Robby Gordon wins 'Road Rage' 300

Saturday, November 24, 2001

LOUDON, N.H. -- It's rare to see Jeff Gordon lose his cool on the track. It's even rarer to see Robby Gordon win a race.

Both happened Friday in NASCAR's season finale at New Hampshire International Speedway, a race rescheduled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The two Gordons, who are not related, exchanged a pair of bumps in the waning laps of the New Hampshire 300. Robby's allowed to get his first Winston Cup victory, while Jeff's retaliatory contact earned him a penalty that cost him any chance at victory.

When it was over, there were harsh words flying through the garage -- even from mild-mannered Jeff.

"He should be embarrassed to win like that," said Jeff, the series champion who led 257 of the 300 laps. "But hey, I understand why guys do that kind of stuff. I just wish I had taken his tire down or something so at least he wouldn't have won the race."

Robby, who was out of work for part of the season and blew two other opportunities to win this year, apologized for nothing.

"I didn't spin him, I just moved him a little bit up the race track and then I had to go," Robby said. "I've heard a lot of people over the years call that racing."

Rammed from behind

The clash began with 16 laps to go when leader Jeff Gordon appeared to slow his Chevrolet to avoid running into the lapped car of Mike Wallace. Robby rammed him from behind, turning Jeff sideways and into the back of Wallace.

As the yellow flag came out, Jeff raced around the track and slammed into the back of Robby in a retaliatory bump that drew a one-lap penalty from NASCAR.

"I ought to take him out right now!" Jeff screamed over the radio as he headed into the pits for his penalty.

But he didn't, leaving Robby alone on the track, where he held off second-place finisher Sterling Marlin on the restart to become NASCAR's 19th different winner this season.

It was easier than Robby expected it to be, in part because Jeff wasn't around to battle him.

"I didn't expect that from Jeff Gordon," Robby said. "I didn't wreck him and he had a car still good enough to win the race, but he took himself out when he hit me."

Jeff's Chevrolet suffered heavy-front end damage after the contact and the penalty eliminated him from contention. He wound up 15th.

But Jeff didn't know NASCAR would frown so heavily upon his revenge.

NASCAR president Mike Helton met privately with the eight drivers who could still exchange positions in the Top 10 of the standings before the race, warning them that aggressive actions on the track would be punished.

Because Jeff had wrapped up his fourth Winston Cup championship last week, he wasn't included in the meeting. So he had no warning that NASCAR would react so quickly after the contact.

"The first hit was a racing incident, the second one was a retaliation incident," NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. "Those get punished."

Robby did not receive a penalty, enabling the year to end with the late Dale Earnhardt's car owner getting a victory in a season that began with The Intimidator's death in the Daytona 500.

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