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Emotions Run High At HMS Press Conference

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 16 2012

Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon put some perspective on last weekend's events at Phoenix International Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – There was plenty of drama in a packed media center at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday afternoon as Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports team owner Rick Hendrick discussed the four-time Sprint Cup champion’s retaliation against Clint Bowyer at the conclusion of last week’s race in Phoenix.

Gordon, who said he still hasn’t talked to Bowyer since the two were called into the NASCAR hauler following the incident, offered his side of the story but fell short of apologizing.

“Last week, the thing that I regret is that I allowed my anger and emotions to put me into a position to make a bad choice,” Gordon said. “I felt that Clint needed to be dealt with, but that wasn’t the right time. And I hate that other guys (Joey Logano and Aric Almirola) were involved in it.

“I look back and wish I had done it differently. “

Gordon’s beef with Bowyer goes back to Martinsville in April, when the driver of the No. 15 Toyota took out Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson as they battled for the lead coming to the white flag.

Hendrick became emotional on Friday when recalling the end of the race in Martinsville. A win by Gordon or Johnson would have been the organization’s 200th in NASCAR.

The milestone victory would have come at the site of the plane crash which claimed the life of several Hendrick Motorsports employees, including Hendrick’s son, Ricky Hendrick.

And with a key employee from Gordon’s longtime sponsor DuPont and Hendrick’s sister-in-law on hand that afternoon for the first time since the plane crash, it was a lot for the long-time team owner to swallow that day.

“(The win) was taken away from us,” Hendrick said. “Both of our cars were wrecked on the next-to-last lap, and it was by (Bowyer). You didn’t see our guys go down there and fight in the pits.

“I have never hurt as bad in my life leaving the race track as I did that day. It took me a week or so to get over it, just because we had it in our grasp.

“I think that situation, along with some other things that happened along the way, you don’t forget it.”

Gordon said he did speak with Logano this week on the phone. Logano was swept up in the Bowyer-Gordon feud while running fifth.

“It didn’t go very well,” Gordon said of his chat with Logano.

“Joey getting caught up in that day, I’m sorry about that. And I want to make it up to him.”

If Brad Keselowski is able to fend off Johnson and win the Sprint Cup on Sunday, it will be the first Cup title for Penske Racing and team owner Roger Penske.

Penske, who is best known for his success in Indy Car Racing, was asked on Friday if he’d be willing to swap a win in next spring’s Indianapolis 500 for a NASCAR Cup title.

“That’s a hard one,” Penske said following a pause. “Obviously this comes first, and something that we’ve never achieved as a company, as a team and to me that’s the most important thing I have to deal with right now is Sunday afternoon’s race here at Homestead.

“I’ll answer the question about Indianapolis after Sunday.”

NASCAR confirmed on Friday that the Camping World Truck Series will venture north of the border next season.

The trucks will race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Labor Day weekend.

NASCAR has yet to release the complete 2013 truck series schedule. But the rumor mill heated up again this week that the series will visit Eldora Speedway, a dirt track in Ohio owned by defending Cup champion Tony Stewart.

During his media availability on Friday, Stewart didn’t deny the rumors when asked about the topic.

“When we have something to say we will tell you guys,” Stewart said. “It’s starting to get annoying every week. It’s like we don’t even know answers and you guys want answers that we don’t even have answers to.

“When we have answers we will come to you guys I promise we will not let you be left out of this.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, November 16 2012