The Frontstretch: Double Standards in Play as Gordon Avoids a Deserved Suspension by Danny Peters -- Monday November 12, 2012

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Double Standards in Play as Gordon Avoids a Deserved Suspension

The Yellow Stripe · Danny Peters · Monday November 12, 2012


Well that was quite the race wasn’t it?

In fact, so much happened between Jeff Gordon’s deliberate and premeditated wrecking of Clint Bowyer just before the leader took the white flag, I almost forgot there was still a race to finish whilst the fifteen-minute red flag delay occurred. In many ways Kevin Harvick’s victory and Brad Keselowski all but sealing his first Sprint Cup championship became little more than afterthoughts, given the melee and general carnage after Gordon’s remarkably ill-advised on track actions.

Jeff Gordon might be a little sorry for what he did on Sunday, but not too much. He didn’t get the suspension many thought he deserved.

In a break with protocol, NASCAR issued penalties on Monday (typically they are issued on the Tuesday) for the events that transpired at Phoenix International Raceway this past Sunday. Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000, docked 25 points and placed on probation until December 31st while Brian Pattie, Bowyer’s crew chief, was fined $25,000 and also placed on probation until the turn of the year. All of which really amounts to just about nothing. How much use is probation with one race to go? Are these drivers going to be in trouble if they sup too many glasses of wine at the banquet? It’s farcical. It really is.

How is what Jeff Gordon did any worse than Kyle Busch taking out Ron Hornaday at the tail end of last season? Answer: It’s not. And the problem stems with the whole “have at it boys and have a good time” principle introduced a few years back.

On the events that led to Kyle’s suspension from that weekend’s Cup race, NASCAR president Mike Helton commented: “When we gave the responsibility back to the drivers, there was a clear understanding that a line could be crossed. As annoying as this is to hear, we’ve always said we would know it when we see it. We saw it last night.”

So,what pray did they see in what Jeff Gordon did that was any different? Both took out championship contenders at speed using their cars as weapons. You might have to be a Rhodes Scholar to truly answer that one because the simple fact is that it was no different, no different at all. Gordon should have been parked and there were plenty of folks who would agree with that.

Denny Hamlin @dennyhamlin for one, who tweeted post race, “Great turnaround week for our FedEx team. 1 more to go! On another note. The 24 should be parked! He took out 5 cars in that BS!”

Hamlin’s teammate (at least for one more race) Joey Logano @joeylogano wasn’t shy in his opinion either, tweeting, “When I was young I thought @JeffGordonWeb was the best driver. Now I’ve lost a lot of respect for him. #verydumb.”

Both drivers are spot on. Gordon was remarkably stupid. Had he had a proper set of balls he would have waited until Bowyer exited his car at the end of the race and handled it like a man on pit road. Instead, he chose the cowardly option that also took out both Logano and Aric Almirola and very nearly took out Keselowski in the process.

Had the Blue Deuce been entangled in the wreck, would the punishments be different? I think so. Not everyone agrees.

Jenna Fryer @JennaFryer, the AP Motorsports writer, for one, tweeted on Monday, “I am totally in the minority here, but I do not believe @JeffGordonWeb should be suspended.”

As I’ve mentioned before, I live and work in Manhattan and for the first time in the entire seven years I’ve covered the sport, NASCAR was a genuine topic of conversation today amongst my colleagues – none of whom follow the sport in even the vaguest of ways. That may never happen again but it did make for a pleasant change. Even now, as I write on Monday evening, “Jeff Gordon fight” is still trending on Yahoo’s top ten stories – remarkable given the ADD nature of trending topics.

But the question I keep coming back to and still can’t quite answer is why NASCAR didn’t suspend Gordon? For the most part in his 21-year 688-race career, the four-time champion and certain future Hall of Famer has conducted himself with dignity and class. He’s one of the very few drivers non NASCAR fans could name – a true ambassador for NASCAR. But does this give him a pass? No, it doesn’t and even more so with just one race to go in the season. Gordon’s year has long been over, after all.

