Adrenaline tends to run high when drivers strap into a race car for several hundred miles of high-speed bumper-to-bumper traffic. Contact is often made. Sometimes it's intentional, and sometimes it's not. And when a driver feels like he's been too nice and let things go for too long, he sometimes gets fed up and decides he's just not going to take it anymore.
That seemed to be what happened to Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, on Sunday in the Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
"The last person in the world you want to get into anything with is Jeff Gordon on the race track,” Bowyer said. I mean, you're down there racing, the track's extremely slick, we're all on tires -- I didn't even need to pass him. That's the thing. All I was doing is riding around biding my time.
Bowyer continued, “The only thing I had to do is keep the 5 car (Kasey Kahne) within reach, so for him to act like that -- I mean, I barely touched him and then I feel him get into turn three and try to turn me and he missed and then next thing I know Brett's (Griffin, spotter) telling me on the radio that he's trying to -- he's waiting on me. 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 is just completely ridiculous."
Sixth-place race finisher and new series points leader Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, shared Bowyer's sentiments when it came to calling the final laps of the race ridiculous.
"I raced pretty hard last week at Texas and got flack for it," Keselowski said. "There's a difference between that and what we saw today. That was borderline ridiculous."
At first, Bowyer's crew chief, Brian Pattie, wasn't sure about why Gordon was angry with Bowyer, but he speculated that maybe the two drivers previously made contact in turn three.
Gordon's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, on the other hand, was sure of his assessment of the situation. "It's been about the fifth time he's (Bowyer) run us over, and we're getting tired of that," he said. "If you're going to race like that, you shouldn't be mad when you get it back."
According to Gordon, his frustration with Bowyer had been building up for quite a while. “Things have gotten escalated over the year and I have just had it," Gordon said. "Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway, pretty much ruined our day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back.”
Bowyer’s team owner Michael Waltrip explained the flare-up by the crews. "It's just boys venting, showing their frustration trying to express their feelings. The men and women that work on these cars have way more invested in what goes on than people realize and people appreciate and when a coward makes a move like that on the race track they just see all their hopes and dreams go up in flames, literally -- they're going to be frustrated."
Both drivers, crew chiefs and car owners Rick Hendrick and Waltrip were then called to the NASCAR hauler for a meeting with NASCAR officials. Meanwhile, several police officers waited outside the doors of the NASCAR hauler to escort Gordon to his motorhome.
Pattie would not comment on what was said in the meeting with NASCAR; however he did state, "Well, if they're consistent, they'll park him. They parked the 18 truck (Kyle Busch) at (Texas) -- when they retaliated. We'll see what happens. I like to be consistent. I try to be as fair as I can, so hopefully they are too."
Bowyer’s crew chief Pattie jokingly added, “Obviously, it doesn't look like there's too many Christmas cards going back and forth from the 15 and the 24."
If either or both drivers will be placed on probation or if they receive an immediate suspension, NASCAR will make the announcement in the near future. Of course they could just get their hands slapped along with a loss of points and monetary fine.
Gordon is expecting NASCAR to slap his hands: "They've got to do what they've got to do, just like I had to do what I had to do."
NASCAR’s decision on the amount the expected monetary fines and loss of team owner points will be known by Tuesday – just a few days prior to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Perhaps today’s wild race in the West will cause the drivers and their teams to hold their tempers in check for the final event that will determine the Sprint Cup championship.