Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Jeff Gordon admits NASCAR Sprint Cup fans find intrigue in Clint Bowyer feud

HOMESTEAD — One thing's for sure, Jeff Gordon said, if he were a NASCAR fan and witnessed Sunday's mayhem in Phoenix, "I would tune in the following Sunday and see what happens."

It was quite a scene. Gordon wrecked Clint Bowyer (a crash that also eliminated Joey Logano). The pit crews brawled. Bowyer had to be restrained after running to Gordon's hauler to continue the confrontation.

And Gordon did not rule out Bowyer trying for payback during this Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400.

"I'm pretty sure if they're having a good day, they're not going to mess with me," Gordon said Friday. "If they're having a really bad day and feel like they have nothing to lose, maybe they will."

Gordon, fined $100,000 and docked 25 points by NASCAR, said he regretted the incident. He even said he considers Bowyer a friend, though the two have not spoken. Gordon spoke with Logano by phone. It did not go well.

"Reached out for an apology and didn't get one and got hung up on," Logano said.

That said, Gordon stood by his assessment that Bowyer, because of incidents between the two in Phoenix and prior, "needed to be dealt with." Gordon said he did not intend to wreck Bowyer, just "make his life really miserable."

The seeds of the incident ran deeper than anyone knew.

Gordon resented Bowyer wrecking him and teammate Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville in the spring when they led a race with owner Rick Hendrick looking at his 200th Sprint Cup victory.

"I never hurt as bad in my life leaving the track as I did that day," Hendrick said. "It took me a week or so to get over it just because we had it in our grasp. So, I think that situation along with some other things that happened along the way, you now, you don't forget it."

It all boiled over at Phoenix.

"It just wasn't very smart of Clint to run into me coming off Turn 2 on the straightaway," Gordon said. "Almost cut my left tire down, and knowing that we had past history this year. ... What I regret most is the situation got escalated because I lost control of my emotions and that put me in a position to make a bad choice."

On the plus side, "I don't think they're going to be messing with me for a while," the 41-year-old said of other drivers. "They realize the message was sent pretty clear."

How Bowyer reacts to the message is the question.

QUALIFYING: Logano, in the No. 20 Toyota, took the EcoBoost 400 pole at 176.056 mph, ahead of Marcos Ambrose (175.342) and points leader Brad Keselowski (175.092).

Johnson, who trails Keselowski by 20 points and battled handling problems throughout practice, was 10th at 174.081 mph.

"Position is irrelevant when you have a great team," Keselowski said. "Jimmie has a great team. He'll get up there."

Tampa's Aric Almirola, in the No. 43 Ford, was fifth at 174.887.

"We left something out there," he said. "We missed it just a little bit."

WRECK REGRET: Elliott Sadler still is stewing over the wreck at Phoenix that allowed Ricky Stenhouse to break their tie atop the Nationwide series standings.

"I still take the blame," Sadler said. "I could have done better."

The loose-running Sadler triggered a three-car crash with Justin Allgaier and Cole Whitt that forced Sadler to the pits.

He finished 22nd. Stenhouse was third and took a 20-point lead in the standings heading into today's finale.

"It was a tough week," Sadler said. "It's been a long week because I felt like I put ourselves in a really big hole."

Et cetera: Danica Patrick, 10th in the Nationwide standings, is set to establish the best finish by a female driver in a NASCAR series in today's Ford EcoBoost 300. The record is held by Sara Christian, who in 1949 was 13th in what is now Sprint Cup.

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