All I can think of in terms of reasoning or logic is that NASCAR sees it as a rare blip in Gordon’s typically solid citizen behavior, the sort of move we won’t probably see from him again. The cynical side of me would say NASCAR wants to keep people talking about the sport in the hope that the ratings will see a significant boost this weekend.

Now on the one hand, what ultimately transpired was fabulous entertainment. And sport is meant to be a glorious distraction that pales into insignificance compared to the real issues of life. Just ask the folks in places such as Staten Island and the Rockaways who continue to deal with the crippling effects of Hurricane Sandy. But at what point does retaliation go a step too far? When does entertainment become something far more serious and sinister? Has the “have at it” threshold been exceeded? Yes, when Gordon waited for Bowyer and drove him into the wall with blatant disregard for not just Bowyer but those racing for top-10 finishes behind the first year Michael Waltrip Racing driver.

Passion is one of the most crucial qualities to possess in racing. And passion is something we’ve seen from Jeff Gordon in numerous different formats over the years. It’s part of what makes him the great champion that he is. But Sunday’s amateur hour move went way too far. That was passion gone hugely awry. Gordon had time to think about what he was going to do and he still did it. He should have known far better than to pull such a ridiculous move. NASCAR should have parked him for Sunday without a shadow of a doubt.

And finally this week let’s not forget that Clint Bowyer is not on any kind of probation. He will be under the official’s microscope, certainly, but might he choose Sunday’s final race at Miami-Homestead as the moment to extract some revenge? And what might those consequences be?

We’ll find out soon enough.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum


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Andy D
11/13/2012 05:07 AM

At minimum, Gordon should have had enough points deducted to drop him out of the top ten and celebration in Las Vegas.

I thought a suspension was in order. And two weeks probation? There’s only one week of racing left! Again, at minimum, probation until the end of March.

Go Brad!

11/13/2012 06:22 AM

RICKCAR or HMSCAR however you want to call it, showed it’s bias once again, Any other driver for another team would have been suspended not only for Miami but for Daytona too. Jeff not only eliminated Clint from the Championship he solidified JJ’s Second place finish in the standings. No one is talking about that. Clint would have closed to within a few points of JJ with a top 5 finish. The money Jeff just made by JJ being no worse than 2nd in the standings more than made up for fine he will have to pay.

11/13/2012 06:25 AM

I am completely disgusted that Gordon didn’t get suspended for the last race! If it was any other driver (besides JJ)they would have been suspended on the spot. Talk about playing favorites! C’mon NASCAR, the rules should apply to everyone!

Bill B
11/13/2012 07:18 AM

I can name a few drivers that did similar things and didn’t get suspended. Dale Jarrett blatantly took out Ryan Newman in the second chase year (2005, I think), Carl Edwards blatantly wrecked Kesolowski at Talladega about 3 years ago and Brian Vickers took out Tony Stewart at one of the road courses. None were suspended.

Being a Gordon fan I would have been OK with a suspension. Personally, I don’t care for that type of retaliation from anyone but since no one seems to remember those other incidents I just thought I’d remind you.

11/13/2012 07:54 AM

@Bill, I agree.

Just sounds like the writer has a bug up his rear about Gordon.

11/13/2012 08:14 AM

What took place is called the double standard rule. If your car owner is connected to NA$CAR with an umbilical cord, I’ve read that he’s a convicted felon, is that true, your driver gets treated differently. Kryle must be a little upset too. Also, everyone who slips and calls it a RACE please stop it, because it’s not. It’s nothings more than WWE version of a staged{fake} performance, please call it what it is.

11/13/2012 08:31 AM

It would be one thing if Gordon was already on probation (like Kyle Busch was) and there were people on his radio telling him not to do it (like they were doing with Busch). Differences are there.

11/13/2012 08:35 AM

What part of TAKING OUT A CHAPIONSHIP CONTENDER do you people not understand? Lol. What NASCAR did to Kyle Busch is called precedent…it is supposed to be followed.

