As the Sprint Cup Series gets ready for another round of racing this weekend at Phoenix, there is no question that the big topics of discussion include Kurt Busch, and the fight at Texas Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon, one of the main drivers involved, is still irked about the incident heading into this weekend’s event.
The fight, which happened on pit road, took place following a heated battle and contact late in the race at Texas Motor Speedway. The race would go beyond it’s extended distance, bringing forth a green-white-checkered with Gordon leading. Gordon would make the choice to go on the outside for the restart. He wouldn’t get the restart that he hoped, with Johnson getting the advantage and taking the lead as the field headed into turn one. Gordon would be stuck on the outside, finding himself alongside Kevin Harvick. Keselowski would then try to stick his nose between the cars of Gordon and Harvick, resulting in contact between Gordon and Keselowski. The result would be a flat tire for Gordon, causing him to drop through the field and spin around to bring out the caution.
Following the race, Gordon would get out of his car and walk over to Keselowski, confronting him as a pair of crew members held Gordon back. Keselowski would go to leave the main circle, when he was pushed back into the center by Harvick. Harvick commented post-race that he pushed Keselowski back in because “he should fight his own fight”. Gordon would get a hold of Keselowski’s collar and from that point on, the fight would be on among the drivers and teams.
Looking back on the incident this weekend, Gordon said that the only reason the fight escalated with the team members involved was because “Brad didn’t want to face the situation”.
“Those pit crew guys were kind of in the middle of that,” he explained. “The thing that I feel terrible about is getting my guys involved with it. I feel like if we could have just had a face-to-face there would have been no incident. But Kevin (Harvick) played a role; there is no doubt about that. I didn’t realize who it was at the time. I thought it was him, but it wasn’t until I went back and saw it later on video and got a good chuckle out of that one that I realized what had happened. It certainly played a role.”
Gordon added that when he walked over, he wasn’t’ there to cause a fight but “to be able to just have a conversation to discuss what their decision making process was at that time”. Gordon said that he wanted to hear why Keselowski made the move and talk about the incident to see where he stood, so he knew moving forward. However, per Gordon, that didn’t happen due to Keselowski’s decision at the time and the events that followed.
Since the incident, there have been many different people throwing their views into the mix with some people saying that Gordon shouldn’t had said anything to Keselowski about what happened since Keselowski was just making an aggressive move and Gordon needs to be handle that. Gordon commented today that he has “no issue with a guy being aggressive and making a bold move”. However, if the move doesn’t go well – as Keselowski’s move against Gordon – then “there are consequences that you are going to have to deal with”. Gordon says, in his mind, Keselowski didn’t handle it well with trying to escape.
“To me if you are going to compare to the greats of this sport that have been aggressive over the years, you also have to compare how they handle themselves in those situations afterwards,” he added. “The ones that I have had to deal with on that, they know how to not make enemies, they might not have a lot of friends out there, but they also don’t have a lot of enemies. If they do they seem to find a way to patch that up fairly quickly.”
As a result of the incident, NASCAR made the decision to suspend three crew members – Dwayne Doucette, Jason Ingle and Dean Mozingo – for the final two races of this season, plus the first four races of 2015 as they threw punches during the incident – which NASCAR deems as crossing over the line as to what is allowed. Gordon feels that they shouldn’t have been suspended as he believes 100% percent that they were there to protect him, not pick a fight against Keselowski and his team.
“They were there to make sure I was safe,” Gordon said. “For that I really… that is the only regret I have is that it got them involved and got them in this situation to be suspended. It’s going to affect us because it is a change. You want those guys in there, they are the best and that is why they are in that position. It’s going to make us have to step up our game.”
While Gordon feels it doesn’t help their cause in trying to win the championship, it adds motivation to win for them and their passion.
Now moving forward to Phoenix, Gordon is set to put the incident behind him and go after the victory this weekend. Though in the same breath, if Keselowski and him get near each other, he says he will Keselowski as Keselowski raced him.
“If I am in a situation that I feel like I can make a bold move that I think is going to help me win the race and he stands in the way then I’m going to do the same thing that he did to me last week,” he added. “The difference is if the same results happen how I’m going to deal with it afterwards and face him on that.”
Rather than worry about Keselowski, though, Gordon and team are set to tackle this weekend just like any other weekend in making sure that they have fastest car possible and win the race.
“I can’t think about what may happen, what might not happen, how I’m going to approach each restart and all that stuff. You just don’t know,” he continued. “But, I also know that the way I have raced over the years have gotten me here is that balance between aggressiveness and patience’s and feeling like when it is worth taking the risk and when it’s not worth it.”
Tempers could flare this weekend, though, as noted by Gordon’s incident with Bowyer a couple years ago. Bowyer got into him at Martinsville, followed by more contact at Phoenix. The result was Gordon wrecking Bowyer, with Bowyer tearing through the garage area to confront Gordon and team at their hauler.
“That wasn’t racing. There is a big difference between racing side-by-side going for an opportunity,” Gordon explained. “That was something that spilled over from being taken out of a race in Martinsville, contact being made after that and an incident that happened here that caused me to lose it. Listen, I regret that too. I wish I hadn’t of done that. That cost me tremendously. I know it cost (Clint) Bowyer a lot too, but it didn’t go without a penalty, trust me. That was a big penalty in a lot of ways, not just the points and the money. I have dealt with that. I have dealt with it with Clint (Bowyer) and I’ve dealt with it with the penalties and fines.”