News & Media

Bowyer, Gordon feud escalates into brawl

November 12, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Fight breaks about between respective crews after late-race wreck at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Clint Bowyer ran hard all day -- well enough to have a top-five finish in his sights and with it, a chance to at least re-enter the Chase for the Sprint Cup conversation in the final week of the season.

But Bowyer never appeared to run any faster than he did after a late-race wreck with Jeff Gordon, hurdling the pit wall, then beating a path to Gordon's hauler door after members of both teams scuffled on pit road.

This wasn't what NASCAR necessarily had in mind when it wanted folks talking about the Chase heading into the final showdown of the season. With Brad Keselowski now leading five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by 20 points, things remain far from settled.

But the Bowyer-Gordon melee and its repercussions will be a hot topic in Miami.

"Things just got escalated over the year ... I've had it. [I was] fed up with it and I got him back."


NASCAR officials met with Bowyer and Gordon following the race. Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said there was a lot to sort out before the teams get to Miami-Homestead.

"A lot of things to sift through, on and off the race track," Pemberton said. "We'll continue to talk and work things out amongst the teams.

"It's a close community. We all travel together and we have to work side-by-side for weeks and months and years at a time. We'll continue to try to get everybody back calmed down and get it back to a good working situation for everybody."

Only two haulers separated the working proximity of Bowyer and Gordon at Phoenix. On the track, things had been too close for comfort for a while.

"There have been a couple instances where we've gotten into some difficult situations [with Bowyer]," said Gordon's crew chief Alan Gustafson. "Both Martinsville [races]. Obviously, those two come to mind right away. He cost us a win there. [Sunday] we got used-up by the No. 15 and, obviously, we take offense to that. It's not the first time it's happened. After a while, that adds and adds up and it's time to put a stop to it."

Gordon all but admitted to taking a boys-have-at-it approach, lying in wait to wreck Bowyer in Sunday's closing laps of the AdvoCare 500 after seeing the hopes of his Hendrick Motorsport teammate, Johnson, take a severe hit with flat tire and 32nd-place finish.

"Things just got escalated over the year and I'd just had it," Gordon said. "Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day. I've had it. [I was] fed up with it and I got him back."

Gordon, who slid four places to 10th in the Chase, said he wasn't worried about resulting penalties.

"NASCAR -- they've got to do what they've got to do. And I guess I had to do what I had to do."

No one vented more verbal frustration than Bowyer's team owner Michael Waltrip.

"I've never seen anything like what Jeff Gordon did to a guy racing for a championship," he said. "[It was a] cowardly, chicken move by someone who has raced for championships before and knows how important every position is.

"They barely brush on the back straightway and he purposely waits -- tells everybody [on radio] he's waiting -- and wrecks our car and our hopes for racing for a championship. I'm beside myself."

Responding to Waltrip's comments, Gustafson said: "I don't care [what he thinks]. ... It's racing, man. It's what happens. It's all good."

The incident occurred in Turn 4 of what was scheduled to be the next-to-final lap. With Joey Logano to his outside, Gordon squeezed Bowyer, who attempted to go low. All three cars sustained extensive damage as Keselowski slid by on the apron to avoid the contact.

NASCAR threw the caution flag before race leader Kevin Harvick was able to cross the start-finish line, meaning the race was not over.

* Video: Gordon retaliates against Bowyer, fight ensues

"It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion -- and what I consider one of the best this sport's ever seen -- to act like that."


After climbing from his car, Gordon became involved in the confrontation that ensued between his crew and Bowyer's crew, but was quickly ushered away.

The race was red-flagged for nearly 15 minutes, as Bowyer went running after Gordon. Bowyer's team attempted, unsuccessfully, to repair his car enough to enable him to run laps during a green-white-checkered finish. When Bowyer returned to his car, accompanied by race officials, he received a loud ovation from Phoenix fans.

"It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion -- and what I consider one of the best this sport's ever seen -- to act like that," said Bowyer, after emerging from his meeting with NASCAR officials.

"I barely touched him and then I feel him get into Turn 3 and try to turn me. He missed, and then the next thing I know Brett [Griffin, spotter] is telling me on the radio that he's ... waiting on me."

Pemberton's initial take on the incident: "It's hard to say. When you look at it, with the way the 15 [Bowyer] came below [the 24, Gordon] on the apron, you can read into it a lot of different ways, depending on which way you're leaning. ... We remind the drivers to be as fair and square as you can about things. It looks like the tempers got away with the best of them out there today."

Instead of being in the mix with Keselowski and Johnson, Bowyer finds himself completely out of the Chase, 52 points behind the leader with his 28th-place finish. Had he finished fifth, perhaps knocking Keselowski back a peg or two in the process, he might have been 27 points behind Keselowski -- close enough to at least hope for divine intervention for a chance at the title.

"I didn't even need to pass [Gordon]," Bowyer said. "All I was doing was riding around, biding my time. It's crazy. I didn't even need to pass him. I was plenty content riding behind him. He slipped up .. I get under him and here he comes back. I literally barely rubbed him and all the sudden I feel him trying to retaliate.

"There's nothing you can do to fix it now. It's over with and done."

Although Bowyer's crew chief Brian Pattie did note: "It doesn't look like there will be too many Christmas cards going back and forth between the 15 and the 24."