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Eliminator Round Tension Ignites Texas Two-Step Between Keselowski And Gordon

Eliminator Round Tension Ignites Texas Two-Step Between Keselowski And Gordon

by November 2, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas

FORT WORTH, Tex. – For the second time this season during the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a fight broke out on pit road after the checkered flag, and this time, it was between Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

The pressure to advance to the Championship Round boiled over at the end of Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 just like it did at Charlotte Motor Speedway when drivers were fighting to advance to the Eliminator Round back in October. Once again, Brad Keselowski was in the middle of the controversy, and it was four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Jeff Gordon who was after him.

During the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Jeff Gordon chose the outside lane on the restart with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson on the inside. Once the field took the green flag and headed into turn one, Brad Keselowski saw a hole between the Hendrick Motorsports duo and went for it, making contact with Jeff Gordon.

“If there’s a gap, I’ll go for it,” Keselowski said. “If it closes up, there’s contact, then that’s racing. And that’s what happened today. Intentional wrecking and whatnot, no, I don’t support that. I never have. I make it a point to try not to do it. I’m not always innocent of not doing it. I had the run‑in at Charlotte and so forth after the race. I could have intentionally during that race if I wanted to, it was frustrating not to do so, but didn’t.

“Will those guys race me hard or harder than others? Absolutely, I’m certain they will. But that’s just part of it. I can’t fault them for that. I just feel like I have to go for the gap if it’s there and I have to race the way I race or I won’t even be in NASCAR. I’d rather have enemies in NASCAR than have friends and be sitting at home.”

The contact cut down Gordon’s left rear tire, causing him to spin and bringing out the caution. Gordon went from having a chance at a victory and possibly solidifying his spot in the Championship Round, to finishing 29th, one lap down. He entered the weekend atop the point standings, but now he has fallen back to fourth, 12 points back from the lead.

“We were sitting there on a little bit older tires,” Gordon said. “I spun the tires a little bit but got a pretty decent start. We went down into Turn 1 and I just wanted to get on the outside of the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), and out of nowhere I just got slammed by the 2 (Brad Keselowski), and it cut my left-rear tire. He’s just a dips***. The way he races, I don’t know how he’s ever won a championship, and I’m just sick and tired.

“That’s why everyone is fighting him and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge, huge race for us. We had the car and had the position. I’m so proud of my team and I’m proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting that little you-know-what win that race.”

As for Brad Keselowski, he finished the race in third, and the bold move he pulled on Jeff Gordon earned him 14 points in the Eliminator Round. Keselowski didn’t move up in the standings, but those points could definitely make the difference to if he makes the final four after the checkered flag falls at Phoenix International Raceway next weekend. Especially now that the first two races of the Eliminator Round were won by Chase drivers who have already been eliminated.

“I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team,” Keselowski said. “That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways. That’s okay by me. I’m not asking anyone to take – I’m not trying to dish out something that I couldn’t take myself. But these guys have their own code, and they race differently than that. That’s their right. We’ll go through these battles. I’ve gone through them before and come out stronger. I’ll go through them again and come out stronger, a better race car driver. What I’m not going to do is back down.”

During post-race, Jeff Gordon pulled right next to Brad Keselowski’s car on pit road. By the time Gordon was able to get out of his car, the two crews were already pushing and shoving. Gordon started yelling his displeasure, but Keselowski kept his distance.

“It’s emotion that is a part of this Chase and this format as well as towards people that make dumb decisions,” Gordon said. “He has been making a lot of them lately. That is why people have been running after him and chasing him down. It’s why his team has got to defend him over there because of what he does on the race track.”

While the two drivers were yelling back and forth, Kevin Harvick came up behind Keselowski and shoved him towards Gordon. That was the move that ignited the entire situation, and the two teams started to brawl on pit road.

“I mean if you are going to run into people all the time you are going to have to fight your own fight, so I helped him get into it,” Harvick said.

The scene looked much like something you’d see at a hockey game, and after the fight cleared, both Keselowski and Gordon came out a little bloody. This was the second fight Kesewloski has been a part of since the Chase for the Sprint Cup kicked off this season. Back at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin tried to get to Keselowski, but his crew held him back. As Keselowski was walking away from Hamlin, Matt Kenseth tackled him. But, just because Keselowski has been in the middle of the controversy, doesn’t mean he has completely been in the wrong in every situation. It’s just he’s a hard-nosed competitor, and the new Chase format is bringing out the intensity of everyone.

“I came here to race, not fight,” Keselowski said. “If I wanted to be a fighter, I would have joined the UFC or have a management team like he (Kevin Harvick) does. I came here to race, 100-percent. That’s what I did today. The only thing I wouldn’t be proud of is if I went and started fights or jumped in fights. I wouldn’t be proud of that. I came here to race 100-percent. The people that want to see fights are not true race fans. They need to watch UFC because that’s not true racing. I know in my heart that I raced 100-percent and I did what should be done to be a professional race car driver.”

After the events in Charlotte, Brad Keselowski was fined $50,000, while Tony Stewart was fined $25,000. Both drivers were placed on probation. However, during that particular event, cars were used as “weapons” and NASCAR has a history of cracking down hard on drivers who retaliate on the racetrack.

Sunday night’s events were dealt with face-to-face, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of penalties, if any will be handed down. Keselowski is still on probation from Charlotte, so that could play a role, as well. If there are going to be any penalties, expect to see them handed out either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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