Now to explain it for those who don’t see the ramifications of NASCAR decision…they basically just gave the green light to take out a championship contender in a Chase race. If anyone has a grudge against Brad K and he happens to make contact with them while racing…it is now perfectly fine to retaliate and ruin his title chances.

What Jeff did was stupid…I know he was pissed but he should have saved that payback card for Martinsville 2013.

I actually hope Jeff has a chance at #5 next year and bowyer takes him out at Phoenix…lol

No dog in this fight either…not a fan of either driver. But I am a fan of rules and penalties being equally applied to everyone

11/13/2012 08:50 AM

I’m not sure why some people are hanging so heavily on this Chase contender nonsense. Bowyer may not have been mathematically eliminated, but he was done nevertheless. I can understand people wanting to see Gordon parked. I just don’t find the Chase contender argument to be very persuasive.

11/13/2012 09:03 AM

First, what Gordon and Busch did were not the same, there are a number of differences (under caution, powering Hornaday into the wall rather than the single side slam Gordon attempted to pull off. You claim Gordon ‘drove’ Bowyer into the wall, but that was more a result of how they and Logano came together rather than what Busch did to Hornaday).

Second, and most importantly, yelling or even throwing a punch at a driver in the garage does NOT make things square for getting taken out on the track. If a driver takes out another driver, payback is having something happen to you on the track, not in the paddock or on twitter (yeah, Logano really nailed Harvick with that tweet a couple of years ago, but the fact is that Logano was wrecked and Harvick was still racing). Gordon thought Bowyer ruined Gordon’s day on the track (in Phoenix as well as other tracks this year), so he returned the favor.

Third, so what that Bowyer was technically challenging for a championship? Claiming that Gordon should be punished because he ruined Bowyer’s (nonexistent) chances is the double standard. A driver is a driver. Drivers who drive rough – regardless of where they are in the standings – need to understand that payback can be a b***h.

11/13/2012 09:04 AM

Gordon should have been sat down from next year’s Busch Clash and given a six month probation. The fine I think was a NASCAR record.

It maybe open season on him at Homestead.

11/13/2012 09:08 AM

Nascar didn’t suspend Edwards when he flipped Keslo at Atlanta a few yeas ago.. Only those Helton doesn’t like get suspended…

11/13/2012 09:23 AM

Anybody want to bet that nas$crap tries to help JJ win the Hendricks Cup next week. This WWE manipulation has gotten to be a joke. Makes this 30 year fan of the sport feel shamed for the sport. That Gordon wasn’t parked for the next race speaks volumes. The perception has been out there for a while that Hendricks racing runs the sport. Personally, I’ve gotten more and more apathetic about the way nas$crap has governed it’s sport. When apathy sets in, they’re in trouble.

11/13/2012 09:33 AM

say hello to nascar, where they penalize kb for retaliation undeeer the caution but not JG, DP, CE and a slew of others that do it when it’s under green

11/13/2012 09:35 AM

25 points and a $100k is a joke considering Gordo’s points standing and bank account. NASCAR as usual let Tricky Rick’s boys do what ever they want.

In the case of Bowyer’s championship hopes pre-crash, if you are not mathematically eliminated, you are not eliminated. Post crash, the 15’s chances are eliminated. Plus JJ’s hold on second is solid and Kahne’s chance for 3rd is greatly improved, all thanks to the actions of their teammate.

“Gordon was remarkably stupid. Had he had a proper set of balls he would have waited until Bowyer exited his car at the end of the race and handled it like a man on pit road. Instead, he chose the cowardly option that also took out both Logano and Aric Almirola and very nearly took out Keselowski in the process.” I could not agree more.

Brian C
11/13/2012 09:39 AM

If you believe Gordon needs suspension, then Danica gets one too correct. If the rules are “Boy’s(girls) have at it, tough to suspend under that policy. KB was a lifetime achievement award, ans was under caution, The Edwards comparison is the standard to be used here.

