“Those things happen today no differently than they did when I first got in the sport,” said Gordon. “We’re running more 1.5-mile tracks and bigger tracks now than we did when I first got in the sport. And the cars are more equal now than they used to be. So, I personally think you’re seeing a lot tighter racing in the closing laps, when there’s a caution and people are aggressive and going for it.
“There’s a mirror and a spotter in these cars for a reason,” he said. “To me, blocking has always been sort of wide-open and accepted. But you’ve got to make the block soon enough. If the guy is there and you start turning down on him, you’re basically giving the guy behind you an excuse to turn you. We see it a lot more at Daytona and Talladega.
“To me, (what happened in Fontana) was two guys racing hard. I can understand why Tony was mad because he had a hole in (a front tire) and faded. Had he gone down in Turn 1 and raced side-by-side with him and finished in the top five, he probably would have shaken it off as ‘I wasn’t happy about it, but we’ll deal with that later.’
“To me, everywhere we go, you’ve got to use that mirror and you’ve got to figure it out, especially in a green-white-checkered situation. You’ve got to go for it and you’ve got to do everything you can to win.
“I think it’s what makes those moments exciting,” said Gordon. “People have been getting spun-out at Bristol forever. That certainly hasn’t changed. The bigger tracks, I don’t think any of us are sitting there making a decision based on whether this is going to hurt or injure me or the other guy. You’re making decisions based on trying to win the race. And then you’re also making decisions based on the heat of the moment if something really gets a hold of you and puts you in that position to make an irrational bad decision. But those are the things that are going through your mind, not the dangers.
“We all get complacent on how fast we’re going and how tight we’re racing until those moments injure somebody.”
Despite that, Gordon insisted that drivers are not running more aggressively, believing the new cars will protect them from injury.
“I don’t notice anything different,” he said. “The way you drive and the aggressiveness that you have has always been there. The emotions have always been there. When somebody gets you upset and your emotions get the best of you, you make decisions.”
Gordon also commented on Joey Logano’s role in the controversy, saying, “In Joey’s case, he has had a lot of hype and he’s had a lot of success. But in the Cup Series, he has struggled. I think there is a lot of question behind that. It’s been tough on him to have all that success and hype along the way, then come into the Cup Series and not be able to live up to it. The combination just hasn’t been there, (and) now, with this move to Penske, there’s certainly a lot of pressure on him to live up to those expectations.”
Despite a handful of ongoing feuds involving his fellow drivers, Gordon said it will be, “business as usual this weekend. You’re out there in the race, and two guys are racing hard. If they have history and start rubbing up on one another, then yeah, you’re going to be cautious of it and give them a little extra room. Those are normal things you go through most weekends, but especially here at Martinsville.”
Gordon admitted that his own long-running disagreement – with Clint Bowyer – is will factor into how he runs Sunday’s race.
“He wrecked us, (and) whether it was intentional or not, it’s still something that was in the back of my mind. You could say it set the stage. But for me, it’s an accumulation of things; sort of like a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ deal. We just made contact too many times last year.
“(Bowyer) was racing hard,” said Gordon. “The thing that bothered me so much about it last year is that we had it won, pretty easily. We were sitting ducks on old tires... but to try and make that move going into Turn 1 was very impatient and cost him as much as it cost me. All he had to do was wait until we got off of Turn 2 and he probably would have driven by all of us down the back straightaway.
“That’s certainly not forgotten, but it’s nice to know that some of that attention is off of us. We’ll just go race hard like we have every other weekend.”