News & Media

Gordon stands by message, Hendrick by his driver

November 16, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jeff Gordon stands by his message. He'd just consider changing the delivery.

That's what the four-time champion told reporters Friday -- five days, a $100,000 fine and 25-point penalty after a now well-publicized NASCAR version of a bench-clearing brawl between his Hendrick Motorsports team and Clint Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing team.

"Last week, the thing I regret and the thing that I messed up on is that I allowed my anger and my emotions to put me in a position to make a bad choice,'' said Gordon, who wrecked with Bowyer two laps from the end of Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Phoenix (watch).

"I don't think they're going to be messing with me for a little while. I think they realize that that message was sent pretty clear."



"I stand behind him no different than if my son got in trouble at school for a bully beating on him and he stuck up for himself."


"I felt like Clint needed to be dealt with, but that wasn't the right way to go about it, certainly not the right time. And what I hate most about it is that other guys were involved with it and it affected their day.''

"I certainly look back on it and wish I had done things different and all I can do now is look ahead and look forward and try to come in here and do the best that I can to close out the season on a positive note and put this 20th anniversary DuPont Chevrolet into Victory Lane.''

Turns out the on-track retaliation was tame compared to the resulting melee in the garage -- crew members scuffling, law-enforcement officers standing guard and an incensed Bowyer literally sprinting to confront Gordon.

* Sound Off: Gordon discusses incident, competitive fire

The two drivers have had several run-ins this season including one earlier in the race when Gordon's car was taken out of contention.

Bowyer's crew chief, Brian Pattie, was fined $25,000 for not controlling his crew.

While Bowyer has not spoken to reporters this weekend, Gordon's team owner, Rick Hendrick, said Friday that he whole-heartedly stands by his driver.

"Let me frame this for you,'' Hendrick said as Gordon looked on. "Here sits a guy that's done more for the sport than anybody I know. He's opened the doors for all the young guys, the open-wheel guys. He's done things like Saturday Night Live, he'd done the cover of Fortune [magazine]. Never seen him have a problem -- not a major problem in 20 years.''

You see, there is so much more to this story for Hendrick.

"I don't expect anybody in here to really understand this as much as maybe Jeff and I do, but at Martinsville this year, we were going for our 200th win,'' Hendrick explained of an earlier situation between Bowyer and Gordon (watch).

"It was the first time I had my brother's wife there and the first time Jan Jackson, the representative of DuPont, was there since the crash,''Hendrick said referring to the 2004 plane crash in Martinsville, Va., that claimed 10 lives including Hendrick's son, Ricky, brother, John, and two nieces, the team's general manager and chief engine builder, and Jan Jackson's husband, Joe, who were en route to an October race there.

"We had a photo session before the race and we were all wanting to win more than anything, more than any championship. The 200th win at Martinsville meant so much to all of us because we lost so much there.

"And that was taken away from us. Both of our cars were wrecked on the last lap and the next to last lap, by the 15 car [Bowyer].

"You didn't see our guys go down there and fight in the pits; we didn't do any of that. I have never hurt as bad in my life leaving the race track as I did that day. It took me a week or so to get over it just because we had it in our grasp. And that's just emotions that we carry and nobody else.''

"So I stand behind him no different than if my son got in trouble at school for a bully beating on him and he stuck up for himself,'' Hendrick said. "That's the way I feel about it.''

Bowyer's reaction -- he parked his damaged car on pit road and pushed people aside as he ran toward Gordon's team transporter -- was particularly intense because he still was mathematically in championship contention before the accident, which also collected Joey Logano.

Gordon said Logano called him after the race, but said of the conversation, "I can't say it went exactly very well. I reached out to him again to try to get together with him here at the track and I have not been able to speak with him.''

Gordon has not spoken with Bowyer.

"Afterwards, did it sit well with me knowing that took his hopes out? No, he's also a guy I would consider a friend,'' Gordon said, reminding reporters that he was racing for fourth place in the championship himself.

"I think everybody thinks I just intentionally went down there and wrecked him and that's not the case. I wanted to make his life really miserable and I wanted to make my car really wide, but I wasn't expecting him to go diving down the inside on the apron and when he did, it caused us to hook and caused what ended up being a terrible accident.''

In the hours and days following the race, other drivers suggested that it wasn't the behavior expected of a four-time champion. Gordon acknowledged that it may affect the opinion of some.

"But I don't think they're going to be messing with me for a little while,'' Gordon said. "I think they realize that that message was sent pretty clear. And I think that's something, too. It's been a real up-and-down year for us and I go on Twitter, too, and interact with my fans.

"Throughout the last couple of years I feel like one thing maybe I haven't done enough of is show the fire inside me that I want to win and want to win championships.

"And I think that while I would have liked to have gone about it differently on Sunday, I think it did show that the fire and passion is inside of me in a big way.''

Asked if he were a fan what he would think of the whole situation, Gordon was quick to respond. With a slight smile.

"I would tune in the following Sunday and see what happened.''