The Frontstretch: Gordon vs. Earnhardt, Jr. - Let the Slings And Arrows Fly by Mike Neff -- Thursday October 12, 2006

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Gordon vs. Earnhardt, Jr. - Let the Slings And Arrows Fly

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Thursday October 12, 2006

 

Last Sunday at Talladega, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pushed Jeff Gordon to the lead in the UAW-Ford 500. That wasn't the first time Earnhardt has helped Gordon get to the front, but it very well may be his last. After Gordon was taken out of the race by someone else's mistake in the race’s semi-annual “Big One,” he was quick to rake Earnhardt, Jr. over the coals for what Gordon considered excessive bump drafting. When Junior found out, he made the observation that Gordon doesn't mind when he benefits from people's assistance, as long as it suits him; Junior claimed Gordon never seems to repay on-track favors, saying he complains instead when things do not fall into place exactly as Gordon would like to see them. After doing an extensive investigation into Jeff Gordon’s recent past, one thing does appear to ring true…Junior, for all intents and purposes, was absolutely right.

To validate Junior’s claims of not enough respect for the Chasers, people need to only look back a few weeks to Gordon's tirade against Brian Vickers at New Hampshire. During that race, Gordon complained after the event that Vickers raced too hard and should have moved over to let him, a Chase contender, go past so he could gain position easily. Forget about the team commitments that the No. 25 team and Vickers has with their sponsors, and don't worry about the integrity of the sport; in Gordon’s mind, he felt it necessary for his teammate to just let him by.

That’s not the first time the Rainbow Warrior has “demanded” more than the usual share of respect. Look at Bristol this Spring. Gordon spun on the last lap of the race and felt that he was moved by Matt Kenseth in order for that spin to occur. As a result, he showed his displeasure with a forearm shiver on pit road after the race was over. At the time, Kenseth was coming to apologize; but Gordon wanted nothing to do with it. Once again, Gordon forgot about moving Rusty Wallace out of the way more than once at Bristol with a very similar maneuver; if you’ve done something to another driver in the past, wouldn’t you be sympathetic when the same tactic gets applied to you? Gordon didn't forget the move, though, and made sure to exact his revenge at Chicago. With the race winding down, Gordon dumped Kenseth coming off of the second turn and, while not admitting it was on purpose, certainly made it seem as though he was out to prove he could drive aggressively.

That litany of hypocrisy goes on and on for the No. 24 team. It seems as though whenever the day doesn't work out for Gordon, it is always someone else's fault. It doesn’t matter whether it’s another driver, or his team, or simply the NASCAR officials. Drivers who have not won a Championship should simply bow down and move over out of respect for Gordon’s vast accomplishments. If someone is a former Champion or multi-race winner, then they obviously didn't realize what they were doing, and were driving over their heads when Gordon was clearly a better race car that needed to pass by them…no matter what the cost.

Now, Jeff Gordon is a great stock car driver. He will pass Dale Earnhardt's career win total in the very near future, and he'll probably go down as the No. 3 all-time win leader when he finally hangs up the helmet, barring some unforeseen dramatic drop in performance by Hendrick Motorsports. Unfortunately, though, it seems as though Gordon has taken his new role as a future Hall of Famer to heart. His whining seems to have gone to a whole new level; there is always someone or something to blame rather than just racing luck, because he thinks he’s shown the talent to get him up front on a weekly basis.

Ironically, it was Gordon’s main rival in popularity, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who took the high road on Sunday. When Earnhardt was crashed out of a certain top three finish and a huge points day, he was calm and almost complimentary of winner Brian Vickers for the move that cost him so dearly. Earnhardt, Jr., despite losing over 20 spots in that last lap crash, was quick to say that not only should points not be taken away from Vickers, but there should be no other punishment handed down, either. Clearly, a message had been sent: Talladega was just a racing deal.

Last year, Earnhardt took Vickers out at California with a bonehead move, and took full responsibility from the moment someone asked him about it. He acknowledged he put his car in a place he should not have, way too early in the race. While the fan response was sympathetic, the end result was disastrous : two torn up race cars.

Did Junior bump draft in zones that are considered "no bump" areas on the track? The video certainly seemed to indicate it. Did he hit anyone in a fashion that caused them to lose control of their car, though? He did not. Did Earnhardt help Gordon get to the lead of the race Sunday? He did. Did Gordon push Earnhardt to the front of the pack in return? He did not.

In today's sterilized, corporate, politically correct racing world, a genuine rivalry is something that this sport could dearly use. To have that rivalry develop between the top two most popular drivers in the sport would be enormous. If Gordon vs. Earnhardt turns into something similar to the old Earnhardt vs. Bodine, Waltrip vs. the World, or Petty vs. Pearson battles, we could be looking at a popularity increase that no one imagined possible at this point in NASCAR's growth. Do I like Jeff Gordon's methods of airing his dirty laundry? Not really. But does it look like it may stir up a feud with the sports most popular driver? Absolutely. At least this time around, I know the networks and NASCAR are sure hoping so, too.

