This Saturday some of college football’s greatest rivalries will hit the field for the highly anticipated “rivalry week.” Arch rivals, many of which are in-state rivals, will go head-to-head for a year’s worth of bragging rights. Michigan vs. Ohio State, Auburn vs. Alabama, USC vs UCLA, Florida vs. Florida State and the list goes on.
Thinking outside of the box, we at Speed51.com powered by JEGS decided to put our own short track racing twist on the excitement by taking a look at some of the most intense rivalries in short track racing history.
First, we went to social media and our Speed51.com Five Star Race Car Bodies Facebook feed to ask the fans what they thought were the biggest rivalries in the sport. From there, we took the nominations and asked a panel of industry experts, including many on the Speed51.com staff, to help rank the top 10 rivalries in short track racing, both past and present.
Without further ado, here they are:
1) Richie Evans vs. Jerry Cook
When a championship is split between two drivers for a 15-year stretch, it goes far beyond a rivalry. It becomes legendary. Richie Evans and Jerry Cook, two NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees, had, during the 1970s and 80s, a rivalry that had never been seen before and likely never will be again.
The two Modified greats operated out of the same town – Rome, New York, and chased points across the Northeast and beyond as many as 90 times a season. The stories are many, from having decoy cars towed in the direction of one track to try to trick the other driver into going to a different track, to battling wheel-to-wheel for victories all around the country when they did show up to race one another. Evans and Cook split the national Modified championship every single season from 1973 to 1985.
Evans is a 9-time NASCAR Nat’l Modified champion, while Cook won six titles.
2) Mike Eddy vs. Bob Senneker
When people think of rivalries, they usually think of fights, confrontations and drama, but that wasn’t necessarily the case when it came to ASA legends Mike Eddy and Bob Senneker. The two drivers are part of the fiercest rivalry in ASA history, but they always respected each other and kept their rivalry a friendly one. Yet, in the same vein as Richie Evans and Jerry Cook, these two were, quite frankly, the best of their time, in their division.
Ironically, the fans of each driver had, quite possibly, more bitterness toward each other than the drivers themselves. Both Eddy and Senneker hailed from Michigan and at Berlin Raceway (Marne, MI), fans are intensely supportive of their home-state drivers. However, there were so many fans of Senneker’s “Blue Bird” back in the day that Eddy was often booed at Berlin.
“I never in my life seen anything like the crowds at Berlin for the Eddy vs Senneker battles,” said one of our experts. “Mind blowing… the fever and passion transferred from the track to the fans. Glad I got to see it in person!”
Eddy’s resume includes 58 career ASA wins and seven championships, while Senneker won an unheard of 85 feature races and captured one series championship. The two drivers went to the race track with the goal of beating each other, and that in itself created tons of excitement for the fans.
3) Steve Kinser vs. Sammy Swindell
Steve “The King” Kinser and “Slammin'” Sammy Swindell have both had stellar careers slinging the dirt in their Sprint Cars. They’ve also had one of the best rivalries in racing, arguably the biggest in Sprint Car racing.
A big part of what makes this rivalry so great is that both drivers have been so successful. Each one of them has more than 500 wins behind the wheel of a Sprint car and numerous championships. In addition to that, they’ve had heated battles on the track as well fighting it out for victories.
In the 80s, it is safe to say that no two drivers on dirt had a more intense rivalry. Both drivers are quiet till provoked, but the fans of each driver were at war with each other weekly. Kinser is arguably “The King” with 20 World of Outlaws championships. Swindell’s crowd, inevitably, would lose most arguments due to only three WoO titles, but they, nor either driver, ever went down without a fight.
The unfortunate part about this rivalry is that like all good things, this one has all but come to an end as both drivers are now semi-retired.
4) Dick Trickle vs. Junior Hanley
During the 1980’s, “The White Knight” Dick Trickle raced for Junior Hanley. By all accounts, the two legendary short trackers were good friends. But that changed when the two got together late in an ASA race at Canada’s Cayuga Speedway.
Hanley was a dominant force at Cayuga, and Trickle was strong on the ASA circuit, while racing one of Hanley’s cars. Late in the race, it was Hanley leading, which was pretty much the usual scene at Cayuga. He had Trickle on his back bumper.
Then the complexion of the relationship changed. Trickle got into the back of Hanley. It was meant to be an innocent bump and run, but Hanley spun out. Trickle went on to win the race and that left Hanley a bit perturbed.
After the race the two drivers had a heated discussion that ended with Hanley taking his race car back from Trickle. Hanley ran that race car the rest of the year with Trickle’s paint scheme, but he removed Trickle’s No. 99 decals and name from the car. Instead he put his own No. 72 on the doors in black tape.
5) Burt Myers vs. Junior Miller
For many years now, fans visiting North Carolina’s Bowman Gray Stadium have grown accustomed to a rivalry between the Myers family and veteran Modified racer Junior Miller. It started with Gary Myers, the father of current Modified racers Jason and Burt Myers, and has since been handed down a generation.
The rivalry is one that is best summed up as a “don’t give an inch” rivalry, and on a tight track such as “The Madhouse,” it has been known to create quite a bit of drama.
It didn’t take long for the Burt Myers vs. Junior Miller rivalry to heat up. Myers remembers a race during his rookie season when the two first butted heads as a result of Miller getting into the back of Myers while trying to move through the field.
