Posted on: December 2, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: December 2, 2011 12:59 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
Jeff Gordon showed he still has some game on the dance floor when he broke out a break dancing demonstration during the "NASCAR After the Lap" show in Las Vegas:
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:32 pm
By Pete Pistone
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Jeff Gordon believes NASCAR was fair with its decision to penalize Kyle Buschfor his actions in last week’s truck race at Texas
But the Hendrick Motorsports driver did have to pause and reflect just a bit about Busch’s incident and compare it to an altercation that happened to him under caution at Texas last November.
“I kind of ran through my head to try to figure out what the different between what Jeff Burton did and what Kyle (Busch) did,” said Gordon. I think that the difference was that Jeff Burton wasn’t on any kind of probation earlier in the year or the year before or the year before. He wasn’t a focus -- he’s a driver that doesn’t do things like that very often and he didn’t have a track record.
“I think that we kind of were able to settle it sort of face to face on the race track and there was nothing done from that point on and I was fine with that and I think Jeff was fine with that. We understood the situation. I think in this situation it’s a little bit of history as well as they were carrying a little more speed at the time and the cameras were all right there on the situation. I think that to me, it’s just more than anything, it’s the incident itself as well as kind of trying to make a statement.”
Gordon said he hadn’t spoken to Busch about the incident but understood the controversy that came in its aftermath. Gordon contributes the focus to Busch’s position as a lightning rod for publicity and believes NASCAR is a better place with the Joe Gibbs Racing driver in it.
“First of all, it would be a huge loss to the sport if Kyle Busch is not out there,” Gordon said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. He is extremely talented and he’s entertaining. You have to give him not only the fact that he can win races, but he can do it in an entertaining way and I think that if this doesn’t teach him the ultimate lesson than nothing will.
“I would certainly have to believe that this would be an eye opening experience. Sitting out Saturday and Sunday and seeing the magnitude -- I’m sure at first he was pretty shocked at the magnitude of this incident. I think once he saw that -- it had to have gotten his attention.”
Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Posted by Pete Pistone
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's just a gift to finish ninth and to have the day we had. Did Tony have to come in and pit? On the replay, he cut a tire, had to pit, came back through the field. All right, he took two the next time.
That was our strategy, we did the same thing we did last week, cruise around the back, wait for everything to work out.
JEFF GORDON: That strategy worked out okay for you.
CARL EDWARDS: We did not deserve to finish ninth. Proud of my guys for sticking with it. Bob did a good job of keeping me calm. Now we go to Texas. I'm excited about Texas.
KERRY THARP: Our third-place finisher in today's race is Jeff Gordon. Jeff, you got caught up in something early on, then your car as the race went on, you led laps, persevered throughout the afternoon. Talk about that.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, you know, got caught up in that incident early on there. Junior hit the curb and spun. I chose to get out of the way of the guys behind me, so they didn't get into me. Unfortunately I got into Junior.
I wasn't too worried about the damage to the car speed-wise, it was just the right front brake duct was tore up pretty good. Obviously cooling the brakes is pretty important here. We went to the back. We didn't necessarily drive up to the front. We just got out of sync with guys and then we found ourselves going from 40th up to 20th, then we drove up there.
We had a really strong racecar. Denny I thought was a little bit better than us on the long runs. Then those last couple runs, I don't know, we made some adjustments and it just didn't work out for us. We got real lose off so we didn't have much for him at the end. So third is not bad.
KERRY THARP: Also joining us our race runner-up, Jimmie Johnson. You shaved some points off that deficit coming out of this race here today with certainly a second-place finish. Talk about your run out there this afternoon.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, great performance for the racecar all day long. We tried to take care of our tires, our brakes, and just be smart. It seemed like there were really four cars that had the pace throughout the whole race. Between the 24, the 11, the 18 and us, we kind of rotated around positions.
Then Chad, to make fun of my cheerleading comment before, Chad made a call that was going to give us the win for the race. He second guessed himself. I'm sure a