Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 4 – Jeff Gordon vs. Brad Keselowski at Texas

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source: AP
The post-race fracas at Texas Motor Speedway this past fall. Photo: AP.

MotorSportsTalk is counting down the top 20 stories of the 2014 NASCAR season over the month of December.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Today, we come to No. 4, and we’re sticking with Gordon for his most memorable moment of 2014 – his post-race fight with Brad Keselowski at Texas Motor Speedway…

As part of NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup format, three rounds of elimination were implemented at every third race in the 10-race stretch. Those were designed to cut a field of 16 drivers to four for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

By doing this, NASCAR created an intense, pressure-filled environment for the Chase drivers. Perhaps inevitably, the ability for some drivers and teams to control their emotions – already running high in the heat of a championship battle – went out the window.

It happened at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Contender Round. A post-race disagreement on the track between Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin also drew in Matt Kenseth, and it all led to Kenseth jumping Keselowski from behind between a pair of haulers before their crews separated them.

But three weeks later in the Eliminator Round at Texas Motor Speedway, that incident was topped after Keselowski drew the ire of one of the sport’s legends, Jeff Gordon.

A late restart saw Gordon and eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson up front with Keselowski behind them. As they made their way into Turn 1, Gordon went slightly wide and left an opening, which Keselowski quickly tried to fill.

Instead, Gordon and Keselowski made contact. Gordon quickly fell back and then spun in Turn 4 with a flat left rear tire. The tire failure relegated him to a 29th-place finish.

Holding Keselowski responsible for the tire issue, Gordon sought him out after the race on pit road. At first, it appeared it would be nothing more than Gordon letting loose a few expletives at Keselowski.

But then along came Kevin Harvick, who pushed Keselowski in the back and quickly drew away as Gordon grabbed a hold of Keselowski’s collar. The scene devolved into a massive scrum, with both Gordon and Keselowski sporting bloody lips when it finally cleared up.

“He’s just a dips***,” Gordon said of Keselowski afterwards. “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.”

As for Keselowski, he stated that he had no choice but to be aggressive on the track, especially after he had failed to make the 2013 Chase following his 2012 Cup championship run.

“That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it,” he said. “If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways. That’s okay by me.”

Ultimately, both Gordon and Keselowski were eliminated from the Chase at Phoenix, while Harvick won that race to make the Championship 4. At Homestead, he would win again to earn his first Cup title.

A few weeks after the season ended, Gordon mentioned that he had now started to ponder over the Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville.

He finished second in that event to Dale Earnhardt Jr., but had to overcome a pit road speeding penalty to do it. Without that penalty, Gordon may have won that race and gone on to Homestead to compete for his fifth crown.

But while he’s remembering that race, it’s likely that his Texas donnybrook with Keselowski will be remembered by many more people – and for a much longer time as well.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?