Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had the Thrilla in Manilla. Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer had the Phalanx in Phoenix last November.
The two drivers had gone through the entire season butting heads—or bumpers—numerous times. But it all came to a head in the closing laps when Gordon decided he'd had his season's fill, intentionally wrecking Bowyer.
Bowyer started things by having contact with Gordon late in the race, pretty much ending the latter's chance for a top-10 finish in the race. And given that his championship chances were out the window as well at that point, Gordon decided to intentionally wreck Bowyer (also inadvertently wrecked Joey Logano and Aric Almirola in the process).
In so doing, Gordon essentially ended Bowyer's bid for the Sprint Cup championship. As a result, crew members from both teams engaged in a near-riot on pit road that went on for several minutes, even with the best efforts of NASCAR officials and sheriff's deputies to try and stop it.
And then, when things had finally calmed down, Bowyer came trotting along, attempting to find Gordon in his hauler, only to be restrained. Gordon was fined $100,000.
Interestingly enough, in the following race, the season finale at Homestead, both drivers raced each other clean. Gordon won the race and Bowyer finished second.
But even more telling, Bowyer also ultimately finished second to Brad Keselowski in the Sprint Cup championship, losing a bid at the title by a mere 39 points.
Had Phoenix not happened, it's likely Keselowski's championship-deciding margin would have been a lot smaller...or maybe Bowyer may have wound up winning the crown.
We'll never know, obviously, but something tells me if the roles are reversed somewhere down the road and Gordon is on the verge of winning a fifth career Cup championship, he better keep a watchful eye in his rear-view mirror for Bowyer, just in case.
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