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Monday, May 3, 2010

Don’t cry for Jeff Gordon … he’s doing just fine

Jeff Gordon’s situation in 2010 is the classic “half full or half empty” scenario.

On one hand, it’s easy to understand why he might be frustrated with his season. Despite being dominant in several races, he has yet to take a checkered flag. He should have won at least once, possible several times, but it always goes wrong in the end.

Saturday night at Richmond, Kyle Busch spoiled the night by passing Gordon on the last restart. Things like this no doubt make a driver somewhat frustrated,

But at the same time, the glass is really half full for Jeff Gordon. The reason is simple: When you’re in the hunt like he is every week, eventually you will win races and possibly contend for the title.

It’s not all roses, as his crew chief Steve Letarte needs to make better decisions at the end of races when cautions come out, and he needs to get better at holding his position on restarts. He’s always the guy to beat, until the very end. Then, he becomes the bridesmaid instead of the bride.

But things are honestly looking up for Gordon this year. There is clearly lots of fire in him, and I hadn’t seen that in a while. You can tell he wants to win a fifth title before teammate Jimmie Johnson does.

That’s part of the reason why he’s been so animated lately. He wants to show he’s not washed-up and hasn’t been passed by the newest 4-time champ in terms of ability.

This is a new chapter for Jeff Gordon, who was the Jimmie Johnson of his day. For the first decade of his career, every week he was a threat to win, and every year he was a favorite for the title.

Now, that honor goes to Johnson. Gordon’s new role: The chaser, the underdog, the challenger. He needs to dethrone Johnson and get back on top. He is Muhammad Ali or George Foreman trying to retake the heavyweight crown at an older age.

And I have to say, it’s a lot easier to root for him as an underdog, so he might actually get some more fan support in this quest for a title. Back then, he was the Evil Empire. Now, he’s Luke Skywalker.
(This is somewhat misleading, as he still works for the Evil Empire at Hendrick Motorsports … but you get the point. He’s not as evil as Johnson)

After spending much of the last decade watching others lead the sport, Gordon has decided it’s time he became the champion again, and his recent string of excellent performances shows no signs of ending.

And he should see the glass as half full, because there is no question about that.

Great finishes all weekend
This was the best weekend of racing I’ve seen in a while.

Sunday was a great capper, as the Kansas Truck series race did not disappoint. The highlight was at the end, as veteran Ron Hornaday and up-and-comer Johnny Sauter waged an intense battle for the race lead, highlighted by a double spin that sent them both completely sideways. Amazingly, they both saved their trucks and continued on. Sauter ended up winning his second career Truck series race, but Hornaday had the car to beat up until that amazing near-wreck. Sauter’s hard racing led to the win, and he definitely earned it. He has found a home in truck series and should stay there unless he knows a solid Cup ride is available. In this series, he can flourish and compete for the title.

Friday’s Nationwide race got the weekend off to a great start, with Brad Keselowski pitting for four tires, then roaring past the leader on a G-W-C. He was the dominant car and deserved to win, and is well on the way to giving Roger Penske his first NASCAR title.

Saturday’s Cup race at Richmond was another nailbiter, as Jeff Gordon was leading and about to win when the thing happens that he hates most: A late caution. This has happened to Gordon at other times this year, and he has been the loser every time. Saturday was no exception, as he got passed by Kyle Busch and finished 2nd.

All in all, it was a great weekend for racing fans, between the two RIR races and the Kansas race. If every weekend was like this, no one would ever complain (well, a few probably would … some people just enjoy complaining.)

Kentucky Speedway should get race; lawsuit settled
With the endless litigation now resolved, Kentucky Speedway is likely to get a race date next year.
So the question becomes, which SMI track loses a date?
Atlanta? New Hampshire? I don’t know, but I can tell you one thing: The France family isn’t going to give up an ISC track’s date so Bruton Smith’s tracks can get an extra date. It’s going to have to come from within.

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Anonymous mobilechamps said...

Hmmmm he will successes I will not, best of luck for Jeff....

May 5, 2010 at 10:41 PM 

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