NASCAR held a fight and a race broke out. Not just a run of the mill fight, but WWW level, and lots of smack talk. Not NASCAR’s finest moment.
Who knew that a race driver could run that fast from his race car on the front straight all the way back to the garages to pick a fight with another driver…and be the center of a big brawl between two teams. Must have been all that Five-Hour Energy drink provided by his sponsor. And by now, you think any NASCAR interview would be protected by the so-called ‘Seven Second Delay Switch.’
When all was said and done, KEVIN HARVICK/No.29 Chevrolet raced to the delayed checkered flag for the 25th Annual AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at Phoenix International Raceway. The race was Red Flagged just before or after the White Flag was thrown – versions vary, but the NASCAR version prevailed.
The race was delayed for cleanup and for the dueling teams to be sorted and calmed. Then, it was a green-white-checkered flag finish, with Harvick skating by front-runner, KYLE BUSCH/No.18 Toyota and DENNY HAMLIN/No.11 Toyota to take his first win in 44 races.
Harvick finished ahead of mayhem and malady, caused by a big oil slick left by a disabled DANICA PATRICK/No.7 Chevrolet, who coasted to a stop next to the pit wall. The expected caution never came and a pack of hard-running cars ended up all over the track, including Patrick who somehow landed on top of another car. Still, she finished seventeenth, her best Cup finish yet.
Pole sitter Busch led four times for 237 laps. He drove like his car was on rails, and seemingly could do no wrong. However, Busch ended up third. “We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the 29 (Harvick.)”
Fourth and fifth were KASEY KAHNE/No.5 Chevrolet and RYAN NEWMAN/No.39 Chevrolet. That was quite the feat since the last time I saw Newman, he was facing the wrong way down the front straight in traffic.
Sunday’s victory was the nineteenth for Harvick, in 429 career starts. Not only was it Harvick’s first win in 2012, it was the first victory for Richard Childress this season. As part of the spoils for winning the desert classic, Harvick took home an original painting of his close finish, produced during Victory Circle festivities by artist, BILL PATTERSON.
Harvick said “It was an interesting day. There was more oil than asphalt.”
Harvick wasn’t the only one who saw the oil – so did all the drivers and some owners, who complained about the race officiating for not throwing the caution flag.
The biggest memory many will take home from this PIR race will be the on-track/off- track activity between JEFF GORDON/No.24 and CLINT BOWYER/No.15 Toyota. The short version is that Gordon was tired of being hit by Bowyer in this and previous races, so he laid in wait and nailed Bowyer on track. Both cars crashed and DNF. The accident also took out two innocent bystanders, JOEY LOGANO/No.20 Toyota and ARIC ALMIROLA/No.43 Ford.
Gordon drove to the garage, while Bowyer coasted on fire down the front straight. When he stopped, he saw the garage fight on the big screen, and took off running at full speed.
It was an out and out brawl, with two drivers, crew chiefs and owners sent to the principal’s office – complete with security standing watch outside the NASCAR Trailer.
Emerging from the trailer, Gordon said “Things have gotten escalated over the year and I have just had it. Clint (Bowyer) has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway, pretty much ruined our day. I have had it, was fed up with it and got him back. NASCAR has got to do what they’ve got to do. Just like I had to do what I had to do.”
Bowyer, who was third in the points going into the Phoenix race, said “I literally barely rubbed him and then all the sudden I feel him trying to retaliate and — I don’t know — missed or something and hit the wall and made himself look like a fool.” Regarding any retaliation, “We just have to see.”
ROBIN PEMBERTON, NASCAR’s vice president of competition said: “It’s Sunday night. The best decisions are made sometime after Sunday night, maybe Monday or Tuesday.” This is the same Pemberton who said a couple of seasons back – “Have at it, boys.”
All in all, the race had more than its share of car-nage, and swearing on live TV by BRIAN PATTIE, Bowyer’s Crew Chief, and Keselowski, who was ashamed about the incidents.
The two Chase Contenders, JIMMIE JOHNSON/No.48 Chevrolet and BRAD KESELOWSKI/No.2 Dodge started the race seven points apart. At the end of the day, Keselowski led Johnson by 20 points. Johnson’s right front tire exploded and he hit the wall. The very determined Hendrick crew beavered away for 38 or so laps, and got Johnson back out. He gained one position and finished thirty-second, with 2350 points.
Keselowski finished sixth with 2368 points. For him to win The Chase at Homestead, Keselowski will have to finish fifteenth or better with no laps led, sixteenth with one lap led, or seventeenth with most laps led. No other Chase drivers remain in contention.
There were seven leaders and 11 lead changes. Eight cautions took 38 laps, and there was a Red Flag for nearly 15 minutes. Twenty-eight of the 44 drivers finished the race, with 16 on the lead lap. Seven drivers crashed out.
The weather warmed up, but …it was still cold and breezy all day.
PIR sold out the grandstand tickets before the race weekend. Add to that all the campgrounds and hillside seating, and the announced attendance was 87,000.