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.

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen finish 1-2 at High Point, tie for points lead

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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Time was running off the clock and Eli Tomac was going to give up the overall win to Ken Roczen, until the Colorado native dug deep and made the pass for second in Moto 2 at High Point Raceway at Mount Morris, Penn. Roczen would win his third Moto of the season, but Tomac won the war.

With a third-place finish in Moto 1 and his second in Moto 2, Tomac grabbed the overall victory for the second time this season in Round 4 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship.

For Tomac, it was another difficult start to the race. He tipped his bike over in Moto 1 and fell back to fifth while battling two seconds behind the leader Blake Baggett. Tomac had to battle his way back toward the front again after barely cracking the top five in the first Motos in two of the first three rounds.

Roczen fared even worse in Moto 1. He finished sixth in that race – more than 34 seconds behind the leader Baggett. Determined to make up for his bad start, Roczen charged through the field in Moto 2 and took the lead from Cooper Webb on Lap 9.

“I was just going to charge,” Roczen told NBC Sports after his Moto win. “Do the best I can. I went back to my Colorado (last week) settings because the first race was awful; I couldn’t even ride.”

Tomac entered the round two points behind Roczen and was able to make up only those two points. The battle continues onto Florida next week with a tie for the top spot.

With a 2-5, Jason Anderson grabbed third overall.

Battling back from injury, Anderson faded in the closing laps of Moto 2, but is regaining strength each week.

Webb (third) and Zach Osborne (fourth) rounded out the top five in Moto 2 and finished fourth and fifth respectively overall.

Moto 1 featured a rider searching for his first Moto win in two years. Baggett earned the holeshot and held off an early advantage by Tomac. When Tomac fell, it handed second to Anderson, who finished nearly 10 seconds behind the leader.

“Every time I get out front here, I have that weird sensation of trying to keep it on two wheels,” Baggett said on NBC Sports Gold following his win.

Tomac was not the only rider to go down in Moto 1. Webb lost his pegs on Lap 9 and became the cape to his KTM motorcycle as he flew along holding tight to the handlebars. He recovered in that race to finish seventh.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

Adam Cianciarulo remains perfect in the 250 class. Winning Moto 2 in each round so far this season, Cianciarulo has capitalized on his late event surges to sweep Victory Lane in the first four weeks.

It wasn’t an easy run for Cianciarulo, nonetheless. He was only fifth at the end of Lap 1 in Moto 1 and was forced to slice through the field to get to second at the checkers of that race.

“Just coming to the races now – coming to outdoor nationals now – compared to the past, it’s just an entirely different vibe,” Cianciarulo said on NBCSN after the race. “It’s like I’m experiencing it for the first time because for the first time in my whole pro career I believe in myself.

“It’s a process when you hit rock bottom and start coming back.”

Hunter Lawrence stole the show in Moto 1. Earning his first career win handily, he came out in Moto 2 and proved it was not a fluke by finishing third in the race and taking second overall.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence said on NBC Sports Gold following his Moto 1 victory. “It’s just a Moto win, but it’s a big milestone in our trip and campaign.”

Chase Sexton earned the holeshot in Moto 1, but faded to fourth at the end. Sexton kept Cianciarulo in sight in the back half of Moto 2 to finish second in the race and third overall.

With a 3-4, Dylan Ferrandis finished fourth overall with Colt Nichols (5-5) finishing fifth.

After losing the overall at Thunder Valley amidst controversy, Justin Cooper wanted to make a statement. He barely raised his voice with a sixth in Moto 1 and a ninth in Moto 2 to finish ninth overall.  He lost another 20 points to the points leader as Cianciarulo starts to edge away from the pack. Cooper remains second in the points, but is now 26 back.

Garrett Marchbanks went down hard on Lap 4 of Moto 1 and had the bike land on his head. He did not start Moto 2, but there have been no report of injury yet.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[4] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II)
[3] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)

250MX
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[1] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I)

Next race: WW Ranch Motocross Park, Jacksonville, Fla. June 22

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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