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May 19, 2024

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch throw punches post All-Star Race

NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran just two of the 200 laps in Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race, his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet battered and out after an early altercation with Kyle Busch. With no pedestrian tunnel or bridge out of the North Wilkesboro Speedway infield, Stenhouse was forced to sit and stew.

So, he waited for the remaining 198 to retaliate.

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WATCH: Stenhouse discusses wreck

With post-race fireworks popping off behind them in the background, Stenhouse and Busch had a brief verbal confrontation that escalated into a physical showdown between the two drivers and their crews in the NASCAR Cup Series garage, a nasty spat that triggered memories of North Wilkesboro’s rough-and-tumble past. Both drivers went to the ground, and the mounting frustrations of both the night and their seasons overall reached a tipping point.

“Bring it! I don’t give a [expletive]. I suck just as bad as you!” Busch yelled at his rival less than a minute after Stenhouse landed a right hand to Busch’s left cheek.

Stenhouse’s night was over early after jostling in the pack with Busch’s No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet led to a series of bumps that landed the No. 47 Chevy in the outside retaining wall. Stenhouse limped the crumpled heap back to pit road, sending a message by parking in the No. 8 team’s stall and dismounting.

Before walking for a mandatory check at the infield care center, Stenhouse climbed the No. 8 pit box’s ladder and had words with Busch’s crew. In his post-crash interview, Stenhouse made a “hold my watch” reference, calling back to a long-ago physical scuffle that Busch had with his current car owner. He also said that nothing Busch could say would comfort him and that “I’ll handle it.” Pressed for what that might entail, Stenhouse said: “Eh, you can just watch afterwards.”

The 36-year-old driver was a man of his word, and when Busch rounded the corner through the break in the pit-road wall toward the garage, Stenhouse was waiting for him at the back of the No. 8 hauler.

“I mean, it’s the first lap of the race,” Busch said as he explained his side of their contact during his final strides to the post-race face-off. “We don’t even have water temp in the car yet, and we’re wrecking off of (Turn) 2. … I’m tired of getting run over — by everybody. But that’s what everybody does. Everybody runs over everybody to pass everybody.”

The discussion lasted only a short bit, with the debate intensifying over who ran into whom and just how much running room there actually was. “I don’t believe you,” Busch said, and Stenhouse replied, “Go back and watch it,” before throwing a hard right.

Busch was scored 10th in the All-Star main event, and Stenhouse was last in the 20-car invitational field. And though the All-Star event had no bearing on the season-long points, both drivers’ position in the Cup Series standings was another source of irritation. Busch is winless and 13th in the standings with just a pair of top-five finishes so far this year, and Stenhouse sits 26th with just one top five midway through the regular season.

MORE: 2024 Cup Series standings | 2024 Cup Series schedule

Stenhouse said that his All-Star displeasure with Busch has far deeper roots.

“I wrecked him one time at Daytona, and he’s been kind of bad-mouthing me ever since then,” Stenhouse said after the fracas. “I feel like we get along with each other OK outside the race track. I talk to him quite a bit. I’m not sure why he was so mad that — I shoved it three-wide, but he hit the fence and kind of came off the wall and ran into me, and when I was talking to him, he kept saying that I wrecked him.

“Yeah, just definitely built-up frustration with how he runs his mouth all the time about myself. But I know he’s frustrated because he doesn’t run near as good as he used to, and I understand that. We’re a single-car team over here. We’re working really hard to go out and get better each and every weekend, and we had a really good game plan coming in. Our car was really strong Friday in practice. I was looking forward to running to the front. I think we had passed a couple cars there and I was excited for the rest of the night, and he ruined it.”

Instead, the rest of the night was spent inside the historic 0.625-mile track, where — as an old-school flourish — a crossover gate is the only means of exiting.

“Being stuck in here definitely doesn’t help the frustration,” Stenhouse said. “If there was a tunnel, I’d have probably been home watching the end of that, but here we are.”

According to FOX Sports, Busch declined a request for a post-fight interview.