Is Jeff Gordon In Trouble? · Jess Nicholas · Wednesday May 17, 2006
Q: Jeff Gordon is a great driver, maybe the greatest of my time, but I have to wonder if he’s lost it a little. A few years ago, he would have found a way to get by Greg Biffle at the end. Instead, it looked like he was playing it safe. Maybe these guys make too much money. They figure they don’t have to take the risks anymore, so they don’t. Orchella
A: I think there’s a lot of truth to that, because NASCAR has become almost more concerned with safety than in putting on a great race every week. But I don’t think Gordon could necessarily have passed Biffle whether or not he wanted to. First of all, he got hung up behind Ken Schrader (more on that later). Secondly, he was chasing, after all, a Roush car on a track where Roush cars have started to dominate. Five, even ten years ago Gordon was one of five cars that could dominate this sport. Now, he’s one of 15 or 20. See the next question for an additional point on this matter.
Q: Most of the media thinks Jeff Gordon is a lock to make the Chase. I think that was the same sentiment last year. If his team doesn’t improve, he is out. There are at least five teams coming to the Top 10 in a hurry. Mike Alexander
A: I agree with you completely, Mike. I was surprised when Gordon missed the Chase last year, and thought he’d bust through early in 2006. When he didn’t, I started to question his drive a bit. Gordon seems to already have his retirement mapped out, talking about being out of NASCAR in just a few short years. He’s already made his bones in this sport. He still can, when he wants to, turn it on and beat just about anyone out there. The problem is for Gordon that the bad or mediocre performances don’t seem to draw the same sense of urgency from his team as they once did. Isolated eruptions like pushing Matt Kenseth or yelling at Ken Schrader are too few and far between.
Q: What’s the deal with Gordon blaming Ken Schrader for the loss? KEN SCHRADER? Schrader would probably get out and push someone across before he did something to deliberately cost them the race. I can’t believe that’s even out there. Kenseth Krush
A: I’m a little baffled by it, myself. Schrader gave Gordon a lane "" the preferred one at that "" and that’s all you’re required to do. If he’d gone any lower, he’d have run down on the apron. And it’s not like you can point the car steady at Darlington just when you want to. That place is like driving on a South Alabama washboard dirt road after a summer rainstorm.
Q: Oh great, Jeff Gordon finishes second. I hope I don’t see "Gordon this, Gordon that" all week. Chris
A: Sorry, Chris, you’re about three questions too late.
Q: I wonder if Dale Jarrett has thought about all us loyal fans out here who don’t want to see him run Toyotas. It’s like Michael Jordan with the Wizards or Joe Namath with the Rams, except Jarrett isn’t just going to play for another team, he’s going to play for another country. A lot of us Blue Oval guys really feel betrayed. Wheelhouse
A: Although there are a lot of Toyotas made by Americans these days, Wheel, I’ve been preparing myself to receive this question for a couple of weeks now, because I realize it’s on a lot of people’s minds. I’m going to be careful how I say this so as not to offend the Jarrett fans out there: I’m not surprised he did this. Jarrett has always been about Jarrett, and I guess that’s what makes a lot of great racers what they are. In Jarrett’s case, though, I think he’s already past the prime of his career, probably even beyond the point of being consistently competitive. Had he stayed with Yates, he would have left the sport with strong respect, a large fan base, and thanks to those UPS ads, probably the best commercial image he’s ever had. Make no mistake, Ford is upset about this, and I don’t think UPS is very happy, either. On top of that, Jarrett runs the risk of struggling alongside a startup organization that is coming into NASCAR having to develop both a "Car of Now" and the "Car of Tomorrow," which won’t allow them to focus resources in just one direction. I don’t think he’ll be a winner, and I think he’s going to lose a lot of his fans along the way. And frankly, aside from the champion’s provisional that will come with Jarrett, I don’t think this was a great move for Michael Waltrip Racing. Time will tell.
Q: I just wanted to say I hope the fans vote Kyle Petty into the all-star race this weekend. It will mean a lot of money for the Victory Junction Gang, and it means us Kyle Petty fans get to see him maybe return to the scene of one of his greatest battles (with Davey Allison in 1992). Vote for a good cause! Christy L.
A: Thanks for the reminder, Christy.
Think we didn’t answer enough Jeff Gordon questions this time around? Need to let us know how lapped traffic wrecked havoc with your own race home from the trenches? Email Jess at email@example.com with your questions or comments, and hey, you might show up here next week. Really.
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