At the start of the naughties, few NASCAR drivers were more notorious than Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch. You couldn’t have asked for more different characters. Busch, essentially a rookie in the world of race car driving, tended towards being mocked for his shiny new equipment and overly optimistic attitude. Spencer, on the other hand, had been racing for many years when Busch came on the scene. He was already known for his brash attitude and general aggression, but nothing seemed to trigger him more than racing Busch on the tracks.
The rivalry began to take place in 2001 at the legendary race in Phoenix, Arizona. Spencer intentionally bumped Busch out of the way halfway into the race. Busch didn’t take kindly to this act of violence and was left with a hurt ego. There was no way he would let this old guy ruin his brand new career. And so Busch decided that two could play that game, though he didn’t necessarily condone that sort of behavior.
And so at the next race in Bristol, he took his revenge by giving Spencer a taste of his own medicine. This act led him to take his very first career win, a moment of great pride for him, though the victory was bittersweet as it was gained in a dishonest way. The incident left Spencer fuming; he knew he couldn’t possibly let this newbie beat him. In 2003, he decided to push Busch’s car into the wall at the Indy 500. But Spencer didn’t stop there; he was also audacious enough to punch Busch in the face, breaking his nose in two places. This was following an honest accident: Busch’s car ran out of gas, which caused him to bump the back of Spencer’s ride. This incident led to much taunting, provocation and arguing on and off the tracks, often dragging in the media.
Busch complained about Spencer’s attitude and attacks during an interview, which led to Spencer being portrayed as the villain of NASCAR for the remainder of his career.
At the end of the day, as the new racer, it is not unexpected that Busch would have gotten pushed around. However, this tradition does not excuse Spencer’s behavior, which is a prime example of bad sportsmanship. It is, however, possible that Spencer felt jealous of Busch’s success, given that he himself was just a marginal contestant in the Cup Series. At the same time, Busch conducted himself in just as egregious of ways, leading Spencer to accuse him of needing to be kicked out of NASCAR.
He was jubilant when Busch was finally suspended in 2015, quoted with “Kurt Busch’s suspension is long overdue, and that is coming from someone who learned his lesson after sitting out a race for punching him a few years ago. Kurt has been given plenty of chances to right his wrongs and put himself back on the right path, but he has failed to take advantage of any of those opportunities”.
He then went on to move towards sports broadcasting, while Busch is still racing to this day. Spencer took his last race in 2005 at the Xfinity Series at the age of 48. He is now retired and enjoying life as a family man. Busch has just completed his 19th season driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and his first with Chip Ganassi Racing. He went on to win the 2004 Cup and has taken home a whopping 31 wins in NASCAR’s premier division. He is a five-time winner in the Xfinity Series and earned four wins in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series.