Bill B
11/13/2012 09:56 AM

Just one question about “ handled it like a man on pit road”, how does that get the lost points back?
While I don’t condone wrecking someone in retribution, I do understand it. You took points away from me and ruined my day, and now I am going to make sure you pay for that in the same way. How does settling in on pit road after the race provide justice in the standings?
Suppose Carl Edwards wrecked Mark Martin – how should Martin handle that on pit road to get justice? Really, I want to understand how that works.

awww shucks
11/13/2012 10:00 AM

i am with brian c and KB. so eveyone who retaliates gets suspended period. if you crash someone on purpose early on in the year it could prevent a championship run. Edwards was blatant in crashing Kez at atlanta even when his spotter said car up high. they played that once on replays and it was never mentioned again. i am not a gordon fan but people are on a witch hunt here. i think the 15 crew members should be suspended if anything. let clint and jeff box it out if you want but stop the witch hunt here. there are paybacks all the time and this is much different then Kyle last year, in a series he wasn’t running for points chamionship to take out a contender UNDER CAUTION while on probation and with a spotter or crew chief tellng him to stop.

Jacklegged Nascar Expert
11/13/2012 10:11 AM

It must be true that Hendrick owns a 51% share of Nascar.

11/13/2012 10:24 AM

Gordon’s day wasn’t ended – he would have finished about 20th if he pitted for new tires. Seriously, people want hard racing, then they cry when there is!

Gordon’s actions, like Bush’s, like Edwards’, like Patrick’s, were indefensible. There’s no excuse, no reason to ever ambush a driver on the track like that, and it should be an automatic 4 race suspension and a fine of at least double the cost of repairs to the wrecked cars.

11/13/2012 10:37 AM

You idiots cannot have it both ways. How many times aren’t you bitching about the drivers being more like robots with no emotion then you get emotion and now you’re screaming ‘suspension’. You stupid idiots cannot have it both ways. It’s done so get over it. Crap, I thought it was the most entertainment I had seen in NA$CAR all year and the idiots are all pissed off about it. Why?

awww shucks
11/13/2012 11:01 AM

should we suspend Jeff Burton for dumping Danica and that led to the big last lap crash and the oil? do we head hunt burton too? that looked deliberate as well but he got a free pass because of the clint/jeff issue. new rule, don’t wreck anyone or else……

11/13/2012 11:13 AM

spot1: No one is “screaming for suspension” so drivers can be more like “robots”. The real issue is that NASCAR hands out suspensions like candy to other drivers while the “golden boys” i.e. Jeff, Jimmie, Carl seem to always get a free pass.

11/13/2012 11:31 AM

Folks, here’s why I think Gordon was not punished as much as Kyle was. Gordon’s history. Yep, Jeff for the most part has always been a pretty clean driver very seldom ever wrecking other people are getting into them like Kyle has done in all three series. And, I didn’t see the race but did see the replay where Bowyer got into Jeff sending him into the wall. Even though that may not have been intentional, it’s still wrecking you and I wonder how Bowyer would have reacted to that if Jeff had got into him first and sent him into the wall? Somehow, based on Bowyer’s reaction to Jeff wrecking him I think he would have been pretty upset too if Jeff had wrecked him first. Anyway, I think Nascar looked at the history of the drivers and comparing Jeff to Kyle there is no comparison because Kyle has wrecked numerous drivers in all three series for years and this is not even counting Kyle’s off track antics.

11/13/2012 11:40 AM

The diffrence between what Kyle did and Gordordon did is that Kyle did it under caution. Also, what all the Bowyer fans are neglecting to look at the whole picture.Yes, it cost Clint any shot at the championship.If you look at the points picture, Gordon was in top 5 in point and that cut tire esentially cost him to fall to tenth in points. Bowyer getting paid back only cost him a couple spots and eliminated him from chapionship picture. As a Gordon fan Bowyer has done several bone head things to Gordon this year starting back at spring Martinsville. You reap what you so. Also as a Gordon fan, if you think back a couple years ago Gordon seemed to keep running into Trux Jr, at one of the road coarses Jeff even spun him. If Truex would have paid him back I would not have seen a problem with that as Jeff was the instigator there. In clossing I just want to says anyone who has been a fan of nascar for years knows payback is apart of the sport. The late Dale Earnhardt was the master of it. He would either say I just ment to rattle his cage, or if he was mad enough he would just put it out there that he tried to wreck me so he wrecked him back. Keep passion in NASCAR.

