10 Years After Robbing Jeff Gordon During “Spingate” Shame, Clint Bowyer’s Unconvincing Defense Before Dale Jr’s Shattering Blow Brutally Trolled by Fans

Published 09/08/2023, 7:19 PM EDT

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In a bygone era of NASCAR, caution flags flew like confetti, often for questionable debris on the track – a chapter we’re relieved has closed. Amidst those seemingly inconsequential yellows, one caution stood out… a ripple that turned into a career and sport-altering moment. Spingate, a day etched in NASCAR history, celebrates its 10th anniversary today.

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A tale of betrayal and controversy that left fans in shock and drivers in disbelief, this explosive scandal, which unfolded during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, ensnared three of the sport’s most prominent figures: Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Michael Waltrip Racing team’s orchestrated spin by Clint Bowyer, with whispers of foul play, changed the racing landscape forever, credits to one infamous radio exchange that added fuel to the fire.

Spingate: The scandal that rocked the racing world a decade ago


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The stage was set at the Federated Auto Parts 400, a race hosted at the Richmond Raceway. The most significant incident involved MWR driver Clint Bowyer at the center of the storm. In a shocking move, Bowyer intentionally spun his car with less than 10 laps to go, prompting a caution flag.

This strategic move was allegedly orchestrated in cahoots with his crew chief and aimed at assisting his teammate Brian Vickers. Shortly thereafter, Vickers pitted on the ensuing restart, setting the stage for a dramatic twist. Martin Truex Jr, the third MWR driver, managed to secure a playoff spot, simultaneously ousting Ryan Newman from playoff contention.


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In a parallel incident of lesser importance, Team Penske‘s Joey Logano made a calculated pass on fellow Ford driver David Gilliland from Front Row Motorsports in the race’s waning moments. This maneuver guaranteed Logano a coveted playoff berth while eliminating Jeff Gordon from the playoff picture.

NASCAR’s response to these allegations was swift and unprecedented. They penalized Truex by docking him 50 driver points, subsequently pushing him out of the playoffs and reinstating Ryan Newman. Moreover, NASCAR expanded the playoff field for the first time in the Cup’s 19-year history, ensuring Jeff Gordon’s inclusion in the postseason.

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The controversy surrounding Bowyer’s deliberate spin generated widespread discontent among rival teams. After a meticulous review of race footage and in-car audio, “Is your arm starting to hurt? Must be hot in there,” NASCAR confirmed that Bowyer’s actions were indeed intentional.

Bowyer couldn’t ditch the itch: Fans has had a decade of laughter, controversy, and what-ifs

Despite the undeniable chatter over the airwaves, Bowyer remained steadfast in his defense during the post-race interviews. Bowyer explained, “We had a flat tire or something. We went from leading the race and got back there, and I mean, they were driving off from us.

“I got down in there and kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter, and then the 88 got in there, and by the time I got back to the gas, he got into me. I had so much wheel in it, and it just snapped around.”

However, not everyone was buying Bowyer’s explanation. Earnhardt Jr was particularly skeptical. He commented, “He just spun right out, it was the craziest thing I ever saw. It just came right around. We were going through (Turn) 3 and 4… he was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on. We were right there. I almost ran into him, so I’m glad we were able to get out of there with no trouble.”

Revisiting this saga a full decade later, fans have not forgotten the sensation it caused, and their reactions are as sharp as ever. However, they had one theme in common: they all trolled Bowyer relentlessly. Bowyer’s post-race interview became the talk of the town.


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Clint Bowyer’s post-race interview when he said he kept getting tighter and tighter then snapped loose all of a sudden was pretty funny.” But the real gem was another comment, Dale Jr’s post-race interview after this was gold. You’d think he saw a flying saucer go over the track with how bewildered he was acting.

One enthusiast recalled, “When I first heard about this, it sounded like the dirtiest sh*t I could imagine,” while another humorously speculated, “Rumor has it, Clint never did satisfy that itch.” The incident led to a barrage of witty comments, like, “He itched his wrist so long that he took HScott down with him.” 

Critics of NASCAR’s response to the incident were equally vocal. “A low point in our sport,” one fan lamented. “In pursuit of fairness, they blew up the rule book and made the sport look like a joke.” Some even offered tongue-in-cheek alternatives, such as, Clint should have just said he sneezed, and his visor was covered in snot and he couldn’t see. Probably could have gotten some allergy sponsorship out of it too.”


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Without a doubt, this bizarre incident changed NASCAR history. Fans couldn’t help but wonder, “What would another timeline look like without it?” and that can be added to the long list of what-ifs in this sport.

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Written by:

Rashi Shetty


One take at a time

Rashi Shetty is a NASCAR author at EssentiallySports. Her passion for the sport extends beyond the thrill of on-track racing, as she finds the behind-the-scenes aspects of car development and sportsmanship equally captivating. Her favorite motorsports moment of 2023 is the NASCAR Garage 56 entry at Le Mans.
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