NASCAR: Will Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer's Feud Last Through the 2013 Season?

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NASCAR: Will Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer's Feud Last Through the 2013 Season?
Tyler Barrick/Getty Images

Given their season-long feud, it's a fairly safe assumption that Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer didn't exchange Christmas cards or holiday wishes in 2012.

Nor will they probably ever become BFFs.

BEFs—Bitter Enemies Forever—might be more likely.

As we prepare for the start of the 2013 Sprint Cup season, memories—make that bitter memories—of the outright brawl between the Gordon and Bowyer camps in November at Phoenix remain fresh in the minds of many people, most notably the combatants themselves.

It was one of the ugliest scenes that NASCAR has seen in years, a black eye the sport didn't need.

Capping a season-long grudge match between the two, Bowyer forced Gordon into the wall. Moments later, Gordon retaliated and intentionally wrecked Bowyer, effectively ending any mathematical chance Bowyer had left to win the championship, sparking a resulting brawl between members of both drivers' teams along pit road.

It took NASCAR officials and even sheriff's deputies nearly 10 minutes to restore order and separate both sides.

Will the feud between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer continue in 2013?

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While Gordon and Bowyer managed to get through the next race, the season finale at Homestead, without incident—ironically finishing first (Gordon) and second (Bowyer)—one must wonder if their feud will pick up in 2013 where it left off in 2012.

Let's hope not.

The last thing NASCAR needs is negative exposure if Bowyer and Gordon get back at it. That is particularly important during a season that has a lot at stake, including the performance of the new and much-touted Generation 6 car, the full-time Sprint Cup debut of Danica Patrick and NASCAR's efforts to both attract new fans as well as lure back former supporters.

Frankly, this could be the most important season the sport has had in a decade or more.

There's no question NASCAR drivers have memories like elephants. They rarely forget being wronged by a fellow driver. It may take a year or two or more, but revenge is almost always inevitable between drivers who feel they have a score to settle.

At the same time, NASCAR can bring about strange pairings. Back in 2008, after a similar long-simmering feud with fellow driver and team owner Michael Waltrip, Bowyer called Waltrip "the worst driver in NASCAR."

Less than four years later, Bowyer not only went to work for Waltrip, he almost gave Michael Waltrip Racing its first Sprint Cup title. And I won't be surprised to see Bowyer end 2013 as Cup champion. He's not just knocking on the door, he's ready to kick it down.

Last November's battle between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer (video courtesy of ESPN)

That's why, for the betterment of the sport, for MWR and particularly for Bowyer's championship hopes, he needs to forget about his longtime feud with Gordon and worry solely about winning the title.

I can understand if he's still ticked at Gordon, but if Bowyer lets the feud continue to hang over his head, it will invariably prove to be a distraction that could ultimately be the difference between a championship and finishing second again, just like in 2012.

Likewise, Gordon should do the same. His November win at Homestead—the 87th of his career—gave him and his fans renewed hope that even though his last title was in 2001, that he can still win a fifth career Cup championship before he retires.

I don't expect Bowyer and Gordon to kiss and make up, or that they'll simply let bygones be bygones. They are competitors too tough and too hardened to do either.

But on the eve of the new season, if both have lingering thoughts of getting back at each other, they'll likely be hurting only themselves in the long run.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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