11/13/2012 11:45 AM

I’m undecided on how I feel about the penalty, and I like both Gordon and Bowyer as drivers. I would like to comment that I see two differences between this situation and the one between Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday that was mentioned in the article. First, Busch had done plenty of other things that got him in trouble prior to that, while Gordon has not. Second, Busch was racing in a lower series in which he was not going for a championship while Ron Hornaday was. To me, that’s the biggest and most obvious difference. Busch and Hornaday don’t race together very often and Busch had nothing to lose in that series, so NASCAR needed to take action. In this case, Bowyer and Gordon will still be racing together next year and beyond—and no one would doubt that Bowyer will remember this anytime they’re together on the track.

11/13/2012 01:47 PM

You have to be more than a casual fan to understand. Bowyer took HMS win 200 from Gordon at Martinsville, a track that carries quite a bit of emotion for the entire organization. Trading that for a pretty weak championship hope seems fair to me.

11/13/2012 01:47 PM

Which Hendrick car or associated car will take out the 2 on Sunday so JJ can win another bogus championship? NASCAR just proved a Chevy can get away with anything.

11/13/2012 01:47 PM

“Kyle did it under caution” is not a valid argument—Gordon was already black flagged the lap before he wrecked Bowyer, so he was technically “not in” the race too.

Bowyer barely bumped Gordon in the first place, and then we Gordon tried to cut back down and muscle him back, he screwed up himself and went up into the wall. It was not a race-ending wreck and he could have just pitted for tires and salvaged a top 20. Instead he waited around and demolished Bowyer, taking out two other cars in the process.

“Boys have at it” should not include blatant attempts at revenge over hard racing. The spirit of the “rule” was to encourage more aggressive racing, beating and banging, which would occasionally result in wrecks or spins. Keselowski racing JJ at Texas like his life depended on it is a perfect example of good, hard racing.

This argument is separate of the whole pit lane brawl thing, that was just an embarrassment, and Bowyer’s team was certainly the wrong.

11/13/2012 02:47 PM

Why did they penalize Busch and not Gordon? It’s a no-brainer really; keeping Busch out of a subsequent truck race probably affected attendance by 3 paying customers! Nobody cared! Keep Gordon out of a sprint cup race and you risk alienating a chunk of the diminishing fan base who either won’t bother going to the track or will watch more football on TV if Gordon is not racing. To NASCAR, its all about the $$$$$$.

awww shucks
11/13/2012 02:57 PM

so is the next step to suspend any driver that dumps a competitor? or is it just the retaliation that gets it? what is the difference? what jeff does polices the situation between them. now clint or any other driver won’t lean too hard on jeff again cause they know they could get it. like the bean ball in baseball. protecting the plate, protecting your car if in your eyes you were wronged by another driver

11/13/2012 03:01 PM

I have no dog in this hunt, but you can count my as one who didn’t expect a suspension just due to who he is and who he drivers for.

And on the surface I have no problem with that. However, wrecking someone during the Chase who is still in the hunt (no matter how remote) should have consequences. With JJ having his issues, that put him right back in it. This opens up a whole can of worms that Nascar probably doesn’t want to open. So what happens if this happens again?

I have a better idea. Get rid of the Chase. Isn’t the Chase supposed to be the most exciting thing to close out the year. It appears the Chase has suddenly taken a back seat to what happened. More evidence that people could care less about it and care more about what happens on the track on a weekly basis and not on the points sheet.

