Keselowski vs. Gordon: Was anyone right in the Sunday night fight?
FOX broadcaster and NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace joins FOX Sports colleagues Jay Pennell and Joe Menzer in the latest edition of Bump ‘n’ Run, where the week’s hottest topics in NASCAR are debated.
1. What do you make of the Jeff Gordon-Brad Keselowski brawl in Texas?
Kenny Wallace: It came to a boiling point, and I think if Jeff Gordon does not have a flat tire, we’re not even talking about this. But I have never seen so much blood on two drivers after a race.
Joe Menzer: And for a guy with the most Nationwide Series starts in NASCAR history — more than 900 — that’s saying something!
Jay Pennell: I think what Brad did on the track was simply a racing move, but when you’ve upset enough guys in the garage over the year, you’re going to get attacked. I think his fellow competitors are tired of his "reckless" racing, as some call it, and his mouth doing more than his right foot.
Menzer: Except this time, I don’t think he was reckless at all. I’ve looked at the tape at least 10 times, and I still don’t think Keselowski did anything wrong. Like he said, he saw an opening and went for it — and that’s what you’re supposed to do. I think Gordon’s frustration with it mainly had to with just all the pressure being built up in this Chase, and him seeing a chance at a win going by the wayside in that instant.
Pennell: I was surprised to see Jeff Gordon so fired up, but that just goes to show how much he wants to win this championship. It may have to do with the pressure of the Chase, but I think it also has to do primarily with Brad. If Kevin Harvick makes that move, I’m not sure Gordon goes after him like that. I mean, in four weeks Keselowski has been attacked by Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. … Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon for crying out loud!
Wallace: It seems like every week there is that person. Last week Jeff Gordon said he would wreck Dale Jr. to win the race. Four hundred laps earlier, Kevin Harvick said Matt Kenseth would not win the championship if he doesn’t. Everyone is mad at everyone, because never in the history of NASCAR have eight drivers had a chance to win the championship with two races to go.
Pennell: I’d agree with that. This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and the intensity on and off the track is proving that point.
Wallace: Thank God for Brad Keselowski, because everything would be so boring right now without him. When you look back, we had "Jaws" Waltrip, cocky Rusty Wallace . . . all the great drivers are controversial.
Menzer: And not always well-liked by their fellow competitors. At least not until they retire.
Wallace: Joe, have you ever seen a champion that everybody liked?
Pennell: We didn’t get into this sport to make friends, right? I think it’s that’s the case even more for the drivers and crews. But I think a Kenny Wallace championship would be pretty popular!
Menzer: To answer Kenny’s question, no, because champions have to piss somebody off along the way to get there. You mentioned Rusty and DW, and think about it. Throw the late Dale Earnhardt in there, too. There were many times early in their careers — heck, even later — where they were booed and fellow drivers were constantly complaining about their methods on the track. But they won races, ultimately championships, and now reside in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Wallace: Brad Keselowski is in the driver’s seat because of his age. Most of these drivers will be gone, and Brad will be on top because Brad is so much younger.
Pennell: Being the youngest of this Bump ‘n’ Run group here, I was always on the Rusty Wallace side of that coin (not just sucking up to Herman here). But I booed Earnhardt at times more than I cheered for Rusty. I think Keselowski gives the fans someone other than a Busch brother to jeer, and that’s a good thing.
2. Is Keselowski NASCAR’s latest villain — and if so, is that good or bad for him?
Wallace: I am laughing out loud because we are not talking about the Busch brothers right now!
Menzer: Now you’ve got me busting a gut. That’s too funny — and so true!
Pennell: I think it’s perfect. You can only boo the Busch brothers for so long, right? The thing about it, though, is he’s not necessarily a dirty driver on the track. I think he’s more of a villain for how he carries himself and what he says in front of the microphone.
Wallace: It’s more like who’s the villain of the week? Brad might be the latest villain — but they all followed him to Victory Lane at Talladega. And that gave us the reminder that performance is still No. 1. They all had a chance to wreck him at ‘Dega, and they chose to follow him. As mad as everybody was at him, they still just pushed him right to Victory Lane.
Pennell: They might have followed him to the checkered flag in Talladega, but did they really have a choice, Kenny? Joey Logano — one of Brad’s few friends in the garage — threw one hell of a block on Harvick, otherwise that’s an entirely different story.
