With his No. 15 Toyota still smoking, Clint Bowyer sprinted from his car to the garage to confront Jeff Gordon, who dumped him with two laps remaining in Sunday’s Advocare 500.
Members of Bowyer’s crew already were involved in a brawl with Gordon’s crew before the driver attempted to run up into Gordon’s No. 24 hauler, but Bowyer was held back by NASCAR officials and other team members.
The incident stemmed from contact between Bowyer and Gordon on Lap 305 when Bowyer slid up into Gordon while both drivers were battling for fifth place in the race, which Kevin Harvick won.
”It’s pretty embarrassing,” Bowyer said. ”For a four-time champion, and what I consider one of the best this sport’s ever seen to act like this is pretty ridiculous.”
Both drivers and their crew chiefs were called to the NASCAR hauler for a meeting with series officials, and police officers stood outside on guard.
Gordon said he’s had problems with Bowyer all season and had reached his limit.
”Things just got escalated over the year, and I’d just had it,” he said. ”Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day. I’ve had it, fed up with it and I got him back.”
He said he didn’t know what penalties might be coming from NASCAR.
Gordon limped around the track for several laps before taking out Bowyer and collecting Joey Logano directly in front of Brad Keselowski, who took the points lead with his run at Phoenix International Raceway.
“We got used up by Clint several times this year, and enough is enough,” Gordon’s crew chief Alan Gustafson said. “If you’re going to mess with the bull, you’re going to get the horns."
“That’s just ridiculous that a champion would act like that,” Bowyer’s team owner Michael Waltrip said.
NASCAR red-flagged the event to clean up the track. After almost 15 minutes, the race resumed.
NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the situation would be looked at further this week.
”That was surely a shame,” he said. ”We’ll continue to try to get everybody back calm down and back to a working situation.”
But Keselowski was livid, questioning the double-standard a week after he was criticized for racing hard on the final restarts against Johnson last week at Texas.
He could have wrecked Johnson for the victory, and three years ago he might have done just that. But Keselowski was only aggressive — yet clean — and even after losing the race was condemned by some of his fellow competitors.
Three-time champion Tony Stewart said Keselowski had ”a death wish” and Kyle Busch felt some drivers wouldn’t give Keselowski a break on the track because he raced Johnson too hard on the last restart.
”It’s the double standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a half-dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I’m out of control and have a death wish,” he said. ”These guys just tried to kill each other … they should be ashamed. It’s embarrassing.”