By Jordan Dodson
Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway may have included a bigger story than the Chase battle itself. That story involved a fight that ensued after Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer with two laps to go.
Gordon, frustrated from a disappointing season, had the last straw when Bowyer made contact with him and blew out Gordon’s tire late in Sunday’s race. That contact was one of many between the two drivers this season and Gordon was going to have no more of it, or so he thought. Gordon decided to limp around until Bowyer caught back up and then Gordon showed his displeasure by driving Bowyer down onto the apron and into the wall, taking out both cars and the innocent victim of Joey Logano.
That was just the beginning.
As Gordon parked behind the wall and got out of his car, a fight broke out between the No. 15 and No. 24 crews. Jeff Gordon was held back by fellow team members, as the No. 15 and 24 crew members threw punches and tackled each other. The fight was eventually broke up by track officials and police officers.
Bowyer then saw the action from his car, jumped out and sprinted to Gordon’s hauler. On a mission, Bowyer reached the hauler to confront Gordon, only to be held back by officials. Bowyer then went on to cool down in his hauler.
Gordon and his team were called to the NASCAR hauler where they met with officials. There was no explanation about what the two sides talked about, but it was clear that possible penalties could come from NASCAR. Late Monday afternoon NASCAR did indeed announce related penalties.
But should there be penalties?
A couple of years ago NASCAR told drivers to “have at it” and we have seen drivers do just that. From confronting each other post-race to remarks during interviews, drivers have been able to voice their emotions.
One thing NASCAR does not put up with is purposely wrecking fellow drivers and harming others in the process, during the race. That was the case on Sunday in the AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix.
Gordon wrecked Bowyer in the race with other competitors around. He even collected Logano in the process. This situation has similarities to the Kyle Busch situation in 2011, when Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday at Texas under caution as payback for an earlier incident. Busch totaled both cars and was eventually suspended by NASCAR for one week from all NASCAR sanctioned races including the Sprint Cup race.
The only difference between Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch’s situations is that one driver has history and one doesn’t. Busch has a long and drawn out history of confronting drivers and actions that have led to suspension, probations and fines. Gordon very rarely has been disciplined by NASCAR. Gordon is known as a clean racer who goes about things the right way.
And yes, I know Clint Bowyer was running for a championship when the accident took place, but in all honesty, his championship hopes were slim with only one week remaining. So with Bowyer’s points position, in my mind, it does not play a major factor in Gordon’s penalty.
Gordon should not be suspended, because he does not have a constant history of stepping out of line. The last time Gordon stepped out of line was in 2010 where he got in a fight with Jeff Burton at Texas two years ago.
People do things in the heat of the moment and we saw an example of that on Sunday. Emotions are what excite fans and teams about their sport and we don’t want to lose that aspect of the sport. NASCAR needs to let teams show their emotions, without getting out of control and hurting someone, although they came close to that in Sunday’s race at Phoenix.
A one time event does not define you, so Gordon doesn’t deserve a suspension based off a one-race incident. A probation could be the best way to go because NASCAR doesn’t want other drivers to follow Gordon’s example. What Gordon did is a rarity so there is no need to over react.
Let the boys have at it, at least until someone gets hurt…