AZ TRACKS

Dust has settled at Phoenix International Raceway , but has feud?

Dust has settled at Phoenix International Raceway , but has feud?

Gordon admitted he intentionally wrecked Bowyer

By Michael Knight

Jeff Gordon says he won’t be surprised if he gets booed. Clint Bowyer says he’s tired of being asked about it. Bryan Sperber says he’s not certain it’s over.

They’re talking about the Dustup in the Desert: The brawl involving Gordon, his crew and Bowyer’s after the two drivers crashed in the closing laps at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

So what will happen when they return to PIR for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500?

“I’m not so sure what happened has been settled,” said Sperber, the track’s president.

Although they raced each other cleanly the week after PIR — Gordon won at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Bowyer second — there’s no indication they’ve seriously attempted to resolve their differences. Even though, in an amazing coincidence, both attended a New Year’s Eve party on rapper P. Diddy’s yacht off St. Barts island in the French West Indies.

After a bump with Bowyer — one of several during the season — Gordon admitted he intentionally wrecked him. Joey Logano’s and Aric Almirola’s cars were collateral damage. Gordon, the four-time Sprint Cup champion, was jumped by members of Bowyer’s crew when he climbed out of his car in the garage area. Gordon’s team came to his defense. NASCAR fined Gordon $100,000 and Bowyer’s crew chief, Brian Pattie, $25,000 for not maintaining control of his crew.

Bowyer repeatedly deflected off-season media questions about the incident but recently discussed it with azcentral sports:

“What happened was nothing different than weekly short-track racing at its finest everywhere in the country,” Bowyer said. “The biggest frustration for me is I’m still talking about it instead of finishing second (in points) in my first season with a new team (Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota).”

Gordon, whose iconic No. 24 Chevrolet will have a different sponsor, Pepsi Max, at PIR, said: “I think there’s going to be a lot of energy (among fans) coming back to Phoenix. I know mine are very loyal, and Clint has built a fan base. He’s got that fun-loving attitude that people like.

“Rivalries aren’t built between two guys. It’s between the fans.”

Bowyer saw the scuffle on a large video screen, jumped from his car, and ran approximately 175 yards into the garage. Several people stopped him from entering Gordon’s hauler. When Bowyer walked back onto pit road, he received a standing ovation from many in the soldout grandstands.

How will fans react Sunday during driver introductions?

Gordon admitted he might get booed. Bowyer is hoping for extra cheers.

“I certainly hope so: I ran a long way for them,” he said, laughing. “I could have had a heart attack. I got severely bleeped-off for their entertainment value. I hope they appreciate that.

“I understand the value in what happened from a fans’ perspective. If I was watching a local dirt track and two cars tangled and they got out and fought, I’m on my feet cheering, too.”