The most recent run-in between the two drivers occurred in June 2014 when the two drivers were battling for a win and Myers used the “chrome horn” to give a shot to Miller’s back bumper. The contact sent Miller spinning, while Myers pulled away to win. After playing a game of chicken with their 600 horsepower race cars in the infield, Myers went to victory lane and had to escape a punch from an upset female fan of Millers.
6) Wayne Anderson vs. David Rogers
If you want to talk about a downright nasty rivalry, look no further than David Rogers and Wayne Anderson. It culminated with a crash, punches and arrests at the Governor’s Cup 200 in the early 1990’s at New Smyrna Speedway.
What set the rivalry off between the two drivers was an incident at New Smyrna that resulted in authorities allegedly pressing charges against Anderson.
“I was sitting in my car and Wayne came down and drove into the back of my car,” Rogers told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Then he got out of his car, jerked the window net down and started punching on me, which was kind of funny because you’re beating on some guy that looks like a turtle in the race car.
“Wayne went down pit road and there was a big fight there. Then there was a bigger fight in their pit area and it just escalated. I was still out on the race track and I finished the race.”
According to Rogers, the following week the police department called to ask him about the incident. Rogers chalked it up to a racing incident and refused to press charges, but the state told him it wasn’t his choice and that he was going to be called in as a witness.
From that moment on, Rogers knew that Anderson was bitter towards him and knew to be mindful when racing near him. Several years have now gone by and the two veteran drivers have squashed their feud, but it was certainly one of the most heated rivalries in the history of short track racing.
7) Anthony Anders vs. Lee Pulliam
This rivalry, between the most recent NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champions, is only two years old and is continuing to brew. It’s been well documented how Pulliam believes Anders won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National title in 2014. Let’s just say he was less than pleased with Anders’ methods of allegedly adding cars to increase car count at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
In 2015, Anders hung up his firesuit for much of the year to focus on running his track in South Carolina, but the rivalry heated up once again when Dalton Sargeant (driving for Pulliam) was disqualified after winning at Greenville on opening night.
The war of words between the two drivers continued during a test session for the Martinsville 300 when Anders told Speed51.com powered by JEGS that Pulliam won the 2015 NWAAS championship by bringing start ‘n park cars to the race track. Pulliam denied those rumors saying, “There was no cherry picking for us.”
Even with only one of the two parties still strapping into a race car regularly, this rivalry doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon.
8) Danny Johnson vs Brett Hearn
It’s known as “the most talked about wreck on dirt.” It happened at Fonda Speedway during the 1999 Fonda 200 and involved two of dirt Modified racing’s biggest stars, “The Doctor” Danny Johnson and Brett “The Jet” Hearn.
Many say that the rivalry between the two drivers began when Johnson invaded Hearn’s “personal playground” of Orange County Fair Speedway (NY). Hearn didn’t like Johnson trying to steal his thunder and the rivalry continued to escalate from that point on.
On that day in 1999 at Fonda, Hearn was witnessed by many throwing Roger Clemens-like fastballs of mud at Johnson’s car under caution.
Since that day, the two dirt Modified aces have continued to battle it out on the Super DIRTcar Series and beyond for race wins, as well as championships.
9) Matt Hirschman vs Chuck Hossfeld
Rivalries are often formed when two drivers have a long history of running up front and battling for championships against each other. That is the case with 2014 Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour champion Chuck Hossfeld and 2015 series champion Matt Hirschman.
For eight straight years, Hirschman (six titles) and Hossfeld (two titles) have stood tall as the champion at the end of the season. While competing for championships and race wins, the two have had a number of run-ins in the past. Their have been several war of words between both camps, several destroyed race cars and numerous message board posts defending and accusing both drivers during all of it.
The biggest incident between the pair happened at Spencer Speedway in 2013. Contact between the two resulted in Hirschman flipping out of the park and into an adjacent apple orchard. The car was totaled and the field on the fire that is the rivalry was stoked again.
And then this year, following this year’s running of the U.S. Open at Lancaster National Speedway (NY), Hossfeld compared Hirschman’s strategy to “Deflategate” saying that Hirschman “didn’t use his balls.”
It’s safe to say that this rivalry will be as fresh as ever when the 2016 season kicks off and the two drivers once again go head-to-head for the RoC championship.
10 – Scott Bloomquist vs Jonathan Davenport
Scott Bloomquist is known throughout the dirt Late Model scene as the “Dirt Track Dominator.” His sleek black and neon-colored, skull-adorned cars have intimidated drivers for years. But in 2015, his “Dominator” tag was rivaled greatly by another driver, appropriately nicknamed “Superman.” And now a new rivalry is born.
Jonathan Davenport had the 2015 season that most any other racer – pavement or dirt – could only dream of. With 22 victories and a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship (10 wins in that series), plus big-money wins across the country, Davenport’s 2015 season was arguably the best in the history of Dirt Late Model racing.
While Bloomquist had an eight-win season in the Lucas Oil series and finished second to Davenport with some other big wins along the way, by mid-2015 the frustration of getting beat by Davenport was settling in. That’s when Bloomquist hit on what he was lacking and picked up the pace to rival Davenport win-for-win down the stretch.
It’s a rivalry that is sure to continue into 2016.
-Story by Speed51.com Staff