Parks Pit Report: AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix

The win by Kevin Harvick was big. The big points swing with Jimmie Johnson’s trouble was huge. But what everyone will remember about Phoenix is the pandemonium involving Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer.

Notice something different about the photo in this week’s column?  Under normal circumstances, it’s a picture of the winner of the race celebrating in victory lane, complete with a Gatorade shower, or in the case this week a shower of Budweiser.

Nope, not this time.  Yes, the win by Kevin Harvick was huge for the team, the first for RCR since last fall and the first by Harvick in 44 races.  Of course the change in the points is huge.  Jimmie Johnson wrecked while running in the top-10, eventually finishing 32nd, while Brad Keselowski survived two accidents in front of him to finish sixth.  Now, with one race to go, it’s Keselowski in the driver’s seat for his first championship, and the first for Roger Penske.

Instead, the photo is of an incident that defined the race, or at least the race for two of the competitors.

Let me first say I’m a fan of one of the drivers involved in the incident, but you will not find me defending him in this situation.  Instead, it’s going to be very honest, very blunt, but very clean.  After all, there are young fans of NASCAR that read this, and I don’t want them to get offended.

Alright, here we go.  The incident you see above is the aftermath of an incident involving Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, which started laps earlier when the two drivers had a minor incident on the track that caused Gordon to rub the wall, possibly cutting a tire.  But, it was his actions that soon made it obvious of what he was doing.  Gordon slowed on the track as if he was coming to pit road, but stayed on the track.  It got to the point where he didn’t maintain minimum speed, which forced NASCAR to give him the black flag, meaning Gordon had to come to pit road.

Well, he slowed enough to where Bowyer went to pass…and tagged him squarely in the right-rear corner, turning him into the wall, and in the process took out both Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.  He nearly took out Keselowski, who was directly behind the incident.

After that, Gordon did go to the garage, and was officially summoned to the NASCAR hauler after the race.  Well after taking his helmet off, Bowyer’s crew made their way to his hauler, and the fight was on.  The teams brawled, with some getting tackled to the pavement.  Normally NASCAR officials would be enough to get this broken up, but not this time.  Bowyer, all the while, got his car around to pit road, and heard the fight.  He then made his way to the garage area…and did so by leaping the pit wall and running like a track star at the Olympics.

Not even NASCAR officials could break up the chaos in the garage between the No. 15 and No. 24 teams. The Arizona police force had to get involved.

He was stopped short of getting to Gordon, but the crews weren’t done fighting.  It went from NASCAR officials trying to break up the fight to having the Arizona police department doing the deed, even standing guard outside the NASCAR hauler once Gordon and his team came out.

Alright, now after giving everyone the story, here’s my official statements on what happened.  My driver is Gordon, I admit that, but I can guarantee you that I’m irate at his actions.

He was barely touched, BARELY, on the track, and instead he takes him out, not only taking away his championship hopes, but also nearly took out the other driver going for the championship in the process.  I’m sorry, but even with a season of struggles, this was uncalled for.

“Things just got escalated over the year and I’d just had it,” Gordon said. “Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day. I’ve had it. [I was] fed up with it and I got him back.”

So be it, he may have got him back, but even with NASCAR’s “boys have at it” mentality, there is a point where things go too far.  Remember, last year that occurred with Harvick and Kyle Busch at Darlington, when Kyle rammed Harvick’s unmanned car on pit road, which could have hurt someone.  This is the same way, but at the same time Gordon’s wife and kids were there that weekend, and the fight at the hauler and near their motorhome could put them in danger as well.  Gordon’s respect in the garage among his peers took a huge hit in a matter of moments.

No one was more outraged than Bowyer’s car owner, Michael Waltrip, and for good reason.  He’s seen Gordon win championships as a driver, so this to him was way out of the ordinary for him.

“I’ve never seen anything like what Jeff Gordon did to a guy racing for a championship,” he said. “[It was a] cowardly, chicken move by someone who has raced for championships before and knows how important every position is.  They barely brush on the back straightway and he purposely waits…tells everybody [on radio] he’s waiting…and wrecks our car and our hopes for racing for a championship. I’m beside myself.”

