Jeff Gordon earned his 88th win this past Sunday. The chance of hitting 100 is unrealistic, but 90 should be in play and would serve as a good number to hang a career on. The man who’s encroaching on his wins total, and with alacrity, is Jimmie Johnson, sitting there with 65 – charging forward with a career that began, in earnest when he joined Hendrick Motorsports for the 2002 season. It’s scary to think that Johnson could catch Gordon’s total in another six years or so, but of course, he’d be 44 then and possibly (maybe?) beginning the downside of his career.
That’s what makes Gordon’s win all the better in terms of historical numbers. For every win he gets, he takes one from Johnson and inches the gap between the two just that little bit. Asterisks, career relevance, Chase format complicity, whose New York apartment was cooler, those types of things can all be debated another day. But right now? The stats have Gordon out in front.
It’s also why Gordon’s post-race comment was all the more humorous. When asked what he, Gordon, was thinking as the laps ticked off, he said, “What would Jimmie Johnson do?” Hmm. Good question. Of course, Gordon was playing with the cultural meme, “What would Jesus do?” – but Jesus, at least to our knowledge here at the Frontstretch, never drove a stock car, or any car for that matter. The question really has its roots with The Last Boy Scout, with Bruce Willis as beaten private eye Joe Hallenbeck, paired with Damon Wayans as fallen football hero Jimmy Dix. Say what? Yep, the question is really, when ruminated by Dix, “What would Joe do at a time like this?” The answer? “He’d kill everybody and smoke some cigarettes.” Ah, there couldn’t be a better film for this week’s Happiness Is.
Happiness Is… Joe Hallenbeck: This is the ’90s. You can’t just walk up and slap a guy, you have to say something cool first.
Maybe the 2010s are a different era, where you don’t need to be a wiseass before accosting someone. Times change and so do cultural customs, as evidenced when Greg Biffle grabbed Jimmie Johnson by the neck after the race at Martinsville. Biffle seemed positively atomic afterwards; a man possessed enough to drive a Monster Truck over the field if he could have. Biffle noted that he generally is not all that good at that track, but that for once, he had a top-5 car and was frustrated that Johnson had banged off his rear bumper cover.
Johnson took the assault with aplomb and no punches, or slaps, were thrown. Maybe if Biffle could have come up with a good line, he might have done so. Some internet web chatter pushed the notion that Johnson almost expects other drivers to pull over for him at Martinsville, a place he typically rules. Well, Biffle was having none of that entitled air from the Five-Time champ. One thing’s for certain; none of this controversy will last until the next race. But Biffle showed a bit of bulldog spirit there, and Johnson some aplomb.
Happiness Is… Joe Hallenbeck: … Junior, if I survive this case I’m gonna dance a jig.
Hallenbeck is spotted dancing said jig near the light scaffolding in a football season. With the baddies reduced to trifling fools, he’s finished the case, meaning he elatedly and awkwardly dances. The man also doing a jig this past weekend? Matt Kenseth. When does finishing second feel almost like finishing first? When you’re a driver who has traditionally struggled at a short track and you drive one of the best races of your life there, it’s got to feel pretty good. Kenseth lamented that he “got beat by experience” but at least he didn’t get beat by Johnson.
Another driver doing a jig, to the tune of $25,000 is Sebastian Vettel. Yep, he won his sixth straight race. Yep, he won by over 30 seconds. Yep, he won his fourth straight championship. In his post-race glee, Vettel took his time, ripping burnouts along the track and celebrating as might be anticipated from a champion that is now beginning to rival Michael Schumacher’s triumphs (though he’s got a long way to go). In the stately world of F1, such display of emotion is not something to be trifled with and the Red Bull driver was fined for not returning to pit lane in a timely fashion. The happiness for the rest of the F1 field are the wholesale changes to take place for next year, rules adjustments which may bring closer competition.
Happiness Is… Jimmy Dix: If you go any faster, we’re gonna travel back in time.
Martinsville, as long as it’s on the schedule, will perpetually be tied to NASCAR’s historic roots. No one thinks about a track like Chicagoland, Auto Club Speedway, or Texas and conjures the notion of history. Therefore, it’s somewhat fitting that Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., ended the drought of having a minority win in one of NASCAR’s major series.
Wallace has been fast all year, in Camping World Trucks but has seemingly overdriven his rides early in a tire or fuel run, dropping back through the field. This weekend, though he kept his equipment together and showed his promise as a driver with a future. Of course, now it’s time for a sponsor or two to echo that belief by signing on with him, ensuring he’ll have a platform for success. He’s got the speed; and now, for a moment, Wallace has got some widespread attention.
Happiness Is… Jimmy Dix: That’s one of those new plastic keys… the kind that shred
In the final scenes, all the bad guys and the good guys are playing out their roles while Dix and Hallenbeck are doing their best to win the day. In a fit of improvisation, Dix throws a shotgun shredder shell into the fireplace, causing an explosion that allows them to escape. Kevin Harvick must own a few of these shells, because he was sure to throw one in the fire in the closing laps of the Truck race, effectively blowing up his relationship with Richard Childress.
Whether or not you agree with Harvick’s assessment of the Dillon boys being “punk-ass rich kids” is one thing. However, to end his 13-year relationship in that way was a little surprising. Harvick’s tirade seemed to confirm what most who follow the sport had thought about the unraveling between the two parties… it just seemed like something that was going to stay hidden from the masses. But thanks to Harvick going all Jimmy Dix, everyone got a better perspective on things.
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