FORT WORTH, Texas – Jeff Gordon went after Brad Keselowski following Sunday's AAA Texas 500 following contact between the two drivers on a late-race restart that left Gordon with a flat tire and damaged his Chase hopes.
Gordon approached Keselowski on pit road amidst team members for both teams and expressed his displeasure. The situation was tense, but hadn't become physical until Kevin Harvick, who finished second, walked towards the mass of people and moved Keselowski from the periphery to the middle of it.
From then, a scrum enveloped between multiple teams that left Keselowski with blood on his lip and gave Gordon a swollen lip. It's the second fracas that Keselowski has been in over the past four weeks. He was tackled from behind by Matt Kenseth after the race in Charlotte because of contact the two had both on the track and on pit road.
The impetus was Keselowski's move to pass Gordon entering turn one on lap 336 of the 341 lap race. Keselowski, who restarted third behind race leader Jimmie Johnson, moved to the middle of the track to go inside Gordon, who restarted on the outside line in second, and the outside of Johnson. As Keselowski moved to the open space, Gordon came down, and the two drivers slammed into each other.
"We went down into one and I just wanted to get on the outside of [Johnson] and out of nowhere I just got slammed by [Keselowski] and it cut my left rear tire. He's just a dips---, you know? I don't know how he's ever won a championship. And I'm just sick and tired of him. That's why everybody's fighting him and running him down. And your emotions are high – that was a huge, huge race for us. We had the car, we had the position. So proud of my team and I'm proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not letting up and letting that you-know-what win the race."
Keselowski obviously saw it differently.
"We were just racing for the win," Keselowski said. "I didn't wreck him. We were just racing hard. He left a hole and you know, everything you watch in racing, you leave a hole you're supposed to go for it. He closed the hole back up, we made contact. I don't want to ruin anyone's day. I wanted to win the race and that was our opportunity. It just didn't come together."
Keselowski carried on side-by-side with Johnson, the eventual race winner, for the lead while Gordon started losing positions and spun in turn three, bringing out a second attempt at a green-white-checker finish.
Gordon finished 29th while Keselowski was third. Gordon is now in fourth in the points standings, 12 points out of first and one point ahead of fifth. Keselowski is seventh, 17 points out of the lead and a point ahead of Harvick, who is in eighth.
"To [NASCAR], I'm sure it's just a racing incident," Gordon said. "But to me it's just a bunch of crap. The kid is just doing stuff way over his head and I mean, that's uncalled for. You're racing for a win and a championship, you don't go slap someone and cut their left rear tire. And if that's what it takes, then no problem I can do the same thing back to him."
Why did Harvick, who was running up front and had a good view of what happened but have absolutely nothing to do with it, push Keselowski into the fray?
"If you're going to race like that, you're going to have to man up at some point," Harvick said. "I mean, he's done it several times. Can't just turn around and let everybody fight all the time without you in there. Have to stand up for your actions at some point yourself."
Harvick added: "I didn't get in the middle of anything. I just turned him around and told him to go fight his own fight."
Remember, a win at Texas guaranteed a Chase driver a place in the final four at Homestead to race for the title. After a porous week at Martinsville, Keselowski was going for the win and the automatic berth because his points position was so perilous. While Gordon was in a good spot before the crash, his Phoenix would have been stress-free with a win.
Keselowski referenced being less aggressive than he has in the past in 2013 after he won the title in 2012. In 2013, he won a single race and missed the Chase. This year, he's won six races.
"I'm here to win races for Roger Penske and my team, and that means if there's a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that's OK. And it's not anything I don't expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I've got rubbed and it'll go both ways and that's OK by me. I'm not asking someone to take something -- I'm not trying to dish out something I couldn't take myself. But these guys have their own code and they race differently than that and that's their right. And we'll go through these battles, I've gone through them before, and I'll come out stronger. And I'll go through them again and come out stronger and a better race car driver."
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