After an eventful NASCAR race at Phoenix International Raceway, here is a look at the weekend's winners and losers:
Roger Penske has been fielding NASCAR teams on and off since 1972. In that span, "The Captain" has picked up 76 checkered flags with seven different drivers, including Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace. Yet the one thing Penske has yet to do is win a Sprint Cup championship, with Wallace's runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt in 1993 being the closest he's come.
Now, though, with Brad Keselowski holding a commanding 20-point lead with just one race remaining, that elusive championship appears to be a mere formality. And if the expected evolves into reality, the man whose resumé includes 15 victories in the Indianapolis 500 and 12 open-wheel championships will become the first car owner to win titles in both IndyCar and NASCAR.
Barring something unforeseen, the championship fight between Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson is all but decided. This normally would mean that there would be minimal drama in the season-ender at Homestead. But thanks to Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, there will be plenty of storylines to dissect and talk about in the coming days: Will Gordon be suspended by NASCAR? And if he does race, will Bowyer try and retaliate Sunday?
Like it or not, yesterday's melee got people talking – something NASCAR desperately needs with television ratings trending downward.
And on top of the publicity Sunday's fracas generated, it also did something else: It created a smokescreen of sorts. Instead of the media glare focusing solely on NASCAR's inexcusable decision not to throw the yellow flag for Danica Patrick's late-race spin, the majority of the attention is now focused on Gordon and Bowyer.
For this, NASCAR comes out ahead in the end.
Judging from his comments Friday, it appeared Richard Childress was blindsided by Kevin Harvick's decision to sign with Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2014 season. But as Harvick's victory on Sunday proved, Richard Childress Racing is still an upper-tier organization, and a team which is capable of winning races regularly and contending for championships. And while Harvick is certainly an elite talent, he's not irreplaceable.
If RCR does what everyone thinks they will do and eventually signs Kurt Busch as Harvick's proxy, the team shouldn't miss a beat – especially with the talented Dillon brothers in the pipeline.
There is no excuse – none – for NASCAR not calling for a caution when Danica Patrick spun, hit the wall and subsequently dropped fluid all over the track. There was not one driver afterward who said they didn't see oil on the track. So how can officials who are supposed to put driver safety above all else not take the proper action to ensure the surface was suitable to race on?
When the smoke cleared and the carnage was cleaned up, it's evident NASCAR decided to swallow the whistle at the most inopportune time. As such, every sling and arrow that comes their way this week is more than justified. The only saving grace for NASCAR is that every driver involved in that last-lap wreck luckily walked away uninjured.
What was the worse move this past weekend: NASCAR not flipping on the caution lights or Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecking a competitor? For me, it's Gordon, who not only carried out one of the biggest no-no's in racing, but in doing so took out Aric Almirola and Joey Logano – two innocent bystanders.
What NASCAR needs to do is send a firm message that under no circumstances is it acceptable for a driver to use a 3,400-pound car as a weapon. In spite of his streak of 688 consecutive starts, Gordon needs to sit for a week. By doing so, the sanctioning body will send a loud message that no one is above the law and that if you deliberately wreck a fellow driver you can expect to have your weekend freed up.
And if Gordon didn't realize this was unacceptable, he should now.
This one is pretty self-explanatory, as Johnson's quest to win his sixth series title was dealt a significant blow when his right-front tire let go and he slammed the wall. Although he is still mathematically alive, everything is now out of his control no matter how he performs at Homestead. And even though the masses may not have wanted to see him win yet another championship, I think we can all agree that it's anticlimactic to see a very promising title fight all but end in this manner.