Menzer: I was especially shocked that Kenseth pushed him at the end. But the truth is, Matt was worried about wrecking himself and he knew he needed a good finish for his own Chase purposes.
Pennell: How many times have you seen someone wreck another driver on purpose at Talladega? I think those guys knew there was too much on the line there and the potential danger was not worth the risk of getting caught up in the mess that would follow.
Now, when it comes to Phoenix this weekend or Homestead next week, that’s an entirely different story. I think there are at least four or five guys out there that would be willing to do what they can to keep him from winning the title, especially if they’re out of championship contention themselves.
Wallace: That’s what is going to make this race so exciting, because you’ve got to be careful not to forget about the championship. If you wreck somebody, you’d better wreck them good and make sure they don’t come back on the race track. We all saw what Clint Bowyer did to Jeff Gordon two years ago.
Menzer: Man, this is going to be some good stuff, these last two races. I can’t wait to see what happens!
Pennell: Exactly. I just hope it’s not getting too hyped and we’re all left disappointed in the race and someone like Carl Edwards, who has been mediocre at best, emerges as the champion.
Menzer: Bottom line? I think BK definitely is the latest villain in the Sprint Cup garage, but I think it’s good for him and it’s great for the sport. We need villains, and he plays one well. Bottom line, he’s going to go for the win every time, he’s going to drive aggressively, and he’s one of the few who doesn’t think so much about what the consequences may be if it doesn’t go the way he thinks.
Pennell: As Brian Williams said on his nightly news program when recapping the fight, Keselowski is "easily the most widely disliked driver in the NASCAR garage." Can’t say I disagree with that assessment.
3. Should crew members be throwing punches at drivers post-race?
Menzer: Well, so many of them now are ex-football players or ex-collegiate wrestlers. I’d hate to see one of those guys come after you, Kenny!
Pennell: I wrote an article on this subject Monday. I have no problem whatsoever if crew members are involved. What I have issue with is crew members from other teams getting in the middle of someone else’s deal.
Menzer: NASCAR obviously had a problem wth the crews getting involved — to the tune of $185,000 in fines handed out to various Hendrick Motorsports crew members on Tuesday.
Wallace: I came home after the race Sunday night, and my wife and daughter were disgusted to see the one crew member dressed in black, taking both of his fists and trying to punch Brad Keselowski. I never thought about it from my wife and daughter’s standpoint before, but they were turned off. They thought it was ugly and sad.
Pennell: I understand Paul Menard’s crew just happened to be there because this unfolded in their pit stall, but Kasey Kahne’s crew had no business being involved.
Menzer: Yeah, it’s one thing for a driver to go after another driver. Or even a crew member to perhaps scuffle with another crew member. It’s another thing entirely when a crew member — or a whole crew — goes after a driver who just climbed out of his car, exhausted, after a grueling race.
Pennell: I made the point on Monday, if a batter is beaned by a pitcher, the rest of his team empties the bench and gets involved in the scrap. It’s the same thing here. I have no problem with it. But the AAA minor-league team doesn’t come to help. That’s my only issue with this situation.
Heck, isn’t there video of Jeff Hammond punching away on a crew member’s head after your brother had a little incident with Darrell Waltrip in the 1989 All-Star Race, Kenny?
Menzer: Save that question for next week, when none other than Jeff Hammond will be our Bump ‘n’ Run guest.
Wallace: I just thought what happened in Texas was ugly from this standpoint: you had one of Jeff Gordon’s crew members and the crew member dressed in black both throwing punches at Keselowski at the same time. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight to me.
Menzer: Right. It would be like you two ganging up on me . . . wait a minute!
Pennell: I will say this about Sunday night’s scrap, I’ve been in worse mosh pits in my day. Those boys need to learn how to clear some space!
I also had a non-NASCAR race fan tell me this fight and the deal at Charlotte has turned him completely off of NASCAR. He feels it’s being manufactured by NASCAR, or at the very least encouraged. I disagree with him, but it’s interesting to hear another side of it all.
Menzer: After watching so many members of the media get caught up in the middle of it, maybe the three of us should clear out a cube, get some boxing gloves out and do some training next time we’re in the office together. … And then again, maybe not.
Pennell: Only if we get Humpy Wheeler, the former Golden Gloves boxer, involved!
VIDEO: A look back at another time when Jeff Gordon lost his temper in Texas