How Far Would One Go to Make Chase?

Jeff Gordon

“It all comes down to who it is, how they raced you, how you've raced them in the past." (Photo: Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. - Does morality exist on the racetrack? And should it?

With 10 drivers vying for the final five Chase spots Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, there’s a chance for conflict - and contact - on the track.

So would it be acceptable if a driver wrecks another to ensure a spot in the Chase?

This sport - or any sport for that matter - is about winning. And championships. Not morals.

One can’t have a chance to win the title if they don’t make the Chase. A champion is celebrated far more than someone who is good-hearted. It’s a sad fact.

What if a driver won’t hit the car in front? Is that a disservice to their team? How would you feel if your driver didn’t do everything they could to make the Chase? Would it be OK not to have a chance at the championship because the driver did the socially acceptable thing?

Some competitors could face that quandary Saturday night.

Jeff Gordon, who is 11th in the points and could miss the Chase for only the second time, was asked Thursday about how far he would go have a chance at the title.

“It all comes down to who it is, how they raced you, how you've raced them in the past,’‘ Gordon said. “It's one of those things where you stick your nose in there. You're not going to give anybody an inch. If you're leading and they stick their nose in there, you're not going to give them that. You're going to force them not to wreck you.

“On the flipside, if you dive in there, you feel you have a fender inside of them, they don't give it up, you're going to take it. You know, the intensity of this race, being in this situation, is very high. It forces people to make more aggressive moves. So I think you understand that and your competitors understand that. That's a part of it.

“That's certainly not the way I'd want to do it. I probably won't do that.’’

I questioned Gordon on that. I said if you have to block or hit somebody to make the Chase, you’ve got to to do it. Otherwise, how do you go back to your team and owner and say you weren’t going to wreck the competitor and that’s why you’re not in the Chase?

“Good thing you’re not out there racing,’’ Gordon said, laughing. “You’d have a lot of enemies.’’

But he understood the question and answered.

“I look at every scenario, every situation different,’’ he said. “For me to just right now sit here and say, I don't care who is in front of me, if I can get to his bumper, I'm turning him to win the race, to get in the Chase, is not very realistic.

“You have to race as hard as you can, make the best choices you can, be smart about it. If you decide to make that big, aggressive move that ticks somebody off, do it and be ready for the consequences because you still got 10 weeks ahead of you. This is not the last race of the year.’’

That’s a point defending champion Brad Keselowski makes. Keselowski could become only the second reigning champ to miss the Chase. He admits it would depend on the situation - he didn’t wreck Kyle Busch on the last lap at Watkins Glen last month. Keselowski said there was a scenario where he would not have second thoughts knocking someone out of the way to make the Chase.

“If I was leading the race and the guy behind me hit me to take the lead and now we’re down to one lap and I’m back to his bumper, hell yeah, I’m going to drive through his (rear). That’s a reality.’’

Any driver would race that way. If someone starts, they’ll continue it.

Ryan Newman said he would consider it in such a situation.

“If that guy roughs you up to get to where you are, maybe,’’ he said. “If that person is the one that caused you mischief earlier in the season, maybe. If that person is somebody you extremely respect, know they wouldn't do that to you, maybe not.

“It's so situational.’’

If a driver wants to make the Chase, it’s pretty simple decision to make.

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond International Raceway at 6:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

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