One dip or two: Forget Bad Brad, Jeff Gordon has a new nickname for Keselowski

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Jeff Gordon in his 22 seasons as a Sprint Cup driver, it takes a lot for him to lose his cool.

But when the normally calm and collected Gordon calls an opposing driver a “dips***” live on national TV and doesn’t care if the censors bleeped it out or not, you know Gordon was ticked beyond compare with Brad Keselowski following Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Even in the most heated and storied battles over the years early in his Cup career with the late Dale Earnhardt, Gordon never called The Intimidator “The Dips***.”

Of course, Gordon respected Earnhardt immensely — Keselowski, not so much.

That’s why it’s no wonder that Gordon went after Keselowski on pit road after the race, with both drivers ultimately winding up with fat lips – the direct result from what Gordon perceived as a fathead move by Keselowski moments earlier on the racetrack.

As the final five laps wound down and immediately after the second-to-last restart, Gordon was attempting to overtake teammate Jimmie Johnson on the outside, an unusual move for Gordon, who many thought would likely take Johnson on the inside instead.

While the two Hendrick Motorsports teammates raced each other cleanly, all of a sudden, Keselowski appeared and tried to squeeze through a small opening between his two opponents.

Unfortunately, as quick as that hole opened for Keselowski, Gordon attempted to close it. But it was too late and contact was made, with Gordon’s car getting the brunt of it, eventually ending with a cut left tire and a spin that not only took him out of contention, for the win, it left him with a dismal 29th-place finish.

And instead of maintaining his lead in the Sprint Cup standings, Gordon is now on the bubble of possibly being eliminated from the Chase in this Sunday’s Eliminator Round-deciding race at Phoenix.

Instead of a potential win that would have earned him an automatic berth in the four driver, winner-take-all season finale race at Homestead, Gordon came away with a potential ticket to elimination from the Chase next week.

“We were sitting there on older tires, I spun the tires a bit but got a decent start,” Gordon told ESPN in the post-race interview. “I went down into (turn) one and I just wanted to get to the outside of the 48 (Jimmie Johnson), and out of nowhere, I got slammed by the 2 (Keselowski) and it cut my left rear tire.

“He’s just a dips***. I don’t know how he’s ever won a championship and I’m just sick and tired of him. That’s why everybody is fighting and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge, huge race for us. We had the car, we had the position.”

Trying to turn lemons into lemonade, Gordon praised Johnson for the win, while also not missing a chance to take another swipe at Keselowski.

“I’m proud of Jimmie Johnson for winning that race and not let that you-know-what win that race,” Gordon said.

That Keselowski has potentially become the most vilified driver in NASCAR – at least in this year’s Chase for his recent battles with Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart and now Jeff Gordon – and arguably more so than self-proclaimed “villain” Kyle Busch, says a lot.

But when it came to Gordon going after Keselowski, there were no words, just hostility and a determination for revenge and payback.

“There wasn’t any conversation,” Gordon said of the time he approached Keselowski until he grabbed him by his collar – and the donnybrook was on.

“(Keselowski’s) put himself in this position himself and he’s got to pay the consequences,” Gordon said.

Does that mean that with both drivers’ season on the line this coming Sunday at Phoenix, Gordon will do to Keselowski what Kevin Harvick said about Matt Kenseth after their on-track run-in at Martinsville last week?

In other words, if what Keselowski did to Gordon at Texas ultimately leads to Gordon missing arguably his best chance at his first championship in 13 years, will he also see to it that, like Harvick said of Kenseth, that if he (Gordon) can’t win the Cup crown, he’ll do everything in his power to make sure Keselowski doesn’t either?

“I’m going to race him the same way he races me, but that kind of stuff is just uncalled for and I’m not going to stand for it,” Gordon said. “To (NASCAR), I’m sure it’s just a racing incident. But to me, it’s just a bunch of crap.

“(Keselowski) is just doing stuff way over his head. That’s just uncalled for. You’re racing for a win and a championship, you don’t go slamming a man and cut their left rear tire. But if that’s what it takes, no problem, we can do the same thing right back to him.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: Top 10 storylines of the 2019 season

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The 2019 NHRA season wound up being one where there was almost as much news and highlights made off the drag strip as on it.

That was the case in two of the top four storylines for the recently completed season, with the top story occurring even before the first pass down a drag strip in competition took place.

We’ve also included a poll for you to vote and see if you agree with our picks or not.

Here’s how our top 10 looks:

1. A Force-ful departure: Just two weeks before the 2019 season was due to open, Funny Car driver Courtney Force, daughter of 16-time champion John Force, stunned the drag racing world by announcing she was taking a hiatus from the sport – although she insisted she was not retiring. The wife of IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, Force turned over her high dollar Advance Auto Parts sponsorship to sister and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, who had previously been sponsored by Monster Energy. Courtney Force became the second high-profile female drag racer to step away from the sport in just over a year, joining fellow Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria, who went on hiatus after the 2017 season. This past October, DeJoria announced she would return to full-time NHRA competition in 2020. But as for Courtney, she remains on hiatus for at least the time being.

2. Torrence’s Texas two-step: Proud Texas native Steve Torrence won his second consecutive Top Fuel championship in 2019, winning nine races (including eight in a nine-race stretch). While Torrence enjoyed an outstanding season in 2018, winning 11 races and becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win all six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, he won just one playoff race in 2019. But he still managed to earn just enough points to hold off his closest rival, Doug Kalitta, by a mere three points for the second championship. Also of note: Steve’s father Billy finished a career-best fifth in the final standings, even though he competed in just 16 of the season’s 24 national events.

