Longtime NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon entered Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with a strong car and a good chance of taking the checkered flag. Things fell apart for the former racing champ, however, when Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked him on lap 363.
The accident, which generated the race’s fifth caution, happened when Earnhardt’s number 88 got too close to Gordon’s 24 on the backstretch. The pipes on the rear right of Earnhardt’s racecar punctured Gordon’s left tire, which sent the 24 spinning into the wall, effectively eliminating Gordon from contention.
Post-wreck, are the two teammates at odds? Fortunately for Hendrick, it doesn’t look like it. Earnhardt almost immediately expressed regret following the incident, and Gordon acknowledged that he knew “it wasn’t intentional” during a chat with a FOX reporter. Still, he was obviously disappointed to see his car headed to the garage, and his hopes of avenging a frustrating loss at Bristol last August dashed.
Wrecks are part of the game for drivers, but it’s frustrating to see teammates taking each other out, intentionality aside. If a driver knows that a teammate is running nearby, it behooves him to exercise an extra dose of caution, perhaps by taking a lower or higher track position in order to steer clear. Sacrificing position is something that simply needs to be done sometimes to maintain harmony between drivers.
Entering Bristol, Gordon trailed NASCAR Sprint Cup series leader Greg Biffle by 50 points, while Earnhardt Jr was just 18 points behind.