Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton got into a physical confrontation in the aftermath of an on-track incident at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The four-time champion finished his race hard against the Turn 2 wall at the Fort Worth track on lap 191, after getting hit from behind by Richard Childress Racing's Burton when the pair were running inside the top 20 and just after the seventh caution of the day had waved for an incident involving Martin Truex Jr.
Gordon got out of his stricken No. 24 Chevy, and slowly walked toward Burton, who seemed to be waiting to talk to him. However, Gordon shoved the RCR driver and then grabbed him until officials intervened to split the pair, avoiding further physical contact between them.
Both were then driven back to the track's infield care center in the same ambulance for compulsory medical checks, Gordon later saying later that he did not like having to listen to his rival attempting to explain what led to their crash, as he tried to regain his composure while still fuming over the incident.
"I was walking toward him and I started going through all the scenarios in my mind," said Gordon. "Thankfully, I had a long walk down there to him because I thought about the least amount that I wanted to do. I wanted to show him how upset I was but I wanted to do a whole lot more than that.
"But I held back and I'm just still in disbelief; I didn't want to be in the ambulance with him, I can tell you that. But we got in there. I like Jeff. He's a guy that's usually very rational and I respect his opinion. He apologized and said it was his fault. He said he didn't mean to do it and whatever. It's over."
The Hendrick driver showed his anger at Burton as he believes the incident was intentional, arising from an incident earlier in the race while battling for position. He says he has lost some respect for one of the drivers he least expected to have such an incident with.
"We went down into [Turn] 3. He went wide going in. I got to the inside of him and there were four car-widths between us and he drove from the wall all the way down to me; almost in the second groove up," said Gordon. "I didn't understand why and so the caution came out and we went down into [Turn] 1 and I just drove up next to him. I didn't even touch him. I don't know... I guess he was just really frustrated with the way his car was handling or something and he just drove into my right rear and put me in the wall under caution.
"Of all the people out there, I never thought that would happen to Jeff Burton and me. I've always has a tremendous amount of respect for him. But I certainly lost a lot of respect today."
Burton took full blame for the incident but failed to clearly explain why he ended up driving into the back of Gordon which put both of their cars into the wall and out of contention.
While Gordon was unable to rejoin, Burton's crew was able to repair his car, allowing him to complete a few more laps in the closing stages of the race.
"I went to pull up next to him to acknowledge him, to say he was right and I turned left and he was turning left and we just hung up," said Burton. "When we hung, off we went. I honestly don't know what happened. It was my fault. 100 percent it was my fault.
"It was like once we got together, I couldn't get off him. I didn't mean to hit him. I meant to pull up to him and tell him he was right because he was upset with me for what happened off Turn 4. I should have let him go.
"You can't see off there right but you can't see over there right now. You don't need to be side by side. I don't blame him for being mad. I'd have been mad too."
The RCR veteran also said he understood Gordon's reactions and his physical aggression after the incident.
"He didn't do anything that he shouldn't have done. He was upset and he should have been upset," said Burton. "I wrecked him under caution. I didn't mean to wreck him but I wrecked him under caution. He meant to tell me he was upset and that was OK. I don't have a bit of problem with what he did. He was mad. He should have been mad."
While Gordon, who was already all but out of contention for the title, dropped two places in the standings down to sixth, Burton is now last among the Chase contenders with two races left in the championship.
Despite the nature of the incident, which caused a stir in the grandstands at Texas Motor Speedway, no penalties are expected to be levied against either driver.
Once Gordon was out of the race, his pit crew went to service Jimmie Johnson's car for the rest of the event, as the reigning champion's team had been struggling with poor pit stops for most of the afternoon.