Some things never change, and NASCAR's gonna NASCAR. Brad Keselowski got into a fight with both Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth last night at the Bank of America 500. Oh, and Tony Stewart backed into Keselowski for good measure. All of this starting with shenanigans during the cool-down lap.
In case you missed it: Brad Keselowski was walking through the pits after the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway only to be ambushed by an infuriated Matt Kenseth yelling, "You hit me under yellow! You hit me under yellow!"
The Keselowski-Kenseth-Hamlin triangle of frustration started out innocently enough.
The race had a restart with 63 laps to go. Kenseth tried to make a pass for the lead around Keselowski's car high on the banking, but Keselowski refused to give Kenseth the proper room for the pass. This pushed Kenseth's car into the wall, damaging both cars as a result.
With six laps to go, Kenseth received a free pass during a caution. He drove across Keselowski's nose as he went around the track, damaging it in the process. Kenseth felt as if his line was clear and Keselowski should have given him enough room to maintain his line.
On the restart with two laps to go, Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin got pushed by Keselowski from behind. Hamlin wobbled a bit from the tap, lost his top-ten spot and fell to 11th, while Keselowski's damaged car was karma'd back to sixteenth place.
It's a NASCAR oval race, the pack runs tight, and contact is all but expected. It's what happened on the cool-down lap that pushed things over the edge.
Hamlin brake checked Keselowski on the cool-down lap to express his displeasure with Brad's in-race behavior. So, Keselowski took a swing at Hamlin with his car to try and spin him.
Keselowski then drove down pit road to sideswipe Kenseth, who was then taking off his harness and other safety gear, as the race itself was over. Not cool.
Tony "I Have Learned My Lesson" Stewart's car was rear-ended in the pit lane melee, so naturally, Stewart backed right back in to Keselowski's car to teach that punk a lesson.
Keselowski accidentally backed into Danica Patrick's car as he tried to escape from Stewart. Seriously, bro? Smacking into the best Pinktober livery yet? One whose driver was completely uninvolved in this hot mess? Boo.
Once out of the pileup, Keselowski drove into the garage, with a still-enraged Hamlin close behind. Hamlin and Keselowski got stuck together after making contact in the garage, so Keselowski did a burnout to get un-stuck, flinging equipment that was laying on the ground in the garage in the process with the car.
"He did burnouts, and he knocked somebody's transmission clear through somebody else's pit stall," said Hamlin of the incident.
Hamlin had the first spat after both drivers had left their cars, hitting Keselowski in the helmet with a towel. Crews from both teams started pushing and shoving as Keselowski tried to leave between two haulers.
That's when Kenseth came up swingin', ultimately putting Keselowski in a headlock. Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief, was able to end the melee by putting Kenseth in a choke hold to pull him away.
So, today I learned: if you ever want to work as a NASCAR crew chief, choke holds are a useful skill to bring to the table.
Kenseth had this to say about the series of punts and fisticuffs:
[Keselowski] was doing something with Denny. The race had ended, and he's running into cars on the cool-down lap. I mean, the race is over, and he comes down pit road and drives into the side of me. That's inexcusable. He's a champion, and he's supposed to know better.
When asked about contact with Hamlin on the cool-down lap, Keselowski responded, "If we're going to play car wars after the race, I'm going to join, too."
If that isn't the single most NASCAR-like NASCARism I've heard in quite some time, I don't know what is.
Perhaps Keselowski was enraged by his fading chances for a Sprint Cup win, which weren't helped by his sixteenth-place finish. Either way, that's no reason to start punting other cars as they're coming in from the race.
The four bottom drivers facing possible elimination in the playoff-style Chase for the Sprint Cup still include Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but now also include Matt Kenseth in place of Kasey Kahne. I'd imagine losing the lead in Charlotte with 63 laps to go ignited a bit more rage in the usually mild-mannered Kenseth than usual, too.
There is one more round left in the Eliminator Round of the Chase: Talladega. Perhaps we'll see a shake-and-bake-up among the famous names at the bottom next week.