Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch sorely needed

May, 9, 2011
05/09/11
5:01
PM ET

Kevin Harvick versus Kyle Busch isn't over. Trust me. Even if NASCAR slaps them both with a penalty and even if both drivers say all the right things, their general intolerance for one another goes way back and won't wane anytime soon.

I'm not saying they'll intentionally dump one another every weekend. Not even. But drivers' memories are everlasting -- every wreck, every perceived injustice. And forgiveness is fleeting. I had that very conversation with a former Sprint Cup champion last fall in Fontana, Calif. When I asked, he laughed.

"Oh, hell yes, we remember everything -- forever," he said. "Anybody who tells you different is lying."

For that, we fans are the winners. It adds to the weekly grind an intriguing layer that is both captivating and, if you ask me, sorely needed.

I expect NASCAR to penalize both Harvick and Busch in some fashion, probably probation and a monetary fine. But if they do so it will be because the fracas occurred on pit road, where innocent bystanders could have been injured. Not because they don't like each other.

If this had happened in Turn 3 at Darlington, we'd move on down the road to Dover. But it was on pit road, and a car went careering into the pit wall with no driver aboard. That doesn't sit well in Daytona.

Harvick and Busch are the perfect candidates to resurrect the old-fashioned NASCAR rivalry. Both have a serpent's tongue and a laser wit and a general intolerance for one another. It's DW versus Dale circa 2011.

And while those characteristics add drama, none of them is as important as their respective on-track success. Both are championship-caliber drivers on elite teams. Both are weekly contenders. They run closely together every single race. Neither is apt to take much flack. And these days neither has to race as if the food on his table depended on his success. But both do so.

No matter how fans may perceive either one of them generally, most everyone appreciates their hard-charging approaches. I know I do.

Think for a moment about sports' great rivalries: Duke versus North Carolina, Yankees versus Red Sox, Michigan versus Ohio State, Lakers versus Celtics, Packers versus Bears, and so on. Why are those rivalries great? Because the teams are almost always competitive.

I grew up in Virginia. In my mind, Redskins versus Cowboys is the greatest rivalry ever. But even that has lost some luster through the years because the Redskins haven't been the Redskins since Joe Gibbs hung up the whistle the first time around.

Great rivalries engage the national audience. I'm neither a Yankees nor Red Sox fan, but I watch every game they play against one another because the general hatred is palpable and fantastic to experience.

And they're almost always in a battle for the pennant. I'd bet Harvick and Busch will both be in NASCAR's pennant race come November.

It's not over.

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