Put ’em up: Post-race fight erupts between Gordon, Keselowski
Three weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski had to hold off an angered Matt Kenseth between the haulers after the race.
As it turns out, that was just a preliminary bout.
That small scuffle paled in comparison to the post-race incident that followed Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, when Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports crew members swarmed the No. 2 car on pit road.
On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered restart, Keselowski had a big run in third 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 the day 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.
I came here to race, not fight. If I wanted to be a fighter, I would have joined the UFC or have a management team like (Kevin Harvick) does. I came here to race, 100 percent. That’s what I did today.
"We were just racing for the win," said an out-of-breath Keselowski. "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 is certainly not the first time Keselowski has been surrounded with controversy for a post-race incident, something he credits 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."
When asked on pit road if he thought there should be penalties issued by NASCAR for this latest incident, Keselowski hedged his answer.
"I’m too close to the fire to make those decisions," said Keselowski. "I do know it’s my job to race 100 percent, and that’s what I did today. I didn’t wreck anyone, but I certainly raced hard. That’s nothing to be ashamed of."
To (NASCAR), I’m sure it’s just a racing incident, but to me it’s just a bunch of crap. 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’s what it takes, then we can do the same thing back to him.
Jeff Gordon, talking about Brad Keselowski
On the other side of the coin, Gordon walked away from the incident with a bloodied lip, was given a big hug from team owner Rick Hendrick, and had harsh words for the 2012 Sprint Cup champion.
"He’s just a dipshit," 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 feels this one is different because he said Keselowski wants to walk to the beat of his own drum.
"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," added Gordon. "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."
It’s the same old story, I guess. Someone should probably notify Brad you can’t be ‘Bad Brad’ if you’re a dweeb, and he is. He’s going to get beat up pretty bad one time.
Denny Hamlin, on Keselowski
"Obviously it was no-holds-barred there with the 2 (Keselowski), he was in bulldozer mode," said Harvick. "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, Harvick does not feel Keselowski is necessarily out of control.
"I think he’s just racing as hard as he can for his team," said Harvick. "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," said Harvick. "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."
Involved in the post-race incident at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Keselowski, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin did not mince words in his opinion of the Team Penske driver after watching what unfolded on pit road on TV monitors in the Sprint Cup garage.
"It’s the same old story, I guess," said Hamlin. "Someone should probably notify Brad you can’t be ‘Bad Brad’ if you’re a dweeb, and he is. He’s going to get beat up pretty bad one time. Maybe that will change him, maybe not. He’ll take a punch."
After the incident cleared NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton said the sanctioning body will review the situation and any penalties, if any, will be likely announced on Tuesday.
"We knew the format was going to put a lot of pressure on people to perform and make aggressive moves and decisions out there on the racetrack. And you could see the result of that after the race," said Pemberton. "So we’re going to take our time. We’ve got a lot of film to review and things like that and the important thing is to make the right decision at the end of the day."
With so much scrutiny placed on him for his aggressive style, Keselowski insisted he is not trying to be the bad guy of NASCAR, saying he does not "necessarily like being disliked."
"But it beats the alternative of not being known at all by a long ways," he said. "From my perspective, I think I’ve come to the reality that there’s a lot worse things in this world than me. If I’m a villain, the people that think I’m a villain have a pretty good life and should be proud of that. All this stuff that’s going on in the world, if your villain is me racing 100 percent, you’ve got it pretty good and I don’t feel too bad for you.
"I came here to race, not fight," Keselowski went on to say. "If I wanted to be a fighter, I would have joined the UFC or have a management team like (Harvick) does. I came here to race, 100 percent. That’s what I did today.
"The people that want to see fights are not true race fans," he added. "They need to watch UFC. Because that’s not true racing. I know in my heart that I raced 100 percent and I did what should be done to be a professional racecar driver."
VIDEO: Jeff Gordon spins after getting tire cut during contact with Brad Keselowski