NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
     === The Inside Line: Brawl at Phoenix among best fights in NASCAR ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There have been many memorable brawls in
 NASCAR throughout the years, but the fight between Clint Bowyer and Jeff
 Gordon's teams on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway might have topped
 them all.
 
 The Chase for the Sprint Cup is a 10-race battle for the championship in
 NASCAR's premier series. Round 9 of the postseason at Phoenix was more than
 a fight. It was literally a slugfest. And it didn't involve the top-two title
 contenders, Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.
 
 In NASCAR's era of "Boys, Have At It," mayhem broke out in the garage area at
 Phoenix when crew members from Bowyer and Gordon's teams really had at it
 after Gordon intentionally wrecked Bowyer in the closing laps of the race.
 
 Bowyer made contact with Gordon while the two were battling for a top-five
 position. Gordon had a tire go down and then hit the outside wall. He
 patiently waited for Bowyer to come around the track before he took him out,
 as both drivers slammed into the wall. Joey Logano and Aric Almirola also were
 collected in the wreck.
 
 After Gordon drove back to the garage area and hopped out of his heavily
 damaged No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, members of Bowyer's crew
 swooped on the four-time Cup champion and attacked him. Gordon's crew quickly
 intervened, and the scuffle was on.
 
 Apparently, the feud between Bowyer and Gordon had been escalating throughout
 the season, and it reached the boiling point at Phoenix.
 
 "Clint has run into me numerous times and wrecked me," Gordon said. "I had it.
 That was it, and I got him back."
 
 As the brawl appeared to be over, Clint Bowyer got out of his No. 15 Michael
 Waltrip Racing Toyota and ran toward Gordon's hauler. But NASCAR personnel
 and track security officers prevented Bowyer from continuing the altercation.
 
 Gordon and Bowyer are both in this year's 12-member Chase field. Heading into
 Phoenix, Gordon was 72 points out of the lead and his chances of winning the
 championship were all but over. But Bowyer remained a title contender, a long
 shot though, as he trailed by 36 points.
 
 When then points leader Johnson crashed on lap 235 and spent almost 40 laps
 behind the wall for repairs, it appeared that Bowyer's title hopes were still
 alive, if he could leave Phoenix with a top-10 finish. It didn't happen.
 
 "That was my opportunity to try to get myself back in the championship hunt,"
 Bowyer said. "When you're disrupting a championship run like that, it's too
 bad. (NASCAR officials) asked us not to do that in the drivers' meeting, and
 there's usually a lot of respect there.
 
 "It's crazy. I didn't even need to pass him. I was plenty content riding
 behind him, and he slipped down there. I get under him, and here he comes
 back. I just barely touched him, and then all the sudden, I feel him trying to
 retaliate. I don't know. He missed or something and hit the wall and made
 himself look like a fool."
 
 When asked if he would retaliate against Gordon in the future, Bowyer replied,
 "We just have to see."
 
 Bowyer's payback might have to wait until at least next season, depending on
 what or if any "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalties are issued by NASCAR this
 week. Gordon knows there could be action taken by NASCAR on him.
 
 "They've got to do what they've got to do, just like I had to do what I had to
 do," he said.
 
 All three of NASCAR's national touring series will conclude their seasons this
 weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Keselowski's sixth-place run compared to
 a 32nd-place finish for Johnson allowed Keselowski to take a 20-point lead
 over Johnson.
 
 Gordon's retaliation against Bowyer followed by the physical confrontation
 between both teams has certainly earned a spot on the list of NASCAR's most
 famous brawls. The fist fight between Cale Yarborough and brothers Bobby and
 Donnie Allison during the 1979 Daytona 500 is perhaps the most notable one.
 The clash between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in the 2011 Southern 500 at
 Darlington, the altercation between Harvick and Greg Biffle in a 2002
 Nationwide Series race at Bristol and the fight between Gordon and Jeff Burton
 on the backstretch during the 2010 Chase event at Texas are worth mentioning
 as well.
 
 As customary, after any physical altercation during a race, officials had a
 sit-down with Bowyer and Gordon in the NASCAR hauler following the event.
 Several security officers stood guard outside the hauler as the meeting took
 place. NASCAR is hopeful no further incidents between the two will occur down
 the road like the one they had at Phoenix.
 
 "We'll continue to talk and work things out amongst the teams," NASCAR vice
 president of competition Robin Pemberton said shortly after the race
 concluded. "It's a close community. We all travel together, and we have to
 work side by side for weeks and months and years at a time. We'll continue to
 try to get everybody back calmed down and get it back to a good working
 situation for everybody."
 
 One thing is for sure about the Bowyer-Gordon incident. It certainly
 entertained the estimated crowd of 87,000 at Phoenix, and it made for good
 water cooler chat for millions of NASCAR fans the day after. Race winner
 Harvick thought the incident was a good thing for NASCAR.
 
 "The sport was made on fights," he said. "We should have more fights. I like
 fights. They're not always fun to be in, and sometimes you're on the wrong
 end. But fights are what made NASCAR what it is."
 
 But was it a good thing for the sport? Some didn't think so, particularly
 Keselowski, who ran behind Bowyer, Gordon and Logano when the crash occurred.
 The current points leader managed to get by without being caught up in the
 wreck. After racing Johnson hard in the final laps of last week's race at
 Texas, Keselowski received a lot of flak from his fellow competitors for his
 aggressive driving.
 
 "Well, it's the double-standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a
 half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I'm out of control and
 have a death wish, and then I see (expletive) like that," Keselowski said.
 "That's (expletive). That's all you can call that. These guys just tried to
 kill each other. You race hard, and I get called an (expletive) for racing
 hard and called with a death wish, and I see (expletive) like that, and it
 just (ticks) me off. It's just (expletive) ridiculous, and they should be
 ashamed. It's embarrassing."
 
 It might have been embarrassing for NASCAR, but it was entertaining for the
 fans. And NASCAR needed that.
 
 
 11/12 15:23:11 ET

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