How is it possible to take attention from a deliciously intense race for the Sprint Cup championship?
Fight, that’s how.
And fight they did.
In one of the biggest altercations of its sort in NASCAR history, the teams of Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer tangled in the garage area after their drivers wrecked twice in the closing laps, the second crash sending Bowyer into a rage.
Contact with Bowyer kept Gordon from racing for the win after their cars bumped while driving for the top five. A few laps later, Gordon waited for Bowyer and retaliated, sparking a wreck that also involved Aric Almirola and Joey Logano.
A few seconds after Gordon climbed out of his car, a massive fight erupted between members of the 24 and 15 crews, with NASCAR officials smack in the middle of the knot of people trying to break it up.
Meanwhile, Bowyer jumped from his car and ran at near-warp speed toward Gordon’s hauler. Upon his arrival, he was restrained from going into the hauler by a NASCAR official.
Sheriff’s deputies were called to the area to restore order as members of both teams and assorted other garage-area residents created a tense crowd scene.
Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson were called to the NASCAR hauler after the race to discuss the matter. Bowyer also visited the hauler.
Gustafson said Gordon was tired of being wrecked by Bowyer.
“It’s about the fifth time that he’s run us over,” Gustafson said. “After a while, you get frustrated. We work really hard on these cars. He had enough. If you’re going to race that way, you shouldn’t be upset when you get it back.”
Brian Pattie, Bowyer’s crew chief, said, “It’s kind of crazy for a champion to take you out like that.”
The second Gordon-Bowyer incident occurred immediately in front of championship contender Brad Keselowski.
Logano, who was taken out in the second wreck, wasn’t happy after the race. On his Twitter account, he said, “When I was young I thought (Jeff Gordon) was the best driver. Now I've lost a lot of respect for him. #verydumb.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.