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Originally published Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 4:47 PM

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Bowyer returns to scene of run-in at Martinsville

Clint Bowyer vs. Jeff Gordon is old news in NASCAR these days, replaced by other driver grudges and run-ins.

AP Sports Writer

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —

Clint Bowyer vs. Jeff Gordon is old news in NASCAR these days, replaced by other driver grudges and run-ins.

But Bowyer is returning to Martinsville this weekend, a year after the trouble started when he, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson wrecked late in the race.

Some seven months later, Gordon intentionally wrecked Bowyer in Phoenix, triggering a melee in the garage area.

"We've got new people fighting," Bowyer said Thursday. "That fight has fizzled, it's gone. There's no more fluid in the torch."

Indeed, it has been supplanted. Denny Hamlin sustained a fractured vertebra in California after contact with Joey Logano as they battled for the win. Tony Stewart scuffled with Logano after the race, but no punches were thrown and NASCAR didn't issue any fines.

It was a product of dramatic, side-by-side racing with the new Gen-6 car that Bowyer credits with creating "more of what we love about NASCAR."

And if tempers flare sometimes, so be it. Bowyer doesn't think it's gotten to the point where change is needed.

"We haven't reached that," he said during a trip promoting next month's Talladega race weekend. "Obviously Denny got hurt, but that wasn't an intentional crash. We've all seen intentional crashes. Jeff Gordon was an intentional crash. Now, if I would have crawled out of that thing or got helicoptered out of that situation, it would have been a game-changer, because that was an intentional crash and if it would have hurt me the repercussions would have been bad.

"What I saw was good racing in California, and that's healthy. It's side-by-side racing and oh by the way they were going for the win. You can't ask for a better situation on a two-mile race track than to be coming off of four with three cars going for the win. And if they can have that on a two-mile race track, what's Martinsville going to be like this weekend? Look out."

Bowyer jokes about last year's incident, which he calls "just one of those deals."

"We're not the smartest people in the world," he said. "We go down the straightaway and turn left. That's literally what we do."

He well remembers the end of last April's race in Martinsville when Hendrick Motorsports was seeking its 200th victory.

A late caution set up a restart with teammates Gordon and Johnson lining up side-by-side and Bowyer and Ryan Newman starting in the second row.

Bowyer - who had new tires - got a shove from behind from Newman and dove to the inside of Gordon and Johnson, made contact, and all three wrecked.

"You've got to go. If (Newman) got to my inside, the race is over for me, because not only did he get by you and now you're three-wide and whoever was behind him, there's three other cars that are going to go by you and you end up 10th, probably wrecked," Bowyer said.

"It was go time. He blocked me down a little bit and I tried to stay off him and he ended up bouncing me up and essentially wrecking all of us. If I had to do it over again, and the same situation was behind me, I'd have just leaned on him harder getting into the corner and probably used him up. It would have probably been just two of them instead of all three of us."

It's just racin'.

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