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The Biggest Driver Scandals in NASCAR History

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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The Noah Gragson scandal is another addition to the long list of driver scandals in NASCAR history. Plenty of times drivers have found themselves in hot water for a variety of reasons. What are the biggest driver scandals in NASCAR history?

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5. Kyle Busch Intentionally Spins Ron Hornaday

Kyle Busch has been known for being a hothead, but his most egregious moment came in a Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas in 2011. Busch was shoved up the race track by Ron Hornaday Jr. early in the race, and both drivers ended up in the wall. Busch had enough and decided to turn Hornaday into the wall intentionally under caution.

The result was Busch being suspended for both the Xfinity Series and Cup Series races that weekend. Hornaday was livid, as it took him out of Championships contention. Thankfully, Busch seemed to learn from his mistake, and he has gone on to have a hall-of-fame career.

4. Shane Hmiel Drug Scandal

The son of NASCAR crew chief Steve Hmiel, Shane Hmiel was an up-and-comer. He was also a loose cannon, and NASCAR soon found out why. Shane was suspended indefinitely after failing his first drug test in 2003 after a race at Richmond. He was soon reinstated for 2004, and he actually won a Truck Series race that season.

In 2005, however, he failed another drug test, then another in 2006. The third drug test banned him from NASCAR for life. That, however, is what ended up motivating Shane Hmiel to turn his life around.

He soon entered rehab, and he overcame his drug addiction. He started racing on dirt tracks shortly thereafter before an accident that nearly took his life left him paralyzed. In spite of that, Hmiel has still made a life for himself as he has fielded dirt car teams.

3. Curtis Turner Banned For Life

In the 1960s, NASCAR was still evolving, but it was gaining some significant footing. Curtis Turner was one of NASCAR’s first superstars as he won 16 of 146 races between 1949 and 1961. However, he drew the ire of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.

The reason was that Turner was working to form a driver’s union. France was horrified by the proposal as he knew it could undermine the power he had in the sport, so he banned Turner for life. To this day, NASCAR drivers have never formed a union despite the precedents of other sports like Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and so on.

In spite of the ban, Turner was eventually brought back to NASCAR in 1965 by France. Turner won one more race before hanging up his helmet after the 1968 season.

2. Kyle Larson Racial Slur

During the global pandemic in 2020, NASCAR drivers took to their computers to take part in virtual races. Larson was a part of a race with drivers from different disciplines at the Monza oval, when he said in a virtual chat room, a racial slur. Everyone heard it, and that started the snowball effect.

Larson was suspended indefinitely from NASCAR, and sponsors like Target, McDonalds, and Credit One Bank withdrew their support. He sat out the final 32 races of the Cup Series season, but, that was not the end of the story. In 2021, Larson signed with Rick Hendrick, and Larson went on to win the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

1. Jeremy Mayfield Drug Scandal

Jeremy Mayfield always seemed to have drama following him from Penske to Evernham to even starting his own team. In 2009, Mayfield started driving for his own team, and he was suspended for “violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy” at Darlington that year. This set off a wild chain of events including his suspension being somewhat overturned in July by a temporary induction, but another positive test a couple of weeks later left him suspended again.

Mayfield to this day remains suspended by NASCAR. He has not completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program, although he was at the race track as recently as 2022 at an SRX race in Nashville. There is a lot more to this story, but Jeremy Mayfield told, at least some of it, on the Dale Jr. Download.

Scandals are not fun for anybody involved in sports, and NASCAR is no different. The hope is that very few things will be added to this list in the upcoming days and years.

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Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

All Posts