The Frontstretch: Fan's Reactions to Junior, Jeff, Jimmie and Jack-Not What You Might Expect by Amy Henderson -- Friday March 28, 2008

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Fan's Reactions to Junior, Jeff, Jimmie and Jack-Not What You Might Expect

Holding A Pretty Wheel · Amy Henderson · Friday March 28, 2008

 

It may be only five races into the NASCAR season, but there have certainly been a lot of things to think about: Toyota's surge from backmarker to contender to winner; last year's absolute domination of Hendrick Motorsports turning into not even being a serious contender to win in '08; the Car of Tomorrow; Robby Gordon's overturned penalty; Carl Edwards' uncontested penalty; and Jack Roush's accusation of Toyota stealing a "proprietary part," to name a few. The list is long and interesting.

What is even more interesting is the fans' reactions to each of these stories.

I don't get the extreme dislike of Toyota, but many fans want to run the manufacturer out of town on a rail in a scene reminiscent of a 1950's Western. Now, I will admit that I never understood the allegiance that many fans have to a manufacturer that supersedes their allegiance to a driver. To me, the drivers, well, drive the sport, and I could care less if they are driving a Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, or a 1968 VW Beetle. To me, Toyota is just another car maker—one that supplies many jobs to American workers at that. The dislike in some cases borders on xenophobia—which was definitely not one of the basic principles that America was founded on. As a country that was built by immigrants, often literally—it's suddenly not okay to accept a foreign company who manufactures much of their product in America while many American companies outsource to China or other countries. It's just-no pun intended—a foreign concept to me.

There have been two opposing sets of opinion on the Hendrick question, as well, and that's been an interesting story to follow from that perspective. On one hand, Junior Nation is celebrating Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s success as the top HMS driver so far this season. In the other corner, fans of Jeff Gordon and/or Jimmie Johnson are malcontents, wondering aloud if the best resources are being funneled to the Most Popular Driver instead of the best drivers at HMS.

It's been interesting to follow because neither side is entirely right or entirely wrong. Junior is a talented driver-his 17 points-paying wins at NASCAR's top level despite being saddled with what was, at least for the last three years or so, equipment that couldn't match the best teams' stuff prove that. He's the best restrictor plate driver on the track today, bar none. He has never struck me as arrogant or demanding, and despite the accusations that he would walk in and demand things from his three teammates, has shown no sign of that. Is he getting good stuff? Absolutely. It behooves Hendrick to give it to him, because like it or not, many, many fans want to see him run up front and fork over a lot of money on merchandise when he does. He is tough on his own crew, because he wants excellence on the track. But is he the most talented driver at HMS? Well, no.

On the other hand, Casey Mears, Gordon and Johnson are not suffering because Junior waltzed in and stole their toys. Both the No. 24 and 48 teams will admit they lost ground during the Chase working on the now-obsolete Monte Carlos because that was necessary to win the championship that Johnson ultimately brought home. Mears has suffered some incredible bad luck, including a crash during the Daytona 500— a race which he could have won otherwise, and being the victim of NASCAR's overzealous attempt to start the race on a still-wet track in California. Johnson had his best career run going at Bristol before blowing a tire. Johnson got setup advice for that race, and Atlanta, from Earnhardt, Jr., and both races showed a marked improvement for his team over a horrendous Las Vegas at Atlanta and over all his previous starts at Bristol. So both sides of this argument strike out.

The Car of Today has its advantages and disadvantages. All in all, some races are good and others are snoozefests-and we had that with the old car too. Personally, I've never had an issue with it. The fan reactions to its looks are where I'm lost. It's surely no uglier than the offset, distorted old car, which looked like it was being seen through a fun house mirror most of the time. Sure, the splitter is a little funny looking, but so was the monstrous valance on the old car. The wing-well, street cars-stock cars if you will-have wings these days. Unless you're in the market for a (very) used Monte Carlo, you're not going to find a car on a dealer's lot today with a spoiler-but a lot of them have wings. I do understand the reaction to the car on the level that it is a huge change, and probably too sudden-NASCAR might have done more for the teams, in the long run, by phasing it in on their original three-year schedule instead of two. But the hatred of its mere existence? Not worth the effort-it's not going away.

Most fans supported Robby Gordon in his fight against NASCAR for running an unapproved nose on his Dodge.

I'm also a little confused on people's reaction to the two major penalties handed down this year. Or at least one of them. The fact that many fans disagreed with Robby Gordon's penalty for running an unapproved nose-despite the fact that the only difference was the placement of stickers-is not really a surprise. Most fans love an underdog, and owner-driver Gordon is just that. I agree with the fans who stood up for Gordon, because in this case, it was like sending a guy up for ten years for stealing a pack of gum. Savvy fans also realized that there is a huge difference between an infraction that gives a competitive advantage and one that does not.