3. What happened to ‘The Sarge’? Tony Schumacher is the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history, with eight championships and 84 national event wins. But he was essentially AWOL in 2019, failing to compete in even one race. The reason: sponsorship. Or more precisely, lack thereof. The U.S. Army, which had sponsored Schumacher for nearly 20 years – which prompted him to adopt the colorful nickname of “The Sarge” pulled its funding after the 2018 season, leaving Schumacher without a fully-funded ride for 2019. Rather than try to race piecemeal from race to race with limited sponsorship, the son of team owner Don Schumacher decided to watch the season from the sidelines. How Schumacher could not attract a new big dollar sponsor, given his domination and success in the Top Fuel class, is almost unfathomable. Unfortunately, it’s looking like Schumacher – who turns 50 on Christmas Day – may remain sidelined in 2020.

John Force

4. A Force to be reckoned with once again: Even though he fell short of adding to his record 16 NHRA Funny Car championships, the 2019 season was definitely one of resurgence for John Force, the sport’s winningest and most popular driver ever. Force, who turned 70 years old in May, isn’t letting age slow him down, earning two wins during the season – including a milestone 150th Funny Car victory of his career – and finished fourth in the standings (up from ninth in 2018, seventh in 2017, and his best finish since he ended up fourth in 2016).

Robert Hight

5. At the Hight of his success: Robert Hight isn’t flashy or verbose as his boss, John Force. But when he’s not working as president of John Force Racing, the soft-spoken Hight has become one of the premier drivers in Funny Car history. In 2019, he earned his third Funny Car championship – his second in the last three seasons and third since 2009. Along the way, he captured six wins, was runner-up three other times, reached the semifinals five times and led all drivers as the No. 1 qualifier for eight races (a full one-third of the season). This was perhaps the most dominant championship of all for Hight, including leading the Funny Car standings for 23 of the 24-race season.

Erica Enders

6. Erica’s baaaaccckkkk: Erica Enders is back on top of her game, and on top of the Pro Stock category, earning her third championship in the last six seasons (and first since 2015). Admittedly, her championship came in the first year of a shortened Pro Stock schedule, having been cut from a full 24 races to just 18. Still, the Texas native won two races, finished runner-up three other times and reached the semifinals four other times. Also of note, Enders’ Elite Motorsports teammate, five-time Pro Stoc champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., came oh, so close to winning his sixth title, finishing just 21 points behind Enders in the final standings.

Doug Kalitta

7. What does he have to do to win first championship? Doug Kalitta came the closest he ever has to earning the first Top Fuel championship of his 20-year drag racing career, finishing just three points behind Steve Torrence in the Top Fuel rankings. It was almost heartbreaking as Kalitta seemingly did everything he needed to do to win the championship, including winning the season-ending race in Pomona, California, one of three wins he earned (as well as two runner-up finishes and six semifinal showings). Kalitta began the season with a win at Pomona, as well. But Torrence came into the season-ending event at Pomona with just enough of a lead (and reached the semifinals) to hold off Kalitta’s challenge. How close was Kalitta from winning the championship? If he had advanced one more round in any of the six playoff races, he would have bested Torrence. Unfortunately, in a sense, Kalitta – nephew of legendary NHRA team owner and racer Connie Kalitta – has become the Mark Martin of NHRA Top Fuel: always a bridesmaid but never a bride when it comes to winning a championship. But there’s still hope, Kalitta fans: he’s going to give it another try in 2020. Maybe that will be his year – finally.

Andrew Hines

8. He’s one heck of an easy rider: Andrew Hines made it look easy in 2019 – although it was far from it – when he earned his sixth career NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle championship (and first since 2015). Son of past PSM champion Byron Hines, Andrew Hines enjoyed one of the most dominating seasons ever of his career — not to mention one of the most dominating seasons in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category — winning eight of the 16 PSM events contested, along with earning two runner-up and three semifinal finishes. Hines held off 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie by 26 points and 2018 champ Matt Smith by 46 points.

JR Todd

9. What a difference a year makes: JR Todd had an exceptional season in 2018, with six wins, two runner-up finishes and six semifinal showings. Not surprisingly, the Indiana native went on to win the Funny Car championship that season for Kalitta Motorsports. But one year later, Todd was seemingly an afterthought when it came to challenging for the Funny Car crown once again. For as good as he was in 2018, Todd struggled through much of the 2019 season with just one win, three runner-up and two other semifinal finishes, ultimately finishing seventh in the standings, a distant 246 points behind series champ Robert Hight, who was second to Todd in 2018.

Austin Prock

10. Strong start for sport’s top rookie: When your father is renowned crew chief Jimmy Prock, it’s clear that the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Such is the case of Austin Prock, who finished his first season in Top Fuel by earning NHRA’s rookie of the year honors. The younger Prock finished eighth in the Top Fuel season standings, including one win and five semifinal finishes driving for John Force Racing. Ironically, he finished one spot higher than three-time Top Fuel champ Antron Brown, who had a rough season, finishing ninth in the standings, with no wins, two runner-up showings and reached the semifinals just five times.

Follow @JerryBonkowski