It's a moment Jeff Gordon admits he's not proud of and still has mixed emotions about. There are times when he relives what happened and wants to take back his actions. At other times he understands why he acted the way he did.
The moment in question happened a year ago this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway when under caution Gordon deliberately wrecked Clint Bowyer, destroying the No. 15 car and ending whatever faint chance Bowyer had of winning the championship. In the immediate aftermath, a near full-scale brawl erupted between the two teams, memorably including Bowyer sprinting from his car on pit road to join the fracas.
"I still relive that moment, I was not proud of it," Gordon said Tuesday. "At times I wanted to take it back; at times I understood why it happened."
NASCAR fined Gordon $100,000 and docked him 25 points.
Gordon maintained then -- and now to some degree -- that he was justified in his actions. He was merely retaliating against a driver who earlier that day had driven into the side of his No. 24 Chevrolet causing a flat tire. And Bowyer had also caused an incident earlier in the 2012 season at Martinsville Speedway, eliminating both Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson, who were poised to battle for the win, a victory which would have been the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports.
Not surprisingly, the relationship between the two principals has been forever changed. Hard feelings were forged on both sides, particularly Bowyer. And while the two have interacted cordially since, neither would describe the other as a friend.
"It's affected our friendship, for sure," Gordon said. "I like Clint; he's a funny guy, a fun guy to hang out with. So we're not doing much hanging out these days.
"I don't think it will ever be quite like it was. We've spoke since and laughed about a few things so I'm not saying we won't ever have a couple of beers together."
The two have not had a run-in since, which led Gordon to joke, "He hasn't run into me. That's been a positive." Bowyer, however, doesn't seem to be over things and still drops subtle hints that he may one day extract retribution.
"There are consequences that happen with everything," Bowyer said last week. "And you can't make a decision or a move that isn't going to come back to haunt you."
And as if either Gordon or Bowyer needed another reminder about what transpired a year ago, in a twist of fate their haulers will be parked side-by-side this weekend in the Phoenix garage because the two are sixth and seventh in points, respectively.
But Gordon says he's over what happened; of course, lest something were to trigger his memory.
"Only if we come off of Turn 2 and he nails me in the left rear," Gordon said. "Then, there's going to be some flashback."