Which is why I am surprised by fan reaction to the penalty levied on Carl Edwards. Many fans seemed to be of the opinion that the infraction-leaving the cover off the oil reservoir in order to change air flow, adding at least 30 pounds of downforce to the car-was really no big deal. Still others rallied against the penalty because it was equal to penalties handed out last year for CoT-specific infractions, because it wasn't a CoT issue, just a performance issue. Meanwhile, fans overlooked the larger picture here-that this was a performance-enhancing tweak used during competition-something that none of last year's rulebreakers did-their cars all raced legal. To me cheating during a race is far worse than trying to slide something through inspection and hope it's approved. Is Cousin Carl really above cheating? Is any team?

Finally, so far, fans have seemed reluctant to buy into Jack Roush's tale of a stolen part-even those fans who would like nothing better than to see Toyota thrown under the bus. Why? Remember the Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? I think many fans see Roush as a grown-up version of him-he has a long history of accusations against teams who are bettering his own-he accused Jeff Gordon's then-crew chief, Ray Evernham, of soaking tires to soften them in the late 1990's when only Gordon could deny Roush's Mark Martin of a championship. Scuttlebutt also questions whether Roush had a role in the story that Richard Childress' cars had tires with pinholes in them to bleed air and affect air pressure during a race. Neither allegation was ever proven. So to many fans, Roush is once again trying to bring down someone because they are winning at the expense of his teams. It sure seems suspiciously like sour grapes based on what I have heard so far, so I'm not at all surprised by the public opinion on this one.

All in all, it's been an exciting season, and the fans have a lot to say about all the goings on in the sport these days. While some of it comes as a surprise to me based on history and the knowledge of racing that so many fans do have, other reactions are no surprise at all. Fan debate is good for NASCAR, and it gives fans something to discuss around the water cooler, so a little discrepancy doesn't hurt a thing-it just makes the race season that much more interesting.

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Mark
03/28/2008 07:54 AM
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Actually one of the Roush stories was proven , just not acted on . A manufacturer of tire softener came forward and produced invoices showing that the 24 team had in fact purchased tire softener. And chemical tests that were performed on some of the tires in question while not conclusive did turn up some residue . I know , Gordon and Evernham cheating !!!! Couldn’t possibly be true .

Wendel Wilson
03/28/2008 08:26 AM
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One only has to look at the toyota engine to see that the law suits will be coming, it has Ford Fuel Pumps and block design and Chevy Heads and cylinders.
The Japanses are not good a creating but they are great at copying designs. So let the flood gates open. ( Amy you realy should talk to the rest of us boys in the garage, we’ll set you straight) Also it’s interesting that they are still allowing us a 50 to 60 HP advantage over the other teams. Not complaining as my team is one of the ones that gets that extra boost…. Thanks Brian!
I guess that 96 million Toyota gave NASCAR does buy horsepower. Can’t wait to see Toyota complain when Honda tries to get into the act.

Douglas
03/28/2008 09:17 AM
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So funny! “The Japanese are not good at creating”!! That’s 50’s talk!

Oh, as regards “American Made”, the business headlines in my local paper stated “Chevy quietly installing Shanghai-made engines”!

Further on the “American made” situation, in 2002 China exported to the US less than $2 billion in auto parts! In the year 2007, that figure was an astonishing $12billion! All to the USA!

AMERICAN MADE? HUH?

And, and by the way, the added HP is through racing development, not a “gift” from Brian and his fellow crooks!

Margo L
03/28/2008 09:48 AM
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Come on guys , a car is a car is a car . The Japanese are not racing in NASCAR . Joe Gibbs and Bill Davis are racing in NASCAR . They are great people , and certainly American . Let’s get over the
“ Japanese cars will ruin our racing “ mindset , cause it isn’t true . And unless your parents are full blooded American Indians , we’re all foreigners .

Mark
03/28/2008 09:58 AM
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Wendel , are you suggesting that Ford stole their fuel pump design from Toyota , and Chevrolet stole Toyotas’ block and cylinder head designs ?
I don’t know that Toyota is “ allowed “ 60 more horsepower by anyone, i think they just have a better engine at the moment .

REC
03/28/2008 10:00 AM
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Good article. I like your insight. But remeber where the bucks stop. Some turn into Yen in Japanese banks. U.S. companies going outside of USA is nothing new. But that money finds it’s way back here. Brazil in the mid 60’s for exapmle to built the 65 galaxies with Y blocks….. The world was still round last time I checked. I cant stand Toyota. I never did like them. I do like the Japanese poeple but I don’t trust the ones at the top corporations over there. Theay are under handed and will try to trick you in a second. They have a low opinion of us, like we are cave men. I lost relatives in Peral Harbor and sure, thats part of my bitternes. Backing a Japanese car is just not right in my heart no matter where it’s built. Growing up, fast cars was American turf. I feel as if we as a nation have been dupted by the Japanese. I no fair weather For fan. True Blue here. Red White and Blue baby.

Keep up the good work. I love your articles.

Johnboy60
03/28/2008 10:10 AM
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Dang Douglas….still defending them japs huh? The Facts are this: camry had no body to use, thus the COT…second the japs can’t build and didn’t have a decent v8…thus the copying of chevy and ford….third they have NO brains…thus the acquiring of joe gibbs racy…. the 96 million as stated above was to get nascrap to make the needed changes to the rules and to buy anal lube for brian!!

mmack
03/28/2008 10:39 AM
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“The wing-well, street cars-stock cars if you will-have wings these days. Unless you’re in the market for a (very) used Monte Carlo, you’re not going to find a car on a dealer’s lot today with a spoiler-but a lot of them have wings.”

