Jeff Gordon became driver enemy number one at Sonoma
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Long Pond, PA (Sports Network) -
Jeff Gordon is a four-time NASCAR Cup champion and a five-time race winner at Infineon Raceway, but at the conclusion of Sunday's race at the Northern California road course, Gordon was a marked man in the garage.
Several drivers, particularly Martin Truex Jr., were furious with Gordon's aggressive driving throughout the 110-lap race. Following the second restart on lap 61, Truex was running among the top-10, but Gordon slammed into the back of him and turned him around.
Truex fell back to the middle of the field, but shortly after, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver was caught in a five-car pileup, which ended his day prematurely.
"We got put in by Jeff Gordon, and getting spun out there on that restart is what got us in the back there," an angry Truex said. "I guess Jeff figured he couldn't catch us on the race track, so he was going to spin us out on the restart."
Truex felt there was no excuse for Gordon's actions.
"Now I know he's going to say Juan [Pablo Montoya] was trying to pass me, and I was trying to block him," Truex said. "I don't care. Just because he's trying to pass you, it's all right for you to spin me out? No. Let him pass you then. I would have let Juan pass me. If it was either get passed or spin out Jeff Gordon, I would have lifted and get passed. That's the difference between me and him. That's why I'm here, that's why he's out there and that's why I'm [ticked] off."
Jeff Gordon admitted his carelessness on the track.
Truex wound up finishing 42nd, which put a serious dent in his bid to qualify for this year's championship Chase. He fell three spots in the standings to 19th, and trails current 12th-place driver Carl Edwards by 157 points, as 10 races remain before the cutoff for the Chase. Truex held the 12th spot in points one month ago.
After finishing fifth, Gordon, whose hometown is in nearby Vallejo, CA, admitted his carelessness on the track and understood that Truex should be irate with him.
"I certainly owe Martin Truex and apology," Gordon said. "He was just racing as clean as he could, and I was racing with [Montoya], and I just got in there and took him straight out. I feel awful about that."
But has Gordon's apology resolved the issue, or does Truex plan on future payback?
"It's all right; we'll get him," Truex said.
And Gordon knows it maybe happen soon.
"Whatever is coming back to me, I understand," he said.
Truex was not the only driver who had a run-in with Gordon at Sonoma. Gordon also tangled with Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and road-racing expert Mattias Ekstrom before spoiling Elliott Sadler's strong run late in the race.
Gordon turned Sadler around while he was running inside the top-10 with 11 laps remaining. Sadler approached Gordon and had a few words with him at the conclusion of the race.
"We got taken out by Gordon, and it's just frustrating," said Sadler, who finished 17th. "This is one of the best tracks for us and one of the good chances we had this year for a top 10. It's a shame. He took out Martin Truex for no reason."
Gordon has been the center of other on-track skirmishes this season, particularly with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, who won at Sonoma for the first time. Johnson and Gordon were disappointed in each other after they made contact while battling for Tony Stewart for the lead late in the April 19 race at Texas. One week later, disappointment turned into anger between the teammates when they banged into each other again in the closing laps at Talladega.
In March, Gordon and Matt Kenseth renewed their ongoing rivalry when Gordon shoved Kenseth up the track and into the wall with less than two laps remaining at Martinsville. Kenseth was leading before the incident, but wound up finishing 18th, while Gordon came in third.
It's not even halfway through the season, and Gordon has adapted well to NASCAR's "boys, have at it" theme this year.
For a driver looking to snap a winless streak that stretches back to April 2009, perhaps Gordon should cool it a bit before someone gives him a taste of his own medicine.