I was completely captivated by the action at Texas Motor Speedway where Jimmie Johnson won, but the real winners were us viewers as another classic brawl ensued after the race.
Three weeks ago at Charlotte, Matt Kenseth, who had never raged against another driver during his 15-year career, put Brad Keselowski in a headlock inciting a good old fashioned brawl between the two teams.
On Sunday, Jeff Gordon was leading in the final laps and on a restart, Keselowski took advantage of an opening and started to make a move on Gordon. When Gordon – who was leading in Chase points at the time – tried to close that window and rubbed up against Keselowski’s car, Gordon cut a tire, spun out and finished 29th.
Keselowski would finish third and when heading into the garages after the race, the normally reserved Gordon stopped his car right next to Keselowski’s on pit road, quickly hopped out, took his helmet off and charged toward Keselowski where the crews separated the two from getting too close.
Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick who finished second, was standing right behind Keselowski waiting for something to unfold. When it looked like nothing was going to happen, Harvick played the role of instigator and shoved Keselowski into the crowd and then the fireworks really began with several punches thrown. Both Keselowski and Gordon had scratches and bloody lips.
This is better than a WWF storyline with Harvick playing the role of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan doing a dastardly deed when the referee had his head turned. The intensity of the Chase is everything NASCAR and its fans had hoped for. It’s “real” reality TV at its best and these next two final weeks are going to be barn-burners.
With non-Chase drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson winning the first two races of the Eliminator Round, it puts an added premium on points as we head to the third and final race of the round at Phoenix on Sunday.
At least three drivers will advance on points to the Sprint Cup Championship race at Homsestead in two weeks, and possibly four if another non-Chase driver wins Sunday.
All eight eligible drivers heading into Phoenix are within 18-points of each other with eighth-place Kevin Harvick only six-points behind Jeff Gordon for the fourth position. With all the wide ranging possibilities of who will advance, and then figuring who among those might fare the best at Homestead to win the Sprint Cup, you can imagine how difficult making the odds to win it all might be.
Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted adjusted numbers on Monday morning with Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon as the 7-to-2 co-favorites followed by Denny Hamlin (9/2), Kevin Harvick (5/1), Ryan Newman (6/1).
If the low odds on Harvick look strange considering he’s currently last in points, think again, because they might actually be too high based on being one of the best on the circuit at Phoenix where he’s won the past two events and three of the past four. In 23 career starts at Phoenix he’s led 714 laps, averaged an 11.8 finish and collected five wins.
No one else in the Chase has more than two career wins at Phoenix.
Then, if he somehow manages to advance to Homestead by winning or accumulating enough points at Phoenix, he’s going to be favored at Homestead because of his dominant nature this season on 1.5-mile tracks.
It may seem like a long shot, but of all the drivers still alive, there probably isn’t a driver more equipped to win at both Phoenix and Homestead.
Bad boy Keselowski is set at 10-to-1 odds and while he’s never won at Phoenix, he does have wins this season on similar flat tracks such as Richmond and New Hampshire and if he is able to advance his way into Homestead, he’ll be considered one of the favorites there as his three wins on 1.5-mile tracks this season have earned him that right.
The only problem with Keselowski is possible retaliation. He’s not making too many friends lately and Gordon might do all he can to eliminate Brad if Jeff’s Phoenix run doesn’t go well.
So not only does Keselowski have to try and win at a track he’s never won at, try to grab as many points as possible and while hoping others have issues, but he’s also got a target on his back.
Odds at 10-to-1 on Keselowski may sound attractive, but in this new era of the Chase, which has struck nerves of normally reserved gentlemen like Gordon and Kenseth, there are new factors of retaliation to consider with the mentality of “If I can’t win it, then I’ll make darn sure the No. 2 doesn’t too.”
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].