The 1979 Daytona 500 brawl between Cale Yarborough and the Allison Brothers helped grow the sport. (NASCAR Archives)
Yankees-Red Sox. Bears-Packers. Heat-Celtics. Bruins-Canadiens.
Pick any professional sport, and rivalries punctuate the season. Teams and players who truly don't like one another and will do anything to beat the arch-nemesis when they meet head-to-head are the foundation of any sport.
But such passion between competitors is in short supply around the NASCAR world.
NASCAR's popularity was built on rivalries. Cale Yarborough and the Allison Brothers in the famous 1979 Daytona 500 brawl. Dale Earnhardt and the brash young Jeff Gordon. Richard Petty and David Pearson. Heck even Jimmy Spencer and Kurt Busch had its place in NASCAR lore.
Oh there are drivers who don't see eye to eye with fellow competitors and in any given race you can be sure to find at least a few duos not pleased with each other.
However, good luck in terms of finding long-lasting, fierce dislike throughout today's NASCAR garage area.
Even with the “Boys Have at It” era supposedly still in place, the fireworks at the Sprint Cup level have been few and far between. For whatever the reasons there hasn't been much in the way of fussin' and feudin' this season but, rather, a chorus of "Kumbaya."
It's one of the reasons this year's Chase just hasn't generated any electricity among much of the fan base.
There's certainly a good championship battle yet to play itself out over the course of the final three races of the season. Jimmie Johnson has a small two-point advantage over Brad Keselowski with Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne hanging on in the title picture.
But up until now it's been a passive race to this year's title.
A rivalry between drivers doesn't have to mean payback and retaliation on track or purposely running into one another to make a point. Although a little of that might add some much needed spice to the proceedings.
It might simply be the fact those drivers still in the championship hunt are just nice guys with personalities who would rather let their performance do the talking instead of trash talking or rough driving.
While Johnson isn't afraid to voice his opinion, it's not his style to run his mouth toward a fellow competitor.
Keselowski is one of the most outspoken drivers in the sport. He's also a very calculated individual who is not above playing mind games with the opposition without getting into a verbal sparring match.
Maybe there have been lessons to be learned from previous circumstances. For instance, the bitter ending to Denny Hamlin's quest for the 2010 crown included more than its share of comments that came back to haunt the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Early in that year's Chase, Hamlin called out the Richard Childress Racing team for some perceived irregularities, which ignited a major firestorm.
"It's not two weeks' old. This is something that's been going on for months,” Hamlin said in Dover about what he felt were illegal RCR set-ups. “They've [the 33 team of then driver Clint Bowyer] been warned for a long time, way before Richmond. This is not something that, 'Oh man, they just told us halfway after Richmond and going into Loudon that our car's wrong.' They knew it was wrong way before that and I felt like they just, they wanted to get everything they could. What did they have to lose really? You almost can't fault them for that."
What followed was a practice incident between Hamlin and Kevin Harvick that boiled over to both teams being involved in a garage area shoving match.
Whether or not the spotlight became too much for Hamlin or his team to handle the rest of the way as they eventually gave up a hefty advantage to lose the title to Johnson is unclear. But it might have been a big enough lesson for drivers and teams to employ a more low-key approach to running for the championship.
NASCAR could sure use some of that zeal as this year's title is decided. Right now everyone is playing nice. It's more fun when they're not.