There was a fight on the backstretch apron at the Texas Motor Speedway following a wreck that occurred immediately after a caution. Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya? Nope. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards? Wrong again. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski? Not on this day. Robby Gordon and Kurt Busch? Didn’t happen. Ryan Newman and Joey Logano? Okay, it is time to give up.
It was the driver known as ‘The Mayor’ who drew the ire of Wonderboy. Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton engaged in a unanticipated physical confrontation following a bizarre crash initiated by Burton under the yellow flag. Burton raced Gordon rather hard prior to the caution. Gordon pulled up alongside Burton as a display of his displeasure. Burton appeared to ram into the back of Gordon’s Chevrolet, putting him in the fence, therefore, destroying both vehicles.
Gordon approached Burton instead of entering the ambulance parked beside of his car. He proceeded to shove Burton, and the two tangled momentarily before separated by NASCAR officials. Following the skirmish, they rode together in the same ambulance, which had to be an awkward several minutes for both parties.
“I’ve experienced a lot of things in this sport but I can’t say I’ve experienced anything like that before and from somebody that I’ve had a lot of respect for…He felt like I came up on him and that he didn’t mean to wreck but I’m sorry, I will never believe that…I just couldn’t believe how much respect I lost for a guy like Jeff (Burton) to do something like that,” Gordon lamented after visiting the Texas Motor Speedway infield care center.
Burton accepted responsibility for his part in the melee.
“It was my fault, 100 percent my fault. It was like once we got together, I couldn’t get off him. I didn’t mean to him him. I meant to pull up to him and tell him he was right (to be uspet) for what happened in turn four (when Burton came down on Gordon). I should have let him go…I don’t have a bit of a problem with what he did. He was mad, he should have been mad,” Burton told reporters after he was medically cleared by the infield care center.
There will be those among NASCAR nation who buy into Burton’s explanation, and others who feel that he is trying to evade the fact the he intentionally demolished two cars during a caution. My take is that both drivers were frustrated, not necessarily with each other, but with the way their cars have been performing in recent weeks. Burton and Gordon have lost ground in the standings recently. They were struggling again at Texas, and they raced each other with more intensity than usual.
Gordon thought Burton came down on him prior to the caution, and Burton initially thought Gordon came up on him. When Gordon pulled alongside Burton to his express his frustration, I think it briefly irritated Burton. I do not believe that Burton intentionally put Gordon in the wall and himself out of the race, he is much too smart for those antics, but I believe he was going to nudge Gordon just a little. The two cars obviously hooked together, hence the pair of destroyed piles of sheet metal. When Gordon has a few days to chill, he will remember the previous 17 years he and Burton have competed against one another. He will recall the 1997 Southern 500, when Burton could have used the chrome horn to deny Gordon the Winston Million, or whatever it was called that year. He will realize that it is not Burton’s style to intentionally destroy equipment out of sheer anger.
Nevertheless, Burton was right when he said, “that is the stupidest thing I might have ever done”.
Do not anticipate I prolonged rivalry. I believe Burton is genuinely remorseful over the incident. Gordon is not one to hold grudges, unless you are Rusty Wallace.
This did provide much-needed fireworks for NASCAR. The two involved were surprising, as surprising as if it were Bobby Labonte walking up to Mark Martin and punching him in the mouth after an on-track altercation.
One last issue to note. Kyle Busch was penalized two laps for giving the one-finger salute to a NASCAR official. That is where the penalties should end. I think what Kyle Busch did was utterly disrespectful and uncalled for, and I would have parked him for three laps. However, the two-lap penalty sent a stringent message to Busch, as the penalty made it practically impossible for him to rebound for a solid finish no matter how fast his car was turning laps. I believe NASCAR should leave it at that. He may face some consequence similar to Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman earlier in the year after he was critical over NASCAR and Carl Edwards’ alleged illegal restart during the Saturday Nationwide Series event. Stay tuned.
Oh yeah, congratulations to Denny Hamlin on his victory, as he now leads Jimmie Johnson by 33 points. Kevin Harvick is 59 points behind Hamlin as the Sprint Cup tour heads to Phoenix.
Brad Keselowski clinched the Nationwide Series title on Saturday, a first in NASCAR for Roger Penske.