The temperature was only around 70 degrees but tempers got into triple digits Sunday at the NHRA Springnationals in suburban Houston, Texas.
The crews of Pro Stock drivers Tanner Gray and Alex Laughlin did a lot of pushing and shoving during a confrontation between both sides in the pits at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas.
Gray had defeated Laughlin in their first round of eliminations matchup Sunday morning. Gray and Laughlin exchanged words at the timing/scoring booth at the end of the track following their run, and then their two teams confronted each other once both cars returned to the pits.
The relationship between the two teams had apparently become strained when Laughlin switched from Gray Motorsports engines to Elite Motorsports engines in his race car for this weekend’s event.
Laughlin explained what happened in a media release:
“I got down there, turned the car off and got out,” Laughlin said. “We were both walking over to the ticket stand to get our time slips and I had absolutely nothing to say to him. He grabbed his ticket before I got mine and then he slapped me on the back and said ‘how the (expletive deleted) did that work out for you?’
“I said, ‘Really dude? These people (at Elite Motorsports) have already done more for me than you guys ever did or ever will.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it shows.’ I said, ‘If you touch me again, we are going to have a problem.’ He said, ‘I didn’t touch you.’ I said, ‘Yes you did, and let me explain something to you. You’re 17 years old, you show zero sportsmanship and you have a lot to learn about racing at this level.’
“There was just mouthing back and forth after that. His guys got down there and I told them, ‘this kid has a lot to learn so someone please get ahold of him.’ And then it was, ‘to get to him, you’re going to have to get through us,’ and it went downhill from there.
“We got back to the pit and I was telling Richard (Freeman, engine supplier) the story and Tanner is standing over there smiling at us from his pit. Richard said, ‘What are you looking at?’ and Tanner throws his hands up like ‘bring it on,’ and that’s when the crews came together.”
Tanner Gray, who turned 18 years old on April 15, is in his rookie year of racing in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks.
“The whole thing is just stupid and could have been avoided if he just grew up a little,” the 28-year-old Laughlin said. “He’s going to have a very hard career if he acts like a spoiled kid every race.”
There was no immediate comment from the Tanner Gray camp.