Martinsville, VA (Sports Network) -
Move over, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski (for the time being, anyway). After beating each other up in the closing laps of Monday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth are back in the spotlight of NASCAR's on-going rivalries.
The ending of the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville, delayed one day because of rain, turned out to be a wild one thanks in part to Gordon and Kenseth.
During a late-race caution for Jeff Burton's blown tire, leader Denny Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch surprisingly pitted, while everyone else remained on the track. Gordon then took over the top spot and led the way for the restart. He appeared to be on the way to his eighth victory at Martinsville, but just before the white flag was displayed, Busch got turned around and slammed into the wall. The last caution set up a green-white-checkered finish.
After the final restart, Kenseth moved up on Gordon's bumper and then dove underneath him in a attempt to take the lead as they exited the first turn.
"All I know is [Kenseth] was behind me," Gordon said. "I got hit and thrown up the racetrack. He was the first car to go by me. If that wasn't him that made contact with me, then I owe him an apology."
Jeff Gordon held on for a third-place finish at the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500.
Kenseth made the pass on Gordon heading into turn three, but Gordon shoved Kenseth up the track as he scraped the wall. While both drivers duked it out one-and-a-half laps from the finish, Hamlin slipped through to take the lead for good.
"We were gonna be side-by-side going into three and four, and the outside lane has actually been an advantage anyway, so it wasn't gonna be that big of a deal," Kenseth said. "Instead, he decided to run me down as low as he could, because he knew I'd wreck when I got to the corner. That's the way it turned out. It was a dumb move on my part.
"I should have just finished third and collected some points and got one of our best finishes at Martinsville, but I figured I'd go for the win, which, I guess in hindsight, was probably a mistake."
Hamlin was scheduled to have surgery on his torn ACL in his left knee on Monday. Instead, he capped off his day with a celebration in victory lane -- his third at NASCAR's oldest and shortest track.
Gordon held on for a third-place finish, while Kenseth wound up 18th.
"If somebody hits me, I'm going to hit them," Gordon said. "If he hit me, I'm glad I did what I did on the back straightaway. If a guy gives you a cheap shot like that, he doesn't deserve to win the race in my opinion."
Obviously, there was friction between Gordon and Kenseth at Martinsville, but not enough to spark any post-race fireworks on pit road, as was the case in their first altercation in March 2006 at Bristol. The two drivers ended up in a shoving match in the pits shortly after Kenseth wrecked Gordon on the last lap.
NASCAR slapped Gordon with a $10,000 fine and a five-month probation for his altercation with Kenseth at Bristol. It was Gordon's first penalty for a non- technical violation.
Later in the '06 season, both drivers clashed again at Chicagoland. Kenseth held the lead with seven laps remaining, but Gordon tapped Kenseth from behind and spun him around. Gordon went on to win at Chicagoland for the first time.
Gordon and Kenseth each admitted their issues from four years ago did not play a factor in their Martinsville tussle.
That may be true.
But when it comes to two former Cup champions who haven't won in a while, don't be surprised if another altercation between the two happens again, especially if they're in a battle for the win in the closing laps.