Saturday Notebook: Jeff Gordon hasn't forgotten three-wide debacle at Martinsville
By: By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service, Superior Telegram
MARTINSVILLE, Va.—With all the talk about controversy between Joey Logano and Tony Stewart — not to mention between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin — the incident that lit the fuse between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon has been shoved into the background.
Bowyer's ill-fated three-wide move last spring at Martinsville Speedway, which wrecked Bowyer, Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, was the catalyst for Gordon's revenge at Phoenix in the next-to-last race of the season.
Gordon had led 329 laps at the .526-mile short track before Bowyer's dive-bomb move on a late restart. Though the resulting wreck may be on the back burner this week in light of more recent rivalries, Gordon recalls that it simmered throughout the 2012 season.
After contact between the Gordon and Bowyer cars at Phoenix ruined Gordon's day, the feud ignited, and Gordon retaliated by wrecking Bowyer in the Turn 4, ending Bowyer's run at a possible NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
"Well, yeah, he wrecked us," Gordon said of the Martinsville restart. "So, whether it was intentional or not, it's still something that was in the back of my mind. You could say it set the stage. But for me, it's an accumulation of things, sort of like a three-strikes-and-you're-out deal. And we just made contact too many times last year.
"But listen, he was racing hard. The thing that bothered me so much about it last year is that I really don't know if we were going to win that race, because we were sitting ducks on old tires. He had it won — really, I think, pretty easily. But to try and make that move going into Turn 1 was very impatient, and it really cost him as much as it cost me.
"All he had to do was wait until we got off of Turn 2 and he probably would have driven by all of us down the back straightaway. So, certainly that's not forgotten. But it's nice to know that some of that attention is off of us. We'll just go race hard like we have every other weekend."
HIGHER PROFILE FOR A PIONEER
Frank Scott, son of racing pioneer Wendell Scott, hopes the recognition his father received Friday in Danville, Va., will help in the push to add the only African-America driver to win a race in NASCAR's highest classification to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Friday was Wendell Scott Day in Danville, where the ceremony included Scott's restored No. 11 dirt modified car (as opposed to his customary No. 34 stock car) and the unveiling of a historical highway marker commemorating Scott's 1965 win in Jacksonville, Fla. Scott's wife Mary attended the ceremony with her children.
Scott, who posted 147 top-10 finishes in 495 career starts, was nominated to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year but not inducted.
"As I reflect back, my mind goes to my mother," Frank Scott said Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. "The fact that she was there to witness all of this ... when the songs were being sung, she was singing along, clapping her hands, and that's what's important to us as her children.
"Hopefully, yesterday's occasion will give more of a drive to get my father inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Hopefully, as more attention is given to his legacy, the things that he's done to promote community relations throughout the South — and even throughout the country — people will realize that he deserves that. And we hope that my mother will be there for that occasion as well."
As NASCAR Sprint Cup practice progressed on Saturday, Mark Martin was working hard to find a happy medium for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota he'll drive in Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500 as a substitute for injured Denny Hamlin.
Martin started out Friday with Hamlin's baseline setup, and it wasn't to his liking. Unable to overcome a tendency for the car to drag the race track, Martin qualified 35th Friday afternoon.
"So far, I haven't really gotten comfortable yet," Martin said on Friday. "It's pretty different, and the way Denny runs here is quite different than my style. We'll have a lot more time [Saturday]. We're working on getting it to feel like I need it to feel...
"We just drug the race track so bad. At the start of practice, the front drug the race track so bad it was unbelievable. We've got to get that better."
Toward that end, Martin and crew chief Darian Grubb made progress on Saturday. In the final session, the dragging problem ameliorated, and Martin liked the way the car was turning through the corners.
Regardless, winning the race in Hamlin's stead will be a tall order. In 128 Cup races at Martinsville, only one driver has won from a starting position outside the top 24. Kurt Busch accomplished the feat in 2002 from the 36th spot.
As if Joey Logano needed more drama... Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet ran into the back of Logano's Ford, which had gotten loose and slowed in front of the five-time champion late in final practice. (And, no, Logano wasn't blocking.) Both cars went to the garage with cosmetic damage, but both returned to the track shortly thereafter, seemingly none the worse for the contact. ...
Clint Bowyer led both practice sessions on Saturday, running his fastest lap of the day (97.018 mph) in Happy Hour. Kyle Busch was second quickest in Saturday's first session, and Johnson ran the second fastest lap in Happy Hour after returning from the contact with Logano.