Gordon, Bowyer collide in New Hampshire garage during practice
Midway through Saturday morning’s first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon had contact in the garage that resulted in significant damage to Gordon’s car.
Gordon, who qualified a disappointing 23rd in his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, was backing out of his garage stall at around 10:30 a.m. when Bowyer was pulling in. A crewmen cleared Gordon and didn’t see Bowyer coming.
As Gordon’s car came out, Bowyer had nowhere to go and the nose of his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota struck the right-rear quarter panel of Gordon’s car, causing heavy cosmetic damage. Bowyer was able to continue practicing, as his car’s nose had minimal issues, but Gordon was done for the session.
Bowyer and Gordon famously had issues at Martinsville and Phoenix in 2012, culminating in a garage brawl in the penultimate race of the season and plenty of bad blood between the two in the following offseason.
This time, though, there was no finger pointing or blame attribution afterwards. In fact, both drivers seemed kind of sheepish about the incident, which they attributed to the tight confines and poor sightlines in the New Hampshire garage.
Quoting the movie, "Caddyshack," Bowyer joked, "I’ve always wanted to use this line of Rodney Dangerfield’s: ‘I scratched my anchor’ on the nose of Jeff Gordon’s car earlier. That was a bad deal. I felt bad for that guy who was backing him out, all my guys, all their guys."
Bowyer said congestion in the garage was an issue, too. "There was just so many people in here," said Bowyer. "… It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it tore our cars up. It really hurt Jeff’s car, but it is what it is. There’s just so much going on in these pits.
"You come out and you’re focused on the adjustments they (his team) made, trying not to run over any pedestrians or anything," Bowyer said. "It’s just pretty tight at these short tracks. It’s a wonder this stuff doesn’t happen more often."
The four-time champion said a pit cart outside of his garage stall blocked the sightlines when he was backing out.
"The 15 (Bowyer) kind of took off and probably couldn’t really see me because of that pit cart," Gordon said. "And I don’t know if he kind of glanced over or what, but when he looked back, I was right there and he couldn’t go anywhere. It’s kind of combination — I guess both of us can take fault."
Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson was among those feverishly working to patch Gordon’s quarter panel up. The team was able to get the car back on track for the final Happy Hour practice.
"I will say our team did an amazing job repairing it," Gordon said. "It was quite a bit of damage. I love to see my crew chief get in there and get dirty, but not for that reason."
At the conclusion of the first practice, defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick was on top of the board, running a best lap of 132.094 miles per hour in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was second in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy at 131.975 mph. He was followed by polesitter Carl Edwards and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch, with Kurt Busch completing the top five in a second SHR Chevy.
Bowyer ended practice 16th, five sports ahead of Gordon. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wound up 12th, with Danica Patrick 26th.