There was another fight involving Brad Keselowski, who this time infuriated Jeff Gordon -- with an assist from Kevin Harvick. It triggered one of the bigger melees in recent NASCAR history. Furthermore, the surprising, and some would say unfair, exit of Gordon from the Chase for the Sprint Cup has again caused the email inbox to fill up.
Your column on blaming Jeff Gordon was moronic. He didn't do anything but walk over to talk to "Bad Brad." Jeff was nothing but an innocent victim of someone who tried bullying their way to the front. He should have been mad! It's only too bad Jeff didn't punch him in his face like he deserved.
Completely agree Gordon had every right to be upset, especially considering the circumstances and what was at stake. The flat tire, subsequent spin and resulting 29th-place finish were the very reasons Gordon isn't competing for a fifth championship Sunday.
But while Gordon isn't to blame for what happened on the track, he deserves some culpability for what happened on pit road. Radio communications lay out Gordon's motives fairly clearly, with him telling his team, "I'm going to beat the shit out of (Keselowski)." Attempting to follow through on that vow, Gordon then proceeded to stop alongside the No. 2 car, thus making it all but inevitable something would occur.
Bottom-line, if Gordon doesn't walk over to Keselowski with bad intentions the whole fight would've never gone down. Again, that's not saying Gordon wasn't justified in being irate, just that he played a pivotal role in what transpired.
Wasn't Kevin Harvick really to blame for the fight? If he hadn't pushed Brad, who was walking away, nothing would have happened. So why wasn't he punished?
Good question. Although Harvick played the role of instigator, to use a hockey term, what he didn't do was throw a punch. And because all he did was shove and not strike Keselowski, Harvick escaped a fine.
As was stated in the last mailbag, it's the same justification NASCAR used when determining whether Matt Kenseth deserved a penalty. While he may have jumped Keselowski from behind and placed him in a headlock, what Kenseth did not do was use fisticuffs.
Even though it may seem like a bit of semantics, at least NASCAR is trying to be somewhat consistent in how it doles out penalties. That's something that couldn't always be said previously.
Sure looked like JG threw punch to Keselowski's face then slinked away. Your thoughts?
Undoubtedly Gordon reached for Keselowski and may have in fact grabbed him around the neck. But as far as Gordon throwing a punch, there is no decisive evidence to show he did.
The most fascinating thing isn't whether Gordon hit Keselowski, but how those two emerged with cuts to their faces. Keselowski's bloody lip was more than likely a result of the Kasey Kahne crewmember who slugged him a couple of times.
As for Gordon, who knows? Did Keselowski hit Gordon? Was it a Team Penske crew guy who got to Gordon? Something occurred, but the video is inconclusive as to what exactly.
Now that the fight business is cleared up, let's move ahead to the other hot-button in NASCAR ...
NASCAR's Chase format is stupid. Gordon, Keselowski and even Jimmie Johnson all have more wins than two of the guys (Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman) in the final four. This proves the Chase doesn't work and it's time to go back to the old season-long format.
Sorry Gerry, but NASCAR isn't going to restore its previous method of determining its champion. Not with television ratings on the rise the past couple of weeks and all the excitement and intensity generated by the new system.
Although the old format (pre-2004) may have been a fairer and more accurate gauge of who was best over the entirety of a season, it too often failed to produce exciting championship battles. In the 10 years preceding the implementation of the Chase (1994-2003), not once did a driver who wasn't leading the points entering the final race of the year jump up and grab the championship.
And that lack of drama is not conducive when competing against the NFL for television ratings and advertiser dollars. You need to give people a reason to tune in weekly, especially in the fall. The best way to do so is by crafting a system in which drivers have more incentive to race for wins rather than points, with the championship in doubt until the very end.
Is that gimmicky? Of course. Then again, so are all playoffs in every other sport, as they lessen the importance of the regular season. At least NASCAR recognized this and gave drivers a reason to compete hard during the regular season by granting them a guaranteed Chase berth.
I don't like the Chase, but I accept that it's not going away. My issue is that there should be more reward for winning a Chase race. He may be an ass, but Brad Keselowski won two Chase races and he shouldn't be penalized for one bad race.
The same applies to Gordon (he's not an ass, I like him). Gordon finished second at Martinsville and Phoenix, yet because doofus Brad crashes him, Gordon can't win the championship. That's not fair.
What you touched on, Mara, has been expressed by others. And if NASCAR were to tweak the current Chase format it would likely involve some kind of bonus points being issued for winning a playoff race that would carry over to the next round.
For example, because Keselowski won at Talladega in Round 2, perhaps he could get three points applied to his total in the next round. Basically, the same way NASCAR rewards drivers for winning multiple races during the regular season.
However, there doesn't seem to be much groundswell for this revision. Almost universally, drivers have praised the new format, in which the standings are leveled out every three races. It ratchets up the intensity and the need to perform with each passing race.
Plus, after such a sweeping overhaul this past offseason, NASCAR is going to be reluctant to introduce more changes anytime soon. Officials are going to be more inclined to see the new format play out over a couple of years before rolling out tweaks.