JD in NC
11/13/2012 03:22 PM

The two most relevant points I see for the suspension of Busch but not Gordon, is that 1) Busch was on probation, as well as, having a past history of not playing nice and 2)Busch took out Hornaday under caution. Its obviously more dangerous for the driver to be taken out under green but Nascar is more intent on protecting the crews on pit road and the cleanup crews on track. I still think it was incredibly stupid on Gordon’s behalf. If I were the 20 and 43 crews I think I would be leaving a pile of bent up sheetmetal in the driveway of the Hendrick’s shop. That was perhaps Jeff’s biggest screwup – taking out two innocent drivers. In past retaliation events such as Vickers on Stewart, Edwards on Kez, Danica on Cassill (attempt) Earnhardt sr. on Waltrip, Jay Sauter on Biffle (Richmond Busch race about 10 yrs ago – the Biff deserved it)they kept it between the two drivers without collateral damage.

11/13/2012 04:06 PM

To play “devil’s advocate” the difference is that Kyle got parked after a series of transgressions in the 2011 season (feuding with Harvick at Darlington, the incident with RC at Kansas, then taking out Hornaday). They were all part of his feud with Harvick and RCR. As a Gordon fan, I would not have been upset if they suspended him. He should have gone after Bowyer in a different way. (I personally wish he would take out the 48.) He could have easily taken out the “hopefully” new champion Brad K.

I think Jeff has been getting run over a lot the last couple years, and finally had enough. He never retaliated on Jimmie for roughing him up multiple times 2010 or when Kurt Busch dumped him at Martinsville a few years ago. Maybe this will light a fire under him in 2013?

11/13/2012 04:28 PM

The author of this simple read and way to many of the responders are just a bunch of whinny girls

Robert Eastman
11/13/2012 05:02 PM

Does 5-6 Million dollars have anything to do with Jeff Gordon’s actions at Phoenix? Taking out Clint and totally eliminating his chances at the Cup title now limits the work that needs to get done at Homestead. With 7 HMS affiliated cars available to “do the job”… only a “slight on-track altercation” with the #2 at Homestead puts the #48 back in the Cup Championship hunt! As “car owner” of the #48… Jeff’s $100,000 fine is nothing when “the $5-$6 Million Champion’s Check” is “goin beggin for the takin!” (just sayin)

Bill B
11/13/2012 05:44 PM

When that unlikely scenario takes place, you will be able to say I told you so. I seriously doubt that will happen. I wonder how much money you would be willing to bet that it will happen.

11/13/2012 06:04 PM


How obvious can it get?

Nascar and Hendrick/Chevy are booty buddies. And John Middlebrook makes it a nice threesome.

My Lord so many are absolute FOOLS to be still swallowing all the CRAP that nascar spits out and laughs at you all the way to the bank.

another Andy D
11/13/2012 07:18 PM

If Bowyer hadn’t been taken out, he would have been about 30 points behind and would have had a chance.
You just saw the day where Gordon just said ‘I suck’.
He had already been Black Flagged, so he should have been parked for next week.

11/13/2012 10:05 PM

What happened was wrong on the 24’s end but with nascar wanting new viewers, I don’t think physical assault on pit road between two drivers is what we want the young kids or fans out there to see. Everyone is equal in the race car, not everyone is equal in size or age or whatever, it would turn into a bunch of bullies shoving around the smaller drivers because they could beat them silly because they are bigger.

11/13/2012 10:30 PM

The John Middlebrook fiasco added to Gordon NOT getting parked makes NASCAR look really bad, if not plain stupid. Maybe both. If you don’t understand this, or agree with it, you’re just biased. And not throwing the yellow after Burton wrecked Danica? Even worse with NASCAR’s prolific record with quick and/or Mystery Debris Cautions.

11/14/2012 08:23 AM

I dont think its right for this terrible excuse for a man to be able to get into his car this week just because nascar wants momentum ratings. All he is is Danica Patrick with 4 championships and 24 on the side now, he is totally irrelivent for title contention and counts on his top dollar equipment to stay up front. Great job, nascar, keep up the terrible work.

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