A year ago at the Martinsville Speedway spring race, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon collided on a late-race restart, with the contact also taking Jimmie Johnson out in the process.
It was a double-hit; it cost them all a shot at winning, and in particular, it cost Gordon and Johnson the chance to deliver Hendrick Motorsports their 200th victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
A win at Martinsville for that milestone would have been poignant for Hendrick after a plane crash outside the track in October 2004 killed ten people, including Rick Hendrick’s son Ricky, team president John Hendrick and his two twin daughters.
The chaos happened because of a late caution when David Reutimann stopped on track, unable to get his stricken car into a safe area.
“He was running around slow; you got a problem, you really … get down and get on pit road,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said of Reutimann after the race. “I don’t believe he had any trouble getting down. When we went by him the first time, he was low. I would like to hear a good excuse, to be honest with you, because I’m sure it would be laughable.”
Bowyer and Gordon famously got together once again in last November’s penultimate race of the season at Phoenix, when Gordon retaliated against Bowyer and triggered a fight between the two drivers’ crews.
Ryan Newman wound up beating AJ Allmendinger for the win. Newman hasn’t won since and has instead made headlines this weekend for blocking comments, while Allmendinger won’t be back at Martinsville to equal or better his best career finish. He’ll be in the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Barber, with an IZOD-backed entry for Team Penske, for his first open-wheel start in seven years.
Regan Smith takes over the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet this week, which currently resides in the top 10 in owner points despite a rotating driver lineup and a lack of major sponsorship.