MARTINSVILLE, Va.—With all the talk about controversy between Joey Logano and Tony Stewart — not to mention between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin — the incident that lit the fuse between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon has been shoved into the background.
Bowyer’s ill-fated three-wide move last spring at Martinsville Speedway, which wrecked Bowyer, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, was the catalyst for Gordon’s revenge at Phoenix in the next-to-last race of the season.
Gordon had led 329 laps at the .526-mile short track before Bowyer’s dive-bomb move on a late restart. Though the resulting wreck may be on the back burner this week in light of more recent rivalries, Gordon recalls that it simmered throughout the 2012 season.
After contact between the Gordon and Bowyer cars at Phoenix ruined Gordon’s day, the feud ignited, and Gordon retaliated by wrecking Bowyer in the Turn 4, ending Bowyer’s run at a possible NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
“Well, yeah, he wrecked us,” Gordon said of the Martinsville restart. “So, whether it was intentional or not, it’s still something that was in the back of my mind. You could say it set the stage. But for me, it’s an accumulation of things, sort of like a three-strikes-and-you’re-out deal. And we just made contact too many times last year.
“But listen, he was racing hard. The thing that bothered me so much about it last year is that I really don’t know if we were going to win that race, because we were sitting ducks on old tires. He had it won — really, I think, pretty easily. But to try and make that move going into Turn 1 was very impatient, and it really cost him as much as it cost me.
“All he had to do was wait until we got off of Turn 2 and he probably would have driven by all of us down the back straightaway. So, certainly that’s not forgotten. But it’s nice to know that some of that attention is off of us. We’ll just go race hard like we have every other weekend.”
As if Joey Logano needed more drama… Jimmie Johnson’s Chevrolet ran into the back of Logano’s Ford, which had gotten loose and slowed in front of the five-time champion late in final practice. (And, no, Logano wasn’t blocking.) Both cars went to the garage with cosmetic damage, but both returned to the track shortly thereafter, seemingly none the worse for the contact. …
Clint Bowyer led both practice sessions on Saturday, running his fastest lap of the day (97.018 mph) in Happy Hour. Kyle Busch was second quickest in Saturday’s first session, and Johnson ran the second fastest lap in Happy Hour after returning from the contact with Logano.