Well, it happened again, as (somewhat) predicted. And if they’re going to keep doing it, we’re going to keep writing about it. (I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re hoping for, anyway.)
At Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 in Fort Worth – the most recent race in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup – an on-track incident beget off-track mayhem. Brad Keselowski (whose racing antics also led to a fracas at the Bank of America 500) tried to split two other drivers late in the race at Fort Worth.
Unfortunately for Keselowski, there wasn’t room for him to do so and he collided with another car.
Unfortunately for Keselowski, the collision gave the other driver a flat tire.
Unfortunately for Keselowski, the other driver was Jeff Gordon, who likes himself some fisticuffs.
Gordon – who is still in contention in the Chase – did not take kindly to the bump and confronted Keselowski after the race. He initially seemed content to say his piece – albeit very loudly – but then he decided some physical contact was in order. With a little help from Kevin Harvick, the two drivers and their crews had an all-out scrum, and both emerged a little bloodier than they’d entered.
As we’ve said on this site before, the format of the Chase is liable to cause these kinds of incidents. With each race, crucial points (and drivers’ seasons) are on the line. However, even in this year’s format – which was structured to create even more drama than in years past – there is only one person whose driving is causing off-track altercations: Brad Keselowski. With only two more races in the Chase – one more in the Eliminator round and then the championship at Homestead – the odds aren’t great that this is going to happen again. But they’re not miniscule, either.
So, what are the odds of this happening again? And will it be Keselowski going for a three-peat?
Odds of two drivers getting into a post-race fight before the end of the current Sprint Cup Chase: 5/1
Explainer: The rationale is largely the same as last time: the Chase is structured to create hard racing, and each week drivers are racing for their lives, so to speak. (Though that phrase takes on a more literal denotation when Keselowski is involved.) The circumstances lead to drivers taking reckless chances, and it’s this recklessness that leads to confrontations in the garage. We are likely to see the same style of driving – if not worse – from Keselowski and his ilk in the next two races. Last time, we noted that NASCAR fights are still a rarity, on the whole. But, through eight races in the Chase, we’ve already had two fights. We think the current one-in-four ratio will grow with more races, but it’s evident that we haven’t seen the last of such confrontations. We put the odds at 5/1 that there is another melee in the next two races.
Odds of Brad Keselowski’s driving leading to another post-race fracas: 15/2
Explainer: While Keselowski has likely gotten the message that other drivers do not care for his style of racing, he was utterly unapologetic after the incident in Texas. With a bloody lip, he defiantly stated that he was “just racing for the win”. (His owner, Roger Penske, has also backed his racing style, saying the other drivers are jealous.) Don’t expect Kes to change his tactics one whit. Indeed, Keselowski may only feel vindicated if his racing-style nets him the championship; since he still has some work to do to get into the top four and move on to Homestead, we could see even riskier driving from Kes. Don’t expect other drivers to acquiesce, either. Just because Keselowski has been attacked twice in the last month does not mean another driver won’t go after him. If anything, it’s becoming a hobby of theirs. We think there’s about a two-thirds chance that, if there is another brawl, Keselowski is the cause. Overall, we put the odds at 15/2.
If someone does go after Keselowski, who is it most likely to be?
Jeff Gordon – 5/1
Kevin Harvick – 6/1
Carl Edwards – 8/1
Explainer: Odds are it will be someone who is still in contention but not at the very top. That means Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, and Matt Kenseth are prime suspects. While Gordon may have gotten some licks in last week, he emerged visibly angry and frustrated. And we all know his history of off-track incidents. The hot-blooded superstar will not worry about sullying his reputation with another scrap. If anyone – in particular Keselowski – gets in Gordon’s grill in the next two races, we expect a similar response.
Kevin Harvick played instigator last week and may feel like he has something to prove. In fact, he told Keselowski he should face up to Gordon for what he did. Harvick knows that the racing public heard his words and may feel like a hypocrite if he’s in an on-track incident and doesn’t throw down. Also, as every news outlet has mentioned, Harvick’s company manages several UFC fighters. That’s got to count for something, right?
Carl Edwards has stayed out of the fray, so far. But, back in 2011, everyone witnessed his volatile temper first hand back when he confronted Matt Kenseth in the middle of a television interview. No real punches were thrown in that confrontation, but there was some shoving and, apparently, a fake punch from Edwards. He’s currently sixth in the Chase standings and, if Keselowski (or anyone else) does something to keep him out of the top four heading into Homestead, we would not be surprised to see Cousin Carl go off.
(Photo credit: The National Guard (Flickr: National Guard Bureau) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped from its original.)