Amy, where in the HECK are you shopping for cars?!?

The only cars I see with wings close to those on the COT are the “riced-out” Hondas and Toyotas the high school kids drive around my neighborhood. And even then THOSE are bought at JC Whitney and Pep Boys!

Even Subaru, the KING of rear wings (remember the Impreza WRX?) doesn’t put them on their cars anymore.

Although you MIGHT have a point: The front wheel drive coupes and sedans most people drive DO look generic (I plead guilty, our ’06 Impala could pass for a Toyota or Honda with the emblems removed), so maybe the COT IS more of a “stock” car than the older cars. :^)

Oldsmo-Bill
03/28/2008 10:43 AM
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I just had to comment on REC’s posting: “I do like the Japanese people but don’t trust the ones at the top of the corporations…” Where you been, man?! Take a look in your own backyard! Do you “trust” the ones at the top of our (USA) corporations? Here’s a statistic for you: In 1976, the average American CEO’s salary was 36 times the average worker’s; By 1993, it was 131 times; by 2005, it was 369 times! Sorry, but I just can’t bring myself to have loyalty to ANY manufacturer – we follow drivers and teams!

JOHN
03/28/2008 01:35 PM
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If you go to a Japanese restaurant your food may be cooked by an American and some of the food may have been grown here but when your order is served it’s still Japanese food.

geo4k
03/28/2008 02:28 PM
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Johnboy60

One can only still hope that your type (Bigot) will soon fade away. You’re dumb too…

Douglas
03/28/2008 02:51 PM
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Dang Johnboy60, did not think I was defending anyone, just stating facts! By the way, Shanghai is in CHINA! You know, where Bush borrows most of his money!

Oh, and I don’t think Brian needs any lube! he has a BIG one!!

Ken
03/28/2008 05:30 PM
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Actually Amy, the fan’s reactions to Junior, Jeff, Jimmie, and Jack are exactly what I expected. Almost all NASCAR fans, except this one, are so in love with Junior that it borders on nausea. And don’t get me started on the media! Only one driver can win a race, particularly a race at Talladega! Come on! There are 42 other drivers out there every race, and most better than the beloved Junior. Same goes for Jeff and Jimmie. One would think these three Hendrick drivers were God! Which brings me to the one man who by mearly saying anything, even if it’s a comment about the sun shining, can insight so much hatred from fans. All this controversy about Edwards car at Vegas would never had happened if it was Jimmie who had the loose oil tank lid. But a Roush driver, well, call out the firing squad! Oh well, there’s nothing that can be done about any of this, as that’s just the way fans are today. But don’t worry! Maybe enough pressure can be put on Mr. Henry, and he’ll buy Roush out completely and the fans and media won’t have Jack Roush around to launch their hate-filled attacks against.

Whipsnard Q Bimblemann, III, Esq
03/28/2008 06:21 PM
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“To me, the drivers, well, drive the sport, and I could care less if they are driving a Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, or a 1968 VW Beetle” Just another fine example of what is wrong with NA$CAR fans of today. There is no other sport in the world, maybe other than bowling, where you cheer for a ‘guy’. You cheer for your team. If someone is let go or leaves the team, bye, bye! Your team is your team no matter who the players are. And as for the Cat in the Hat, hell, NA$CAR always has it in for someone. Stickers are not right?!?! It’s all about the dollars now at NA$CAR. Sponsor driven, not driver driven. Just ask Dougie Y if it ain’t. First time here and the last. Thanks!

Shirley Myers
03/28/2008 06:30 PM
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Ken, it never fails,Some one that doesn’t like Jr. will show up at an article that is no doubt about him. If you don’t like him stay away from the article, no one is making you read it. Geez——-

Marc
03/30/2008 04:23 PM
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December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy>>>is there anyone out there who still cares??? Now, I know there are those who will call me a hate-monger because I still loyally wave the Red, White, and Blue, and say my prayers to God. So be it, My 4 American made vehicles have a total of 600,000 miles on them and all still run just fine. I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Charles Jackson
04/02/2008 09:11 AM
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Amy
You stated you have never understood the loyalty to a “car manufacturer”, to a lot of us fans, new and old, the brand of car does matter! No matter how NASCAR wants to think!When you read that NASCAR stands for National Asociation of Stock Car Racing it should mean something!, sure it has never been totally stock!It is no different than fans in football for instance, when the star quarterback it traded to another team, most fans pull for the team, not the quarterback! Same to some of us in Nascar! Toyota, Ford, GM, and Chrysler would not put money in it if they didnt see NASCAR as loyal customers!There it nothing wrong with just being ‘driver fans’ as well! But adding the competion between the “car brands” makes racing better and broading the appeal of NASCAR!Alot of us “car guys” are not showing up at Nascar like in the past, because they seem to want a ‘Spec Car’ Series! Well IROC,IRL,Champ car are good expamples of where it is headed! Fans pulling for their favorite brand of car helps Nascar!

 

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