It was just about three weeks ago when I was talking about how this new Chase format is bringing out a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, and pressure. Well, it has officially gone up even more, especially now that after Sunday, two races remain in this season.
Now, I want to start off by saying that this article a bit down the line will include a little cursing, only because of it being a quote from the driver.
Second, I am not playing favorites in how I go about this column for the week, but simply giving a point-of-view that is seemingly common among many fans.
The pressure to make each round of the Chase is more intense, especially after points are reset and are even, so drivers will go all-out to try and get that extra position, extra point, or that win to lock into the next round. But, three weeks ago when Brad Keselowski did his antics in the garage at Charlotte, it was definitely crossing the line, putting others at risk to injury and destroying equipment. However, NASCAR did not hand out a big punishment, just fines and probation.
Now, we’re three weeks after, and Keselowski is again at the center of a big controversy, this one involving Jeff Gordon, both of whom are in the quest to make it to the Championship Round of the Chase.
I will set it up: green-white-checkered finish, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson enter the first turn battling for the lead, Keselowski then goes to thread between both of them, and in doing so gets into Gordon, cuts his left-rear tire, and two corners later Gordon goes spinning. In the end, Keselowski finishes third, while Gordon is back to 29th. Afterward, Gordon comes to pit road to “talk” with Brad, doesn’t bump his car, but simply gets out, and takes his helmet off to talk to him eye-to-eye.
Rather than try and explain what happened, click here to simply watch the video.
Now, I am not going to defend what Gordon did, but what he said afterward said volumes as to his attitude on what happened on the track. Keep in mind, Keselowski and Gordon, as seen on the video, had fat lips following the skirmish, so both were in one of their more foul moods. However, Gordon was very blunt, very angry, and it was directed at one driver.
Gordon said in regards to Keselowski, “He’s just a dipshit. I don’t know how he ever won a championship.”
I personally have seen a lot of aggressive drivers in my time following this sport, which is now at 21 years. I’ve seen drivers bump-and-run, some spin others directly into the wall, some being put in the fence, and many different names associated with it.
But, there’s something about Keselowski that just doesn’t go well with me. Maybe it’s his idea that because he is a former champion, he gets to run as he chooses and think NASCAR is not going to punish him greatly, or it’s the fact that he tries to put the blame on someone else instead of his own actions. He did the same thing after Charlotte, and tried the same thing again after Texas on Sunday.
Now, keep in mind, Keselowski is on probation from that Charlotte incident where he was driving reckless in the garage area, but at the same time Gordon was the instigator in this particular incident.
This puts NASCAR in a tough spot because in many eyes, NASCAR failed to hand out punishment at Charlotte, and now this incident puts that back in the limelight, because now with one driver on probation, what are they to actually do? I am not going to say, because not even I have any idea, and any penalties will be announced on Tuesday.
However, Robin Pemberton, Competition Director of NASCAR, did make something very clear in regards to the post-race skirmish.
“You can’t punch someone,” he said.
That will be the big deciding factor as to who gets punished, not just drivers but also crew members, and to what extent. I can tell you that some crewman that witnessed the scuffle or were listening in afterward were already saying there was talk of removing someone from the Chase, but this was just talk, not confirmed, so not even I am believing it yet.
All I can say is that NASCAR has found a new bad boy in the sport, and he better be prepared for the hatred that will come his way.
RESULTS: 1-Johnson 2-Harvick 3-Keselowski 4-Kyle Busch 5-McMurray 6-Earnhardt Jr. 7-Larson 8-Kurt Busch 9-Edwards 10-Hamlin
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Logano 15-Newman 25-Kenseth 29-Gordon
CAUTIONS: 13 for 61 laps. Lap 43-46 (Debris-T2), 176-182 (Debris-T2), 206-210 (Debris-T3), 224-227 (Debris-T1), 242-246 (Debris-T4), 253-258 (Debris-T2), 286-290 (Debris-T2), 297-302 (#66 Accident-T1), 305-308 (#22 Spin-T2), 315-317 (#5, 9 Accident-FS), 321-325 (#5, 21 Accident-BS), 332-334 (#15 Accident-FS), 336-339 (#24 Spin-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 23 among 7 drivers. Kenseth 1-53, Johnson 54-91, Harvick 92-93, Johnson 94-137, Gordon 138-139, Johnson 140-175, Gordon 176, Johnson 177-205, Gordon 206, Johnson 207-216, Gordon 217-224, Hamlin 225-227, Gordon 228-243, Johnson 244-252, Keselowski 253-265, Gordon 266, Keselowski 267-275, Gordon 276-286, Johnson 287-296, Kenseth 297-302, Kurt Busch 303-317, Johnson 318-324, Gordon 325-333, Johnson 334-341.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 52 Mins, 5 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 132.239 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.513 Seconds
CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP: 1. Logano, 4072 points; 2. Hamlin, 4072 points; 3. Newman, -2; 4. Gordon, -12; 5. Kenseth, -13; 6. Edwards, -13; 7. Keselowski, -17; 8. Harvick, -18; 9. Kyle Busch, -1802; 10. Earnhardt Jr, -1838; 11. Johnson, -1838; 12. Allmendinger, -1844; 13. Biffle, -1863; 14. Kurt Busch, -1880; 15. Kahne, -1893; 16. Almirola, -1928.