Monday, April 26, 2010

Jeff Gordon Has Every Right To Be 'Pissed' At Selfish Teammate

In the world of NASCAR, no one is a saint. If there is a racer in the Sprint Cup series who wouldn't wreck their own wife, girlfriend, mother, or even grandmother to win a race, they probably aren't going to be a Chase contender.

That's just the way it is.

Jeff Gordon spent years being vilified and hated by NASCAR fans. He once had beer cans thrown at his car after the unspeakable crime of winning a race at Talladega. He was evil in the minds of many race fans for a lot of years, until his teammate took the honor.

Four-time champion Jimmie Johnson is a great driver, and he doesn't appear to be an awful guy behind the scenes. He does the charity work, isn't afraid to get in line to help other drivers' charities (Kyle Busch, from what I hear, is WAY underrated in this regard, by the way), and is a soft-spoken face in a sport full of blowhards.

You'd think he could maintain a decent fan base without being hated, yet between his four titles in a row -- no one wants to root for the guy or team that ALWAYS wins -- and some recent dustups with other drivers, Johnson's pristine reputation has taken a bit of a hit.

April 19, Johnson was leading in the race at Texas, and all of a sudden here came Gordon. Despite his teammate having a much faster car, Johnson saw fit to try to block Gordon, causing unnecessary damage and friction. Gordon later wrecked, while Johnson finished in the top ten (shockingly).

There was talk of friction between the two, buoyed by comments by Gordon on his radio that indicated some issues with Johnson. Something along the lines of how Johnson "thinks he should be treated different than everybody else."

During the week, Johnson and Gordon downplayed any friction. Radio comments are often downplayed as out of emotion and the fire of the race. Once a driver calms down, things are usually different.

After Talladega, where Johnson bumped Gordon while Gordon was trying to get in position to draft off his teammate (or, at least that's what Johnson thought ... Gordon was obviously trying to pass because, again, he had a faster car), Gordon didn't comment on the radio (well, not that I heard). Instead, he waited until he climbed out of the car.

Frankly, Gordon has every right to be "pissed," or whatever he wants to be.

Over his four-year run atop the Sprint Cup Series, Johnson has enjoyed a lot of luck, and he has gotten a lot of help along the way. His teammates help him on the track, share information about the cars (as per Hendrick Motorsports procedure), and more importantly, they protected him throughout his championship runs.

If it weren't for Gordon, Johnson may never have gotten this opportunity with Hendrick, or the chance to work with ace crew chief Chad Knaus.

Gordon isn't asking for any favors on the track that he hasn't already given Johnson. The fact Johnson refuses to give up ground when he has an inferior car shows that he still has some to learn about the give-and-take of the sport, and what it means to be a good teammate.

That's unfortunate, because between Gordon and Mark Martin, Johnson has seen plenty of examples of good teammates in recent years. Too bad he hasn't picked up on too much of what they could have taught him.

1 comment:

Eric J. Burton said...

Eventually Gordon needs to put the bumper to Johnson's car and teach him a lesson. You can't do what Johnson did to his team mate, that's unacceptable.