Jeff Gordon (Photo: Peter Casey, USA TODAY Sports)
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - Jeff Gordon said he's dealt with an
unprecedented level of anger and disappointment after his team was
essentially robbed of a Chase for the Sprint Cup berth on Saturday night
at Richmond International Raceway.
Gordon was headed
toward securing a playoff spot with seven laps to go at Richmond until
Michael Waltrip Racing's Clint Bowyer spun out and caused a caution.
the final laps, Bowyer and teammate Brian Vickers made unnecessary pit
stops that allowed Joey Logano to pass them on the track; Logano ended
up with one more point than Gordon to remain in the top 10 and secure a
"When I found out later how they
manipulated it, that was anger on a whole 'nother level," Gordon said
Wednesday before playing a charity kickball game to benefit pediatric
cancer research. "It's hard to describe and it's disappointing. You
realize people all want to do things for their teammates to help them,
but you also know there are certain lines that have to be drawn with
Gordon said after hearing about everything
that happened during the race, his team "deserves to be in this thing."
He spoke as if the possibility of making the Chase still existed after
learning of suspicious radio chatter involving David Gilliland and
Logano, but he declined to comment on that situation until he knows
NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday that it is
looking into the radio chatter, but hasn't found anything yet that
Though Gordon said he could have been more
aggressive on the final restart - like shoving other cars out of the
way or possibly even wrecking them - he only went as far as he deemed
fair under the code of sportsmanship.
"There are certain
morals that are still involved with what you're comfortable with doing
and not comfortable with doing," he said. "And it has an effect on far
more people than we could ever understand.
what I've really learned through this situation: It's way beyond me and
you, it's way beyond the sport, it's beyond the fans. It reaches out
much further than that. And that's what is so important for NASCAR to
work on maintaining - and also us as competitors, we have a
responsibility there as well."
As for NASCAR's future
-- particularly with the strong possibility of more funny business
among multi-car teams -- Gordon said something like the Richmond
situation has "been lingering out there a little bit too long."
admit as teams we're all trying to figure out how to get ourselves in
the Chase, and when the Chase comes, what can we do to help our teammate
win the championship?" he said. "Those things are out there. They
happen. But I think the difference is there are lines that are drawn and
to me, that's where this crossed over the line. But it's going to
happen again, so it has to be addressed in a big way."
As it stands now, Gordon said, NASCAR got its penalties "half-right."
Monday, officials handed down the harshest sanctions in NASCAR history,
which knocked MWR's Martin Truex Jr. out of the Chase and replaced him
with Ryan Newman, who was leading the race at the time of Bowyer's spin
and fighting for a wild card slot. The team also was fined $300,000 and
all three drivers were docked 50 points (pre-Chase).
Gordon said NASCAR should have gone further because Bowyer was left unaffected despite a questionable spinout.
all, as competitors and some of the media, understand it looks pretty
obvious as to what caused that caution," Gordon said. "It's pretty
obvious the 15 (Bowyer) came back down pit road, similar to what the 55
(Vickers) did - but that penalty didn't really affect (Bowyer).
did affect MWR. That was a huge penalty to MWR and it's going to have
consequences that go beyond just that penalty. It's going to affect them
in the future. In that sense, I feel like the penalty was justified,
but it still doesn't really address what went on with the 15."
thanked his fans for their support on Twitter and Facebook and said
they had "really, really inspired me." He had long known about his
passionate group of fans but hadn't realized just how much they cared
until their emotions were on full display during this "nutty" week, he
In the meantime, Gordon prepared to play
kickball at a minor league baseball stadium near Charlotte. It was part
of the Jeff Gordon Foundation and the Kick-It charity, which organizes
kickball games to raise funds and awareness about children's cancer.
hoped the game would be a good distraction in light of everything that
happened this week, but there was just one problem: While he and his
family were moving out of their New York City apartment this week, he
tweaked his back.
"So my kickball skills are going to
be limited," he said with a laugh. "I think I'm going to have a
designated runner, but I'll still kick the ball."