Jeff Gordon is focusing on running well tomorrow at Phoenix International Raceway, but everyone else seems to be focusing on the brawl between his and Clint Bowyer’s crews last fall in NASCAR’s last visit to the desert.
The two drivers’ on-track incidents in the final laps touched off a post-race fight in the garage, and Bowyer also made an attempt to confront Gordon at his transporter (he was stopped by security when he got there). Kevin Harvick’s victory in the race was pretty much buried by the fracas, which easily became of NASCAR’s more memorable moments of 2012.
Both racers, along with 41 others, will be more worried about how the new Generation-6 cars work on PIR’s one-mile oval in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k. But Gordon has acknowledged the hype that has surrounded himself and Bowyer this weekend.
“It’s hard to get away from [the fight],” the four-time Sprint Cup champion said to the media at PIR. “They’re still using it to advertise for the race and it was a big story.”
Indeed, it was. Gordon was fined a whopping $100,000 for his role in the altercations and also lost 25 driver points as well.
But he knows he can’t think about it too much, as he’ll have plenty of other things to deal with on Sunday. As for what he’ll do if he should come across Bowyer on the track, Gordon has maintained that he won’t race him differently.
“We’ll race hard,” he said. “We’ll race hard for position and hopefully we don’t have any incidents. I can’t run every lap worrying about every guy I’ve ever had an incident with.”
Gordon will start fifth in his bid to win at PIR for a third time. Bowyer’s taking the green flag from 13th position.
Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.
Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.
“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”
Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”