Phoenix Altered Gordon, Bowyer Friendship

Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer

Jeff Gordon retaliated for an incident a few laps earlier by wrecking Clint Bowyer in last November's race at Phoenix International Raceway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jeff Gordon admits that his friendship with Clint Bowyer likely won’t ever be the same after their run-in a year ago at Phoenix International Raceway.

They’ve talked since, even shared a few laughs, but it’s not like before, Gordon concedes. Why it had to come to Gordon’s car ramming Bowyer’s last year in Turn 4? There are many reasons, but one might actually go back to Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Bowyer had an outside shot at the title last year at Phoenix, but those hopes ended after Gordon wrecked him shortly before the finish. Gordon retaliated after Bowyer knocked him into the wall late in the race, the final straw in a series of incidents throughout the season Gordon said at the time.

Their crews tussled in the garage after Gordon parked his car. Seeing the commotion on a video board, Bowyer climbed from his car on pit road and ran to the garage to confront Gordon. A series official stopped Bowyer from entering Gordon’s hauler. Both drivers were summoned to the NASCAR hauler.

“That was a major thing that happened between us and a heated exchange in the hauler afterwards,’’ Gordon said Tuesday in an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “I don’t think (our friendship) will ever be quite like it was.’’

Bowyer suggested as much last week.

“There’s consequences with everything,’’ he said. “You can’t make a decision or a move that’s not going to come back and haunt you.’’

Gordon said he won’t have flashbacks of that moment this weekend at Phoenix unless “we come off of Turn 2 and he nails me in the left rear.

“I certainly still relive that moment, was not proud of it. At times, I wanted to take it back. At times, I understood why it happened.’’

Even though they had been friendly before, Gordon admits he “took advantage’’ of Bowyer on the track early in Bowyer’s career. 

“He knows it,’’ Gordon said. “It was only because I actually liked him. I thought he’s a good talent, he’s a good guy, but I remember things that Earnhardt did to me when I was first coming into this sport and I returned that favor. 

“I only do that to people I respect. (Bowyer) probably took that the wrong way a little bit and probably didn’t appreciate it too much like I didn’t with Earnhardt either.’’

Gordon said Earnhardt provided numerous initiations during his rookie season in 1993 - from trying to get his car loose to running hard against him in practice - but one of his most memorable incidents with Earnhardt came at Phoenix.

“I was just racing him hard,’’ Gordon said. “(Earnhardt) was a little bit better than me. He got to the inside of me, but I was able to hold him by being on the outside of him. We did that for a couple of laps, and I think he finally got tired of it and pretty much just wrecked me going into Turn 3.’’

There likely won’t be a third act in this trilogy that started with Earnhardt and included Bowyer.       

“He hasn’t run into me,’’ Gordon said of Bowyer. “That’s been a positive.’’

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of Sunday's AdvoCare 500 from Phoenix International Raceway at 2 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MotorRacingNetwork.com.

 

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