The gloves are off for those drivers and teams that remain in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
That was quite obvious in Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Jeff Gordon and rad Keselowski were involved in one of the most memorable brawls in NASCAR's history.
Texas was the second race in the Eliminator Round of the Chase. Eight drivers are currently in he playoff field, but after next Sunday's event at Phoenix International Raceway, the field will be trimmed to just four drivers who will battle for the Sprint Cup Series championship on Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. This year, NASCAR radically changed its format for the Chase, which included an expanded field of 16 drivers and a series of elimination rounds.
In the next chapter of NASCAR's "Boys, Have At It," mayhem broke out on pit road after the race had concluded at Texas. While Jimmie Johnson was heading to victory lane, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Gordon, parked his car right next to Keselowski on pit road and then approached him to express his displeasure for an incident that occurred in the closing laps.
Gordon, who is attempting to win his fifth series title this year, held the lead for the restart in the first of two green-white-checkered finishes, but Keselowski bumped into him while battling for position following the restart. Gordon suffered a flat tire from the contact and then spun out in turn 3. He ended up finishing one lap down in 29th, while Keselowski placed third.
At first, Gordon had heated words with Keselowski while crew members from both of their teams were engaged in a shoving match. Then second-place finisher Kevin Harvick approached Keselowski from behind and pushed him. That sparked the big brawl with plenty of punches being thrown.
Harvick also was irritated with Keselowski for his actions on the track.
Both Gordon and Keselowski suffered cuts and bruises to their faces and lips during the altercation.
NASCAR is reviewing the incident, and penalties could be forthcoming. NASCAR senior vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton said the sanctioning body will look at the film of the fight and determine what, if any, actions will be taken.
This is the second time in this 10-race Chase that Keselowski has been in a physical altercation with another competitor.
Just 18 points separate the eight drivers who are still in the Chase. With none of them winning at either Martinsville or Texas, all four positions for the championship race at Homestead have yet to be determined.