Several of Ryan Newman's crewmen confronted Kurt Busch on Saturday night at Darlington Raceway following an ill-advised decision by Busch to do a burnout through Newman's pit box.
After Busch had a flat tire and crashed with six laps remaining – an incident which also collected Newman – the Phoenix Racing driver lost his cool and began yelling on the team radio.
When Busch completed his pit stop to fix damage shortly after the wreck, he slammed his foot down on the throttle and did a loud, angry burnout while leaving his pit box. The burnout startled fans in the stands and put up a huge plume of smoke, an expression of Busch's frustration at a promising night gone bad.
But while doing the burnout, Busch drove through Newman's pit box as well – and several Newman crew members were still over the wall after recently completing service on the No. 39 car.
The crewmen were infuriated by Busch coming so close to them with his burnout, and several began yelling at Busch's crew to convey their outrage.
"When you come ripping through somebody's pit box like that, he could have took out five or six guys plus the officials pretty easy," Newman's crew chief Tony Gibson said. "I don't know how somebody didn't get run over, to be honest with you. It was a miracle nobody got hit."
Newman told SI.com's Dustin Long he suspected Busch's actions were due to a "chemical imbalance."
"It's easy to see and it's easy to say that Kurt blew a fuse again," Newman said. "I'm not sure why he did it and tried to run over our guys and NASCAR officials. And nobody is."
Among the angry crewmen was Newman's gas man, Andy Rueger, who went to the No. 51 hauler to await Busch's arrival. Rueger planned to confront Busch immediately after the race.
But Busch's team knew Newman's crew was upset, and so crew chief Nick Harrison instructed Busch to stop at the entrance of pit road and leave the car there instead. The driver was livid on the radio and had been screaming obscenities during the final few laps, and the team felt it would be a good idea for him just to get off the track.
Somehow, though, Busch then made contact with Newman's car on pit road. Busch contended he accidentally ran into Newman while taking off his helmet, but Newman told SI.com he thought Busch did it intentionally.
"Circumstances I think are that he lied and was so frustrated that he doesn't know how to deal with his anger," Newman said.
While all that was happening, Newman's crew got word that Busch was on pit road. Rueger and others ran back out to where the cars were stopped and tried to confront Busch.
"The gas man, he come in there wanting to fight Kurt, raising hell," Harrison said. "I knew it was going to happen. ... After the race, the boys wanted to come down there and raise Cain with Kurt, and that's what they did."
Words were exchanged between the crewmen and Busch (see video below), and a NASCAR official fell onto Busch's hood in the process. Though contact with Rueger sparked the official's tumble, NASCAR's Robin Pemberton said the official just lost his footing.
"There was a lot of stuff going on down there," Pemberton said. "Nobody said anything other than he fell back on the hood. We didn't see anything that was aggressive toward one of our officials."
Harrison said he and his team felt they had to defend their driver regardless of the circumstances and would do the same thing every time.
"We're here racing with Kurt Busch, we're going to defend Kurt Busch and that's our job," he said. "If you go anywhere racing in any part of America and you don't back your driver up, you don't deserve to be there racing with that driver."
It's unclear whether NASCAR will issue any penalties in this situation. If NASCAR feels its official tumbled onto the hood on his own, then Newman's gas man could go unpunished.
But NASCAR also said it's still in the process of gathering facts, and officials have yet to speak to Busch.
Either way, the incident is certain to get everyone talking.
"They came down there with a bunch of drama," Harrison said. "It's just part of racing. I think that's what great for our sport. If they're mad and want to fight, that's what it is."