That’s good…because I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Vickie
10/13/2006 06:10 AM
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Great article, Mike. I’ve been a NASCAR fan since the late 70’s, and have seen “politically correct” become more and more of an issue. God, I’d like to hear more honesty when the drivers are interviewed. Junior certainly hit the nail on the head with his comments about Jeff. We’ve always known Jeff was a sore loser, but never at fault. Junior, bless him, when he’s interviewed he’ll give you an honest answer. If he’s at fault, he’ll own up to it immediately. If he’s happy, he might just slip up with a “no-no” word on national TV. I can’t ever remember an interview he did where he gave out the canned, always the same, speech some of these guys give each and every time.

Yes, NASCAR would like an intense rivalry to heat up things. I’d say, bring it on. Jeff’s gotten away with “accidental” or “hard racing” causing plenty of torn up cars for his competitors. The pot can’t keep calling the kettle black without some fans noticing.

Doug
10/13/2006 07:51 AM
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Mike,

Yep, that’s how I see it.

Barb
10/13/2006 08:18 AM
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Vickie, a well written opinion of JG, and as you said Jr.does give honest answers sometimes so honest that Eury Sr. cringes when he hears him. Gordon is in a slump and will place the blame on anyone he can except himself.

Stanley Baker
10/13/2006 08:51 AM
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Jr. never gets much help. I would never help Jeff erson
get to the fron if i were Jr.

Tammi
10/13/2006 10:19 AM
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True to every word. Junior will never sugar coat his words, will give credit where credit is due, take his lumps when he messes up and go onto the next race. I don’t recall JG ever doing that in his career in NASCAR. Time to take lessons.

barb
10/13/2006 10:19 AM
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I re-watched the race on Speed Thursday. Jr did not Slam bump Gordon. He got to his bumper and was more like pushing. If Gordon does not like Jr’s bump drafting, then I have a question for him. Why is it when you see Jr coming you ALWAYS position yourself in front of him? STAY away from him. Others seemed like they did NOT have problems with Jr. Is it that Gordon keeps complaining so Jr get a penalty of a lap and Jeff will not have to worry about the True & great competition Jr is on RP. Jr is the BEST besides his father of course.

jo smelser
10/13/2006 12:11 PM
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what a great write-up!!!
you hit the nail on the head…. that fits jeff g. like a glove. he is finding out ,he is not the top dog, in nascar!!! go get him ,jr.!!!!!!

Rick
10/13/2006 12:37 PM
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I’ve been a Jeff Gordon fan since his Busch days, and I can agree that he has been whining a little bit lately, I also believe that JR’s POOP don’t stink, because he is Dale’s son. Jeff could race circles around JR…

caroline
10/13/2006 01:54 PM
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i dont like greg biffle
but i loved his respect for junior after the wreck
the reporter asked about junior bumping and biffle responded with a tilt of the head and a confused face saying junior was bump drafting fine
haha heres proof gordo is a whinny baby

Amy
10/13/2006 04:08 PM
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My theroy is nascar encouraged jr and gordon to feud, to help the sinking tv ratings.

well
10/13/2006 04:21 PM
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I think a real rivalry is born not out of words but what’s done on the track. Until Jr. starts winning with a lot more frequency and wins a championship, a true rivalry isn’t possible. Jr and Gordon both have a lot of fans but Jr still has to show he’s a Champion or whether he’s just a more popular Ryan Newman.

As for JG whining, I admit he has his moments. However, 85% of the driver’s out there whine. The 20 whines, the 6 whines, the 16 whines, the 17 whines. Everyone whines. When JG does it just gets noticed more because there are so many people that dislike the man. They see the whine and jump all over it blowing it way out of proportion.

Oh and btw, JG was commenting on Jr’s habit of pushing through the corners, getting the car in front of him a little loose and then passing by for the lead. It’s dangerous and KB almost crashed, so all you JR fans that say he didn’t bump, please get the one eye that you do have, checked.

Denny
10/13/2006 08:19 PM
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Take this article, remove all references to Gordon and insert Earnhardt Sr. Same article, different name and if its true about Gordon as many of you believe then it it also just as true about Earnhardt Sr.

T-Money
10/14/2006 03:08 PM
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You failed to mention in your story that nascar warned Jr. about his bump drafting. You are just pissed that jr. after 6 years still doesn’t have a championship. OVER8TED

Mark
10/15/2006 02:24 PM
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Denny, I see you don’t know what you are talking about as usual. One instance for example Dale Earnhardt came in late and put on fresh tires at Richmond. I forget who was upfront, Steve Park was in 2nd, Dale flew through the field to 3rd. He got on his radio and transferred word to Steve Park that if he just moved over and let him by, he was fired. Dale took just as good as he gave. The week he died, he got spun out in IROC, went to the guys pits, and gave him a noogey on the head, and congratulated him on a fine race. Learn your facts

Mark
10/15/2006 02:29 PM
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And one more thing, if we’re not going to bump draft, or push others to the front, or drive below the yellow, or whatever other sissy rules NASCAR can come up with, guys, just line up on Sunday, and play follow the leader. Racing is about having the brass to do something better than the others. Do accidents happen? Yes. Do people get taken out on purpose? Yes!!! It is racing, nobody remembers 2nd place, that is only the fastest loser.

Mark
10/15/2006 08:45 PM
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Hey Denny, do you remember October, 2000, the old number 3 was thanking Kenny Wallace for pushing him all the way to the front. Dale didn’t whine. He had a set as big as basketballs

 

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