When Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked fellow competitor Clint Bowyer at Phoenix a week ago, video replays of the incident and the follow-up skirmish gained worldwide coverage, triggering an outpouring of opinions among race fans and disinterested parties. While NASCAR gained tons of exposure, the sanctioning body came down hard on Gordon with a fine of $100,000, loss of 25 championship points and probation until year-end.
While many thought Gordon might be suspended for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, it didn’t happen and Gordon was back in the brightly colored DuPont Chevrolet preparing for his 689th consecutive Sprint Cup event.
All I can do is look ahead and try to come in here and do the best I can to close out the season on a positive note.
Asked whether he thought he would be suspended, Gordon said, “I tried not to think about it, although I knew the folks at DuPont were worried as they had put a lot into this paint scheme and planning for commemorating this moment. Until I heard that they were worried about it, I wasn’t too concerned. I knew there would be fines and penalties, but I felt like I would be in the seat of the DuPont Chevrolet.”
Gordon went on to say, “Last week the thing I regret and messed up on is that I allowed my anger and my emotions to put me in a position to make a bad choice. I feel like Clint (Bowyer) needed to be dealt with, but that wasn’t the right way or the time to go about it. What I hate most about it is that other guys were involved with it. I certainly have looked back on it and wished I had done things differently. All I can do is look ahead and try to come in here and do the best I can to close out the season on a positive note.”
Rick Hendrick, who owns the Hendrick Motorsports team, accompanied Gordon to Friday’s press conference and offered his insights into the altercation. “Here sits a guy (Gordon) that has done more for the sport than anybody I know,” Hendrick stated. “He’s opened doors for all the young guys, he’s done things like Saturday Night Live, been on the cover of Fortune and I have never seen him have a problem with anyone in 20 years. As he just said, his emotions got out of control on Sunday.
“I don’t expect anyone here to understand this as much as Jeff and I do, but at Martinsville this year, we were going for our 200th win. It was the first time I had my brother’s wife there and the first time that Jan Jackson, the representative from DuPont, was there since the (fatal airplane) crash. We had a photo session before the race, and we wanted 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 next-to-last lap, and it was by the No. 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 racetrack as I did that day. It took me a week or so to get over it because we had it (victory) in our grasp. And that’s just the emotions that we carry and nobody else. So that situation along with some other things that happened along the way, you don’t forget it.
“I don’t think Jeff intended to wreck him that bad or wreck him at all, just move him and let him know he didn’t like it. This guy (Gordon) has as much right to race for fifth or sixth in points as somebody has to race for second.”
Even though many believe that Gordon intentionally wrecked Bowyer, he said that wasn’t his intention. “I wanted to make his life really miserable, and I wanted to make my car really, really wide, but I wasn’t expecting him to go diving down the inside of the apron, causing us to hook and ending up being a terrible accident,” said Gordon.
With the spotlight on Gordon this weekend, the former Sprint Cup champion doesn’t believe anyone will mess with him. “I’m going to focus on what I can do, and they’re having a good day, they’re not going to mess with me,” he noted. And he believes a win would be a good way to end the season.
Special livery for the No. 24 For the Homestead race, Gordon, the Hendrick Motorsports team and a bevy of DuPont representatives were on hand to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary of sponsorship. Gordon’s famed No. 24 carried a special paint scheme and the car was named the DuPont 20 Years Celebratory Chevrolet.