” Stenhouse explained.

With that, we’re onto the aftermath, Stenhouse yelling to Busch “I’ll wreck you at Charlotte” as their melee subsided.

Does that mean we’ll get a sequel this coming weekend? Turns out we’ve all said things in the heat of the moment we regret.

“I’m not gonna crash him at Charlotte,” Stenhouse admitted. “Then that just keeps it going, right? So, as far as my end goes, I feel like I’m past it. Whether he is or not, I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll talk about it.”

Follow Daniel on X @danielmcfadin

About the author

danielmcfadin
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Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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banzaibonnie

“don’t tug on superman’s cape” should apply here. due to repeated wrecking from Stenhouse-even tho unintentional most of the time.Lesson learned?

RCFX1

Ricky said he was going to be waiting for Kyle and he was. Nascar knew about that and could have had officials sent to Kyle’s hauler to separate them and to keep him in his own hauler. Instead, they let it play out. Nascar wants these fights or on track paybacks. They make great press. Will Kyle or Ricky retaliate during the 600? You’ll have to watch to find out! Weds and we’re still talking about Sunday.

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