NASCAR moved swiftly to dish out punishment after a crash and ensuing brawl marred the Sprint Cup race Sunday in Phoenix. But nasty feelings and grudges linger ahead of the season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jeff Gordon absorbed most of the damage. He was fined $100,000 and docked 25 Sprint Cup points for wrecking Clint Bowyer and sending the race into a tailspin. He was not suspended for ignoring a black flag and taking out one of the contenders, but is on probation through Dec. 31. Gordon’s reputation helped him avoid the kind of punishment NASCAR handed Kyle Busch a year ago for similar actions.
“There’s no doubt that a unique set of circumstances combined with a championship battle on the line resulted in raw emotions coming into play,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice-president of competition, said in a statement. “We consider the penalties appropriate and those involved understand our decision and we expect them to abide by them.”
Bowyer’s crew chief was fined $25,000 for failing to control his crew and Alan Gustafson, Gordon’s chief, was placed on probation for the rest of the year. So much for the dispassionate, administrative side of this mess. These guys have to race again this weekend. Hot fun.
“I wanted to take the points lead by winning a race and not relying on a failure,” Brad Keselowski, who moved ahead of Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup standings, said. And he certainly didn’t want to see the race devolve into fightin’ and shovin’. “I’m more just disappointed in the quality of racing that we saw. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and I was ashamed to be a part of it.”
Keselowski was particularly angry because drivers had criticized him for his aggressive racing against Jimmie Johnson a week ago and his comments about that were laced with profanity. (He was also irked at being fined $25,000 for having a cellphone in his car and tweeting during the red flag that came out with two laps remaining in the race.)
”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.”
Gordon said he lost his temper after a series of incidents throughout the year, dating back to the time Bowyer wrecked him and Johnson, his teammate, at Martinsville. “Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day,” Gordon said. “I’ve had it, fed up with it, and I got him back.”
Bowyer wasn’t saying he would retaliate this weekend — and he wasn’t saying he wouldn’t. “We’ll just have to see,” he said. He did, though, apologize for his word choice after saying that the mini-brawl “makes us look like a bunch of retards.”