Wreck causes brawl in garage

Updated: November 12, 2012, 5:31 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- NASCAR officials say it's too early to predict whether drivers or crew members will be suspended for being involved in fights following a wreck between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer late in Sunday's race at Phoenix International Raceway.

"It's Sunday night," vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said after meeting with drivers and crew members from both teams. "Your best decisions are made sometime after Sunday night, maybe potentially Monday or Tuesday."

NASCAR met with Gordon, Bowyer and others in the NASCAR hauler after the race to discuss what happened on the track and off it.

[+] EnlargeNASCAR fight
Tyler Barrick/Getty ImagesPolice break up fights in the garage area after an on-track incident between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon during the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix.

On the track, according to Bowyer and his spotter, Gordon held up to wreck him. He said 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."

Gordon said his response was an accumulation of frustration from incidents throughout the year, beginning when Bowyer wrecked him and teammate Jimmie Johnson at Martinsville.

"Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me, and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day," Gordon said. "I've had it, fed up with it, and I got him back."

The incident escalated on pit road, first with members of Bowyer's team physically going after Gordon and his crew members. Bowyer then sprinted to the garage to take on members of Gordon's crew at the No. 24 hauler.

"There's a lot of things to shift through on and off the racetrack," Pemberton said. "We'll continue to talk and work things out amongst the teams. We'll continue to try to get everybody back calmed down and get it back to a good working situation for everybody."

Bowyer didn't rule out retaliating against Gordon in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"We'll just have to see," he said.

A year ago, NASCAR parked Kyle Busch for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Texas after he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in the Truck Series race.

Asked if he was worried about a potential penalty, Gordon said. "They've got to do what they've got to do, and I guess I had to do what I had to do."

Michael Waltrip Racing, which Boyer drives for, issued a statement Monday.

"The goal of Michael Waltrip Racing is to be a championship-level organization both on and off the track. The on-track incident which occurred during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway was extremely disappointing and brought raw emotions of a long and hard championship battle to the surface," the statement said. "Though we generally cannot control certain actions on the track, the unfortunate reactions off the track Sunday did not live up to the professional standards in which Michael Waltrip Racing expects all of its representatives to live by. We commit to our sponsors, our manufacturer, our fans and NASCAR that we will do so in the future."

While Pemberton was vague on potential penalties that typically follow such an incident, he defended NASCAR's decision not to throw a caution when Danica Patrick hit the wall and spilled oil on the track during the ensuing green-white-checkered finish.

"When she got up there, at the time she came all the way around and she was out of harm's way," Pemberton said. "We didn't see any fluid or anything. She rode around on the apron, and when she pulled up on the racetrack there was smoke. It looked like tire smoke.

"It's easy to look back on it, obviously, and wish that you did something different. But at the time it didn't appear like there was any fluid that was coming out of the car."

Race winner Kevin Harvick said the whole straightaway was covered in oil, that there was "more oil than there was asphalt.'

Second-place finisher Denny Hamlin said there was so much oil on the track that "Ray Charles could see it."

That NASCAR threw the first caution quickly when Harvick was "about five feet" from taking the white flag that would have ended the race in regulation added to Harvick's frustration.

Harvick disagreed with NASCAR, saying he was past the finish line when the white flag came out.

"You can't throw the caution flag as fast as you can throw it one time and then just let everybody run through a whole straightaway full of oil," Harvick said.

The oil caused a handful of cars to spin out approaching the finish line. Patrick's car was hit during the pileup and spun around.

"I'm not sure if they had time to react to all of that," Busch, the third-place finisher, said. "But, granted, you would expect that they would see all that and see the oil slick.

"It wasn't small by any means. It was three feet wide."

Team owner Richard Childress was so upset with the inconsistency of the last two cautions that he went to the NASCAR hauler to complain after his driver won.

"I'm really disappointed in the way the race was called," Childress said. "Kevin almost wrecked coming off (Turn) 4. We take the white flag, she's coming across down here, everybody seen what was happening.

"I just knew the caution was going to come out, and he races back around and almost wrecks and we lose a car and could have hurt a driver. So I'm just still a little upset about that last not being a caution."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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