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Friday, November 16, 2012
Jeff Gordon regrets actions

By David Newton
ESPN.com

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Jeff Gordon regrets letting his anger and emotion push him into making what he called a "bad choice'' on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

The four-time Sprint Cup champion was fined $100,000, docked 25 points and placed on probation for the remainder of the year for wrecking Clint Bowyer late during Sunday's race.

The incident took Bowyer out of contention for the championship and wrecked two other cars, as well. The situation escalated into a fight on pit road and the garage between members of Bowyer's and Gordon's teams.

The incident also forced a green-white-checkered finish that led to more than a half-dozen other cars being wrecked before Kevin Harvick won.

Gordon It's been awkward because I've always had a good relationship with him, we've always talked and had fun. That's obviously not the case. I thought he might have gotten over it at least enough to look at me, but he won't even look at me, and when you are in this type of environment, that's going to be odd.

-- Jeff Gordon on Clint Bowyer

"I feel like Clint needed to be dealt with, but that wasn't the right way to go about it," Gordon said on Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway during a news conference to honor 20 years with sponsor DUPONT.

"Certainly not the right time. What I hate most was other guys were involved. I certainly look back on it and wish I had done some things different.''

Gordon and team owner Rick Hendrick explained for the first time more of the raw emotion that led to that moment, saying it went beyond Bowyer dive-bombing and wrecking Gordon and Jimmie Johnson racing for the win in the final laps at Martinsville on April 1.

Hendrick revealed the wife of his brother John and the wife of DUPONT executive Joe Jackson -- John Hendrick and Jackson were killed in an October 2004 crash of a Hendrick plane on the way to Martinsville -- were at the half-mile track that day for the first time in hopes of seeing HMS collect its 200th win.

"I don't expect anybody to really understand this as much as Jeff and I do," an emotional Hendrick said. "We had a photo session before the race. We were all wanting to win more than anything, to get our 200th win at Martinsville meant so much because we lost so much there.

"And that was taken away from us."

Hendrick said the lows he felt from that loss were worse than the joy he felt from winning some championships.

"It took me a week or so to get over it just because we had that in our grasp,'' he said. "That was emotions we carried and nobody else.''

Bowyer said he didn't want to discuss the issue after qualifying sixth for the season finale at Homestead.

"I really don't" he said.

Asked how long it will take to get over what happened, Bowyer said, "I don't know that, either. It'll be a while."

Gordon said he hopes the issue is finished, calling what Bowyer may do the "million-dollar question."

"I'm pretty sure if they're having a good day, they're not going to mess with me,'' Gordon said of Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing team.

He added that what happened last week sent a message in general not to mess with him.

"They realize that message was pretty clear," Gordon said.

But Gordon made it clear it wasn't his intention to wreck Bowyer as it appeared on television replays and to other drivers. He also made it clear Bowyer never should have run into him prior to that with him racing to finish in the top five in the standings and knowing the history between them.

"I wanted to make his life really miserable," Gordon said. "I wanted to make my car really wide."

Gordon said Bowyer's unexpected decision to go low on the track magnified the situation.

"That caused what ended up a terrible accident," he said.

Bowyer said after the race it was "pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion and what I consider one of the best this sport's ever seen ... to act like that is just completely ridiculous."

Joey Logano, who also was in the wreck, wrote on Twitter: "When I was young I thought @JeffGordonWeb was the best driver. Now I've lost a lot of respect for him. #verydumb."

Gordon said he and Logano have spoken on the phone and "I can't say it went very well." He hopes the two can talk again so he can "make it up to him."

Logano said he reached out to Gordon for an apology and "and didn't get one and got hung up on."

"Everything besides that is between Jeff and me," Logano said after winning the pole in Homestead.

The incident left Bowyer with a 28th-place finish that mathematically eliminated him from contention for the championship. The point loss dropped Gordon to 11th in the standings. Only the top 10 in points are allowed to attend the champion's banquet Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.

Asked if he would be disappointed to miss the banquet, Gordon said: "At this point, being 10th or 11th, to me that's not what it's all about. I'm more disappointed we don't have a shot at being fifth. That would have been one great accomplishment for us the way our season has gone."

Gordon said that had Bowyer not gotten into him hard enough to force a tire to go down, the whole incident might have been avoided and he could be racing this weekend to finish top five in points.

"There was absolutely no reason to run into me," he said.

Gordon said he considers Bowyer a friend and there were a lot of things that "didn't sit well with me after the fact." He said he hasn't explained what happened to his daughter, Ella, as he has after other wrecks, but plans to.

If he had to do it over again, Gordon said he would have waited for the caution, gotten fresh tires, raced for a top 15 spot and "dealt with Clint at another time."

He said there never was great concern that he might be parked this weekend until DUPONT officials expressed concern after spending months preparing a special paint scheme for this weekend.

"I felt there would be fines and penalties, but felt I would be in the seat," Gordon said.

Asked if what happened was good for the sport, Gordon said he picked up a lot of Twitter followers during the past week.

"They wouldn't be advertising for the race using all those clips if it weren't," he added. "I have a feeling there's going to be a buzz around this place on Sunday for a lot of different reasons, not just that."