On Twitter, drivers were outraged, and rightfully so.  I had even someone ask me on my feed, twitter.com/AllHorsepower, if NASCAR would park Gordon for Homestead.  Honestly I can’t answer that, but I can say it’s definitely a consideration.  Keep in mind, last year when Kyle Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday in the Truck race at Texas, also on purpose, he was parked for the weekend.  So that possibility is there.

Obviously NASCAR is going to hand down penalties after this incident, and even Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton, admitted there’s still a lot of things to sift through both on and off the race track.

I will not speculate on what happens with Gordon and Bowyer in the next day or so.  Whether Bowyer gets penalized or his team is uncertain, as he didn’t do any major deed on the track.  That was all Gordon, and I’m expecting harsh penalties for him, his team, and car owner Rick Hendrick.  I’ve never seen Gordon act like he did on Sunday, and I’ve been a fan of his since 1994.  I’m sorry to all the Gordon fans out there, but even I have lost some respect for the 4-time champion.

Don’t be surprised if you see some updates on this column regarding this situation.  It’s only going to develop more as the days progress.

Click Here to see video of the accident and the fight, then make your own judgement.

*UPDATE*

Penalties were handed out as follows because of the incident, and one handed down to a driver that avoided it.

  • JEFF GORDON:  Fined $100,000 and penalized 25 points in the driver standings.  He has been placed on probation through the remainder of 2012 (Not the season, right up until New Year’s Day 2013, just for clarification).
  • RICK HENDRICK (Car Owner):  Penalized 25 owner points.
  • ALAN GUSTAFSON (Crew Chief-No. 24):  Placed on probation for the remainder of 2012.
  • BRIAN PATTIE (Crew Chief-No. 15):  Fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of 2012.
  • BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Fined $25,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of 2012.

Now for those asking why Keselowski is being fined, it had nothing to do with the actual incident.  If anyone remembers the Daytona 500, Keselowski had his phone in his car and was photographing what he saw of the jet drier incident involving Juan Pablo Montoya, and posted to his Twitter account.  NASCAR didn’t do anything there, just told him not to use it during a race (kinda obvious if you ask me).  Well here they fined him because he was using his phone during the red flag period to get on his account and give his reaction to the incident while still in the race.  Yes, it was during a red flag period, but in theory still in the race.

It’s kind of ridiculous if you ask me about Keselowski’s fine, but as for Gordon, not sure.  Hate to say this about NASCAR, but to coin a phrase from my friend Rob who also writes about this sport, the sanctioning body is “consistently inconsistent.”  That’s the best way to put it.

RESULTS:  1-Harvick  2-Hamlin  3-Kyle Busch  4-Kahne  5-Newman  6-Keselowski  7-Biffle  8-Kurt Busch  9-Menard  10-Martin

NOTABLE FINISHES:  14-Kenseth  19-Stewart  21-Earnhardt Jr.  28-Bowyer  30-Gordon  32-Johnson  43-Truex Jr.

CAUTIONS:  8 for 38 laps.  Lap 18-20 (#19 accident-T3), 53-59 (#38 accident-T4), 168-173 (Debris), 236-241 (#48 accident-T4), 274-277 (#34 accident-T4), 282-284 (#14 spin-T2), 302-304 (#22 accident-T3), 312-317 (#15, 20, 24, 43 accident-T4 {Red Flag:  14 min, 58 sec. after lap 312}).

LEAD CHANGES:  11 among 7 drivers.  Kyle Busch 1-53, Kvapil 54-57, Martin 58-59, Kyle Busch 60-117, Hamlin 118-128, Keselowski 129-133, Hamlin 134-168, Newman 169-173, Kyle Busch 174-232, Keselowski 233-237, Kyle Busch 238-304, Harvick 305-319.

TIME OF RACE:  2 Hrs, 52 Mins, 9 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  111.182 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  0.580 Seconds

2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup:  1. Keselowski, 2371 points; 2. Johnson, -20; 3. Kahne, -50; 4. Bowyer, -52; 5. Hamlin, -62; 6. Kenseth, -74; 7. Biffle, -78; 8. Harvick, -86; 9. Stewart, -87; 10. Gordon, -90; 11. Truex Jr, -111; 12. Earnhardt Jr, -160.

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