There was no immediate caution for Gordon's incident, and despite being shown a black flag ordering him into the pits he stayed out long enough to hunt down Bowyer in order to deliver some "Boys have at it" street justice. That went quite badly wrong for both, causing a huge wreck coming out of turn 4 on the penultimate lap of the race that wiped out both cars. With Bowyer in third place in the points standings and in line to pick up a place and move into second in the championship on the back of Johnson's earlier wreck, this was a piece of retaliation with major repercussions - and Bowyer and the Michael Waltrip Racing crew were incensed.
The developing brawl between the drivers on track was picked up by open warfare between the #15 and #24 crews on pit lane as proceedings disintegrated into a wild maelstrom of flying fists and general confusion as Bowyer's crew jumped on Gordon to dispense their own brand of retaliation after he climbed out of his wrecked car on pit road, while Bowyer himself sprinted the length of pit lane seeking to confront Gordon until he was restrained and held back from the mêlée by NASCAR officials.
"It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion - and what I consider one of the best the sport's ever seen - to act like that," raged Bowyer. "It's completely ridiculous."
He denied that he'd intentionally made contact with Gordon in the first place: "I get under him and he comes back, and I literally just barely rubbed him," Bowyer insisted. "And then all of the sudden I feel him trying to retaliate. I don't know if he missed and hit the wall, but he made himself look like a fool.
"That was my opportunity to get myself back into the championship hunt," Bowyer added. "When you disrupt a championship hunt like that, it's too bad. They ask us not to do that at the drivers meeting and there's usually a lot of respect there. It's crazy. I didn't even need to pass him."
"What a sad act that was by Jeff Gordon ... Cowardly, chicken and sad," fumed Bowyer's car owner Michael Waltrip as security staff attempted to control the pit lane fracas. "They barely brushed on the back straightaway and he waits - he purposely waits - and tells everybody he's waiting and wrecks our car and our hopes for racing for a championship."
But Gordon's crew chief Alan Gustafson was unrepentant. "We got used up by Clint several times this year, and enough is enough," he said. "If you're going to mess with the bull, you're going to get the horns."
"Thing just got escalated over the year, and I'd just had it," contributed Gordon himself. "Clint has run into me numerous times, wrecked me and he got into me on the back straightaway and pretty much ruined our day. I've had it," he said, adding: "And I got him back."
Gordon could face post-race penalties for wrecking Bowyer, with Bowyer's crew chief Brian Pattie suggesting that Gordon should be forced to sit out the season finale at Homestead-Miami just as NASCAR parked Kyle Busch for wrecking a rival in a Truck race at Texas in 2011. Meanwhile, Bowyer and his team could also face serious sanctions for their pit lane retaliation.
The wreck had also caught up Joey Logano and seen Aric Almirola spin broadside into the accident, and it all took place right ahead of Keselowski who was simply trying to mind his own business and get safely to the finish. Keselowski did manage to escape disaster, but he was deeply unimpressed by what he'd seen erupted around him.