Brawl at North Wilkesboro! Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch fight after All-Star Race

After getting pushed into the fence and knocked out of the NASCAR All-Star Race early, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. told the FOX broadcast that he wondered if “Richard Childress would hold my watch after the race.”

It’s an inside-baseball sort of comment longtime NASCAR fans understand.

But the message was clear to anyone who heard it nonetheless:

Stenhouse was going to use more than words to get his point across to Kyle Busch.

At the conclusion of Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, Busch walked to his hauler, where Stenhouse was waiting for him. He was doing so because Stenhouse and Busch collided on the second lap of the short-track race, and the collision ended Stenhouse’s night early. The entanglement in question: Stenhouse took Turns 1 and 2 three-wide, which appeared to squeeze Busch into the wall, and Busch immediately retaliated and sent Stenhouse spinning and crashing into the fence.

Stenhouse, his car totaled, then followed up by parking his car in Busch’s pit stall — “I figured Kyle would do something similar” — and climbed up the No. 8 team’s race tower to tell Busch’s crew chief Randall Burnett: “Tell Kyle I’ll see him afterward.”

When Busch arrived to his hauler post-race, the two shared a few heated words — and then Stenhouse threw a punch that connected with Busch’s face, spawning a brawl. Teammates got involved. Stenhouse’s father got involved, landing a few swings on Busch himself. (Stenhouse, on the ground and being harnessed by a few track employees, yelled at his dad to get out of the fight.)

Once the two finally were separated, Busch screamed at Stenhouse: “Look at what you started, you (expletive)!”

The fight lasted approximately 30 seconds. Tempers stayed hot for a while afterward.

Busch did not speak to media after the altercation.

Before the fight but after he was sent to the infield care center, Stenhouse hinted that a physical altercation could happen. First, he told the FOX crew that he wondered if Richard Childress — owner of Richard Childress Racing, who Busch now drives for — would hold his watch for him. That comment calls back to a notorious fight in 2011, when Childress and Busch were fierce competitors and Childress asked someone to hold his watch before he swung on Busch himself after a Truck race at Kansas.

Stenhouse later explained what he saw from his perspective.

“We got a really good start,” Stenhouse said. “(Busch) left the door wide open. I went through the middle. Almost had him clear. The 34 kind of ran up the track, and (we) all just kind of touched there. Nothing major. And then Kyle tried to wreck me in (Turns) 3 and 4, and finally did wreck me in 1 and 2. Our car was really fast. ... We’d already passed two or three cars there. Bummed we couldn’t see it to the end.”

He later added: “We barely touched. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the replay. I mean, the gap was wide open. Could’ve put one and a half cars in there. Knew the 34 was coming off the bottom. I mean, it’s the All-Star Race. Short track. I mean, once this thing stretches out, you won’t pass. So you gotta get all the cars you can early. I felt like I did a really good job, and he just did a poor job at the start. And then he was mad about it. I think that’s the way his season’s gone.”

Busch told reporters what he saw as he approached his hauler, too.

“I mean, it’s the first lap of the race, we don’t even have water temp in the car yet, and we’re wrecking each other off of 2,” Busch said of Stenhouse, fireworks popping in the background, foreshadowing the tempers that would later flare. “I’m tired of getting run over — by everybody. But that’s what everybody does. Everybody runs over everybody to pass everybody.”

Stenhouse and Busch don’t have a robust history of conflict on the track. They came up together in the Nationwide Series — now called Xfinity — and the two have raced each other hard for a while. They’ve had previous entanglements, including once at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch has also spoken ill of Stenhouse— including after Stenhouse’s Daytona 500 win in 2023. That instance? Busch was airing out his frustrations about how circumstantial modern superspeedway racing is, adding, “I don’t even know who lucked into (the win this year).” Busch was then informed it was Stenhouse who won the race, and Busch responded, “There you have it.”

Both drivers have had difficult seasons through 13 points races. Busch, a two-time Cup Series champion, has notched only four Top 10 finishes in 13 races. Stenhouse, last year’s Daytona 500 champion, has only had two Top 10s.

After the fight, Stenhouse told FOX that he didn’t know why Busch was so angry and retaliatory on-track.

“I feel like we get along with each other OK outside the racetrack,” Stenhouse said. “I talk to him quite a bit. I’m not sure why he was so mad. I shoved it three-wide. But he hit the fence and kind of came off the wall and ran into me. I don’t know, when I was talking to him, he kept saying that I ‘wrecked’ him.

“So yeah, just built up frustration for how he just 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, working really hard to go out and get better each and every weekend. We had a really good game plan coming in. Our car was really strong. ... I was excited for the rest of the night, and he ruined it.”

Stenhouse couldn’t leave the track early because there is no tunnel in North Wilkesboro Speedway. The only way out requires walking the backstretch, which is only open once racing is done.

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

Stenhouse added that he “doesn’t have anything else” for Busch, and he joked that “if we wanted to do a charity (boxing) match, I would do that. ... That would be fun.”

Mar 30, 2024; Richmond, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (8) talks to NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Dillon (3) during practice for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
Mar 30, 2024; Richmond, Virginia, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (8) talks to NASCAR Cup Series driver Austin Dillon (3) during practice for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.

Busch was also involved in some physical racing that sent Ty Gibbs into the wall, too, on Sunday. After that one, Busch promptly went over his radio and owned up to his mistake afterward.

The fight overshadowed a triumphant day for Joey Logano, who led all but one lap en route to his second All-Star Race victory. He is the only driver to lead 199 laps in this event.