Race Coverage Writing
Bob Pockrass, SportingNews.com
Jeff Gordon sends message to Keselowski during fight at Texas
FORT WORTH, Texas – A fuming Jeff Gordon wanted to fight Brad Keselowski following the Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday for an overtime move that cut Gordon’s tire, sent him spinning and possibly cost him a shot at the 2014 championship.
Gordon could only get close enough to grab Keselowski’s uniform, but fists were flying among several crewmen on pit road after the race.
In addition to hurt feelings and hot tempers, Gordon left with a 29th-place finish and sits fourth in the standings and in the last cutoff position heading into the final race of the third round next week at Phoenix.
“It’s his disregard for what’s going on out there,” Gordon said. “There’s things that forces him to defend him(self) like that. It’s a shame. It’s a real shame, you know? He made an over-aggressive move. Those moves are fine if you guys slam and bang and race. But he cut my left-rear tire, and that was it for me.”
Gordon was leading Jimmie Johnson and Keselowski on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Keselowski saw a gap between Johnson and Gordon and tried to make his car fit, with his right-side door banging into Gordon's car. After losing several spots with his left-rear tire going down, Gordon spun.
“There was a gap,” Keselowski said. “It closed up. By the time it closed up, I was committed, and I stayed in it. That almost won me the race. It hurt somebody else's day. That's a shame. But the reality is there was a gap.
“You know, I'm not (legendary drivers) Dale Earnhardt or (Ayrton) Senna. I read how they raced, how great they were for this sport. They would sit here and tell you they would go for that same gap. I'm not them, but I'm inspired by that, and I'm going to race that way.”
After the race, Gordon stopped his car on pit road next to Keselowski. As some of Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports crew and Keselowski’s Team Penske crew already had to be held back from one another, Gordon walked around them all to yell at Keselowski, who had finished third.
“You wrecked my (expletive) car you piece of (expletive),” Gordon said.
The incident almost ended with just shouts, but then Kevin Harvick, who was on pit road and finished second (and does not have a good relationship with Keselowski), came over and pushed Keselowski in a way to encourage him to fight.
“When it gets down to that type of racing, those things are going to happen exactly like they happened after the race tonight,” Harvick said. “But I don't think there's anything wrong with it as long as you're ready to roll.”
That is when things got crazy, with Gordon grabbing Keselowski. They were separated as fists began to fly.
“I went over there to talk to him,” Gordon said. “I wanted to do a lot more than (give him a message).”
Keselowski said he got hit during the melee, which included members of other crews in addition to Gordon’s and Keselowski’s.
“I couldn't even tell you what happened.,” Keselowski said. “(It was) just a melee of people. I couldn't tell you what happened after the race. That's why there's cameras.”
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said NASCAR will look at the video and decide by Tuesday night or Wednesday on whether to discipline any of the participants. While NASCAR didn’t penalize anyone for some of the pushing and shoving after the Charlotte race three weeks ago, Pemberton indicated what happened on pit road went over the line.
“You shouldn’t punch somebody,” Pemberton said. “Everybody gets together and when you’re holding on to each other and grabbing and this, that and the other is one thing. When punches are landed, that’s a different scenario.”
Pemberton said NASCAR had no problem with what happened on the racetrack.
“It’s was hard racing,” Pemberton said. “This is a contact sport. … Everybody was going for it. Nobody was leaving anything behind, that’s for sure.”
Don’t expect Keselowski or Gordon to back down.
“I'm here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team,” Keselowski said. “That means when there's a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that's OK. It's not anything I don't expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways. That’s OK by me.
“I'm not asking anyone to take. I'm not trying to dish out something that I couldn't take myself. But these guys have their own code, and they race differently than that. That's their right. We'll go through these battles. I've gone through them before and come out stronger. I'll go through them again and come out stronger, a better racecar driver.”
With non-Chase drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson having won the first two races of the third round, only one driver can advance to the championship race with a victory if they can win next week at Phoenix. Either three or four of the final four spots will be filled based on points. Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin lead the standings, followed by Ryan Newman (two points behind), Gordon (12), Matt Kenseth (13), Carl Edwards (13), Keselowski (17) and Harvick (18).
“We’re going to take this fire that is inside of us and this momentum and we’re taking it to Phoenix and we’re going to win that race,” Gordon said.
Keselowski said he believes he has to win Phoenix to advance. That’s what he’ll try to do, and he indicated he would race the same way again.
“I've come to the reality that there's a lot worse things in this world than me,” Keselowski said. “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.”