Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday March 30, 2006
A couple of years ago, the headline of this very column was, Voices"¦Bangin’ In Bristol. I know that sounds a little suggestive…but that’s what they DO there! That’s how they (SMI and NASCAR) advertise the place. I wish all the pansies out there would just shut up and let it go. Why do you think they call it "Racin’ the way it oughta be!"
The good old fashioned “bump and run” that Kurt Busch put on Matt Kenseth is exactly what you have to do to win at Bristol. Longtime readers know that I have no love for anything Busch (other than Busch Light) but there can be no fault found with what Kurt did to win.
Jeff Gordon ALMOST did it right. He bumped and ran, but he forgot one other important factor"¦Keep running! He didn’t. He let Kenseth catch back up. The result? Last lap Bristol racing!
Gordon had every right to be upset, but that’s as far as it goes. Get over it. You bumped, you ran, you got bumped, you spun. Bristol! What’s the controversy?
If there is to be a controversy, it should be why was the whole post-race drama STAGED by NASCAR? Consider the following.
"I would have gone back to my truck, been angry, done my interview and left there and not worried about it. But the fact is that they pointed me to park there, and Matt’s car was sitting right there, and as I get out, here he came over. At that moment you don’t really, at least I didn’t, have very good control over my emotions," said Gordon.
The question I have to ask is, why did NASCAR officials direct the 21st place finisher to park there? That is not typical. They did it to enhance “The Show.” Gordon and Kenseth were unwitting pawns in NASCAR’s never ending game of marketing chess.
Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty comical…but it wasn’t needed. Any race at BMS produces its own drama. It doesn’t need any help. Ultimately though, if you think about it, racing in general, and Jeff Gordon in particular, may be the winners in the long run.
Since Sunday’s race, Gordon has basically said that he’s taking off the gloves. He claims, at least, he’s no longer going to be as concerned about what people think, and that it’s time to get more aggressive. Perhaps it’s true, and we will see more aggression the likes of which hasn’t been seen in NASCAR for say, five years or so since the death of Dale Earnhardt.
There is no denying that Dale’s demise changed this sport. If NASCAR was on the cusp of marketing stardom, largely because of Dale, Sr.’s racing, his death put it over the edge. Millions of more fans flocked to the sport because of the legend he both created and then left behind. To be honest, I think the whole country was shocked, not only by his tragic end, but how we, as a nation, reacted to it. Suddenly, the “bad guy” that everyone loved was gone, and no one would ever replace him. Not only that, but He was THE guy that represented racing, the closest thing to a “Driver’s Union” NASCAR has ever seen.
No one ever questioned Dale’s aggressive style. It was accepted. Why? Because deep down, the powers that be at NASCAR knew that that’s what the sport was founded on. It was racing! Unfortunately, Dale’s death paved the way for Brian France and the “New NASCAR.” There was no one who had the lugnuts to stand up and question the establishment. Brian France, Brand Sense, and marketing could now run amuck just to make a buck. It was no longer a race, but a “Show.” Dale Earnhardt was a marketing guru in his own right, but he never let it get in the way of the racing.
For years now, the question has been who is going to be the new “voice” of the sport. Who would step up and fill those shoes? Jeff Gordon? Jeff has said repeatedly that he doesn’t really want the job. Perhaps he is rethinking his position.
"Well, I think that I kind of heard a lot last year that maybe I wasn’t being aggressive enough on the racetrack and different things. My team has done an awful lot this year to make our race cars better, to put me in better positions, better pit crew, better communication, and I’m giving them everything I possibly can out there on the racetrack because they deserve it," said Gordon. "If that means I’ve got to be more aggressive, then I’m going to be more aggressive. I guess that’s maybe the Jeff Gordon that’s evolved over the years is that when in the past I’ve reserved a lot of my emotions, I’m not afraid of showing them these days. You know, I’m just being me, and sometimes that’s showing my anger and sometimes that’s walking away from an incident."
Personally I think it would be great for Jeff to play that part. Maybe, with that attitude he might get that 5th Cup. It’s kinda funny though, a lot of names have been thrown around as to who should embrace the “bad guy” image, Jeff Gordon is not on those lists! Isn’t it always the last guy you’d think of!?
Before I tie this all up in one neat journalistic bundle, I want to put one more thought on the table. Why aren’t the ever faithful, if not downright loud mouthed hordes of DEI fans pitching a hissy fit over Truex, Jr.’s treatment by Tony Stewart? Why isn’t Martin as mad as Jeff?
It’s simple. Martin was doing something he KNEW he shouldn’t be doing. Tony taught the rookie a lesson, one that I think Truex knew he deserved. Had the altercation in front of Stewart happened early in the race, Tony might have let him live. Bad timing on Truex’s part.
Jeff Gordon said he was wrecked. He was not. Gordon was SPUN, Truex was WRECKED! Ray Guy never came close to a punt that perfect!
Stay off the wall, (Yeah, right! At Bristol!?)
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