Bowyer, Gordon 'incident' looms large over Phoenix
March 02, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Drivers appear to have put incident behind them but it's still on the minds of many
AVONDALE, Ariz. –- Clint Bowyer said he had “plenty of good ones,” when asked about his favorite memories of racing at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Only one bad one,” the Michael Waltrip Racing driver said behind a look that was part grin, part grimace. “I’ll take it. I’ve had a lot of good memories; one was really bad.”
A glimpse of the “one bad one” can be seen in television spots promoting this weekend’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, the second stop of the 2013 season for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.
Kevin Harvick was the race winner the last time Cup teams competed at the 1-mile PIR facility. But Harvick’s victory, which took place last November, likely isn’t what most fans recall. Instead, it is a late-race altercation between Bowyer and Jeff Gordon, their on-track incidents escalating into a monumental shoving match in the garage between crewmen from the two teams.
"I can’t run every lap worrying about every guy I’ve ever had an incident with."
-- Jeff Gordon
Video of the incident, and Bowyer running down pit road, into the garage and up on the back of Gordon’s transporter, has been shown plenty of times since the incident took place, and portions of it are included in the television spots for this weekend’s race.
Gordon, whose retaliatory move sent Bowyer into the wall with little more than one lap remaining, was fined $100,000, docked 25 driver points and placed on probation following the incident. Team owner Rick Hendrick lost 25 owner points and crew chief Alan Gustafson was placed on probation.
Brian Pattie, Bowyer’s crew chief, was fined $25,000 and placed on probation.
The crash slammed the door on any hopes Bowyer had of contending for the Sprint Cup title –- he trailed the points leader by 36 entering the event, and 52 once the dust had settled and just one race remained.
“I think we all know what (Clint) means,” Waltrip joked as he and his driver took part in a March 1 press conference with sponsor Peak motor oil. “You want to see enthusiasm and passion; there’s a great video of Clint running somewhere (that) shows you how into this thing he is.”
Bowyer will start 13th in Sunday’s race; Gordon will line up a bit closer to the front, his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet checking in with the fifth-fastest time on Friday.
“It’s hard to get away from it,” Gordon said of the incident. “They’re still using it to advertise for the race and it was a big story.“
With teams attempting to dial in the new Generation-6 car for this weekend’s race, Gordon said he and his team had enough on its plate to work through without worrying about past situations.
“We’re just focused on getting the most out of the car and having a good, solid, and fast race car and a good weekend,” he said.
Still, Gordon is cognizant of the situation and realizes there is interest from the outside. He won’t, he said, race Bowyer any differently should the two cross paths on the track here this weekend.
“We’ll race hard. We’ll race hard for position and hopefully we don’t have any incidents,” the four-time Cup champion explained. “I can’t run every lap worrying about every guy I’ve ever had an incident with.”
Waltrip, co-owner of the three-team organization, made 24 starts at Phoenix as a driver. Yet he agreed with his driver when asked about his least favorite recollections of PIR -- last fall’s incident was tops in his book as well.
“Because while (Clint) was running and everybody was running, I was standing there thinking, ‘what the hell am I supposed to do?’ And I never have figured it out,” Waltrip said.
“But we didn’t have a policy in place for that type of occurrence (at that time) and now we do, so we’re smarter.
“So I know what I’m supposed to do now: chase Clint.”
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