LOUDON, N.H. – There was another high-profile run-in between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, though Saturday’s incident at New Hampshire Motor Speedway seemed purely unintentional.
Bowyer was pulling his No. 15 Toyota into his stall near the midpoint of a one-hour practice when he ran into the right rear of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet, which was backing out of its stall.
It seemed as if one of Gordon’s team members had motioned for the Hendrick Motorsports driver to leave without being aware of Bowyer’s car approaching.
Bowyer’s car sustained minor damage and returned quickly to the track.
Gordon’s team spent the rest of the practice scrambling to fix the damage. Crew chief Alan Gustafson assisted in helping remove sections of the quarter panel and then welding a new part in place.
Sporting a right-rear quarter panel with gray primer that didn’t match his car’s colorful paint scheme, Gordon returned to start the final Sprint Cup practice at 12:30 p.m. He turned 35 laps and posted the 22nd-fastest speed.
“This whole weekend hasn’t gone well so far,” the four-time series champion said on NBCSN. “Hopefully, this hard work will pay off (Sunday).”
“Our team did an amazing job fixing it. It was quite a bit of damage. I love seeing my crew chief get in there and get dirty though not for that reason. But that practice went better, and we’re gaining on it.”
Bowyer also expressed regret about the incident and said it was partly attributable to drivers trying to stay focused on their job while also avoiding pedestrians.
“There’s so many people in (the garage),” he said. “Just a bad deal … the damndest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s a wonder it doesn’t happen more often.”
Contact between Bowyer and Gordon sparked one of the more memorable feuds in recent NASCAR history in the Nov. 11, 2012 race at Phoenix International Raceway. Gordon intentionally crashed Bowyer, retaliating for an earlier incident during the race and a wreck that cost him a win at Martinsville several months earlier.
The Phoenix crash effectively ended the championship hopes of Bowyer, who memorably sprinted from his car to Gordon’s hauler to confront his rival as a garage brawl erupted between their crews.