Throwback Thursday: Texas fight between Gordon and Keselowski revisited
They say everything’s bigger in Texas.
That was certainly the case at the end of last November’s Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway when Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports crew members swarmed the No. 2 car, Brad Keselowski and the Team Penske crew on pit road.
Words were exchanged, fire suits grabbed, and crew members exchanged blows.
The post-race brawl left the drivers bloodied, crew members suspended and the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup leading news stories across the country.
The fight was the result of an on-track run-in between Gordon and Keselowski late in the race. A somewhat innocent move by Keselowski was escalated with the high drama of advancing through the Chase field.
On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered restart, Keselowski had a big run from the third spot and tried to split the middle of Gordon to the outside and Jimmie Johnson to the inside. As the trio headed into Turn 1, Keselowski made contact with Gordon, cutting the left rear tire of the No. 24 Chevrolet.
The contact sent Gordon spinning, bringing out the 13th caution of the day, and led to a 29th-place finish. Keselowski would continue on and finish third behind Johnson and Kevin Harvick.
After the race, Gordon pulled his car beside Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford on pit road as crew members began to assemble, expecting a confrontation.
Once out of the cars, Gordon barked at Keselowski as even more crew members began to push and shove, trying to stand up for their driver. As Gordon continued to get even more agitated, Harvick came up from behind Keselowski and appeared to push him toward Gordon.
The push was the spark that set off one of the most massive fights in recent memory. Punches were thrown on all sides, Keselowski, Gordon and crew members all got involved. Caught in the middle were a host of public relations people and media members.
Members of Paul Menard’s Richard Childress Racing crew also got involved as they tried to separate the two teams from fighting.
In the end, both Keselowski and Gordon were bloodied, while Harvick simply walked away from it all.
"We were just racing for the win," an out-of-breath Keselowski said. "I didn’t wreck him, just raced him hard. He left a hole. Everything you watch in racing, if you leave a hole you’re supposed to go for it. It closed back up and we made contact. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s day. I wanted to win the race, and that was our opportunity. It just didn’t come together."
This was not the first time Keselowski was mired in controversy for a post-race incident, something he credited to hard racing and determination.
"I’ve been through a lot of rivalries," he said. "I’ve got a little blood on me right now, I’ve been roughed up, put in the grandstands, wrecked, and done all that stuff, and I’m still here fighting. It’s not going to change the way I race. I race with 100-percent intensity and race for the win. That’s what our fans deserve in NASCAR."
Gordon walked away from the incident with a bloodied lip, was given a big hug from team owner Rick Hendrick, and was then very critical of the 2012 Sprint Cup champion.
"He’s just a dip—-," Gordon said of Keselowski. "The way he races, I don’t know how he ever won a championship and I’m just sick and tired of him. That’s why everybody’s fighting him and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge race for us. We had the car. We had the position. So proud of my team and I’m proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that little you-know-what win that race. Oh my God."
This is not the first time Gordon has shown emotion after a race or on-track incident either, as he has had confrontations in the past with the likes of Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. However, unlike those past confrontations, Gordon felt this one was different because of Keselowski’s reputation.
"It wasn’t a conversation, because you can’t have a conversation with him," Gordon said when describing the incident before punches were thrown. "He beats to his own drum, gets himself into this position by himself and he’s got to pay for the consequences. I’m going to race him the same way he races me, but that kind of stuff is uncalled for and I’m not going to stand for it.
"To (NASCAR), I’m sure it’s just a racing incident, but to me it’s just a bunch of crap," Gordon said. "The kid is just doing stuff way over his head and that’s just uncalled for. You’re racing for the win and a championship, you don’t go slam somebody and cut their left rear tire. If that what it takes, then we can do the same thing back to him."
The third party in that incident, Harvick also thought Keselowski was out of line in the closing laps, saying he personally "couldn’t run over the 24 (Gordon) or the 48 (Johnson) like that."
"Obviously it was no-holds-barred there with the 2 (Keselowski), he was in bulldozer mode," Harvick said. "It’s being played rough. It’s just one of those deals where everybody’s just trying to get all they can and you just do everything you can do to do the best for your team."
While he may have been out of line in that instance, Harvick does not feel Keselowski is necessarily out of control.
"I think he’s just racing as hard as he can for his team," Harvick said. "He’s trying to get all he can. But when it gets down to that type of racing, those things are going to happen exactly like they happened after the race tonight, so… But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it as long as you’re ready to roll."
As far as the shove to push Keselowski into the scrum, Harvick said it was simply a way of making him face the consequences of his actions.
"If you’re going to race like that, you’re going to have to man up at some point. I mean, he’s done it several times," Harvick said. "Can’t just turn around and let everybody fight all the time without you in there. Have to stand up for your actions at some point yourself.
"I didn’t get in the middle of anything," Harvick insisted. "I just turned him around and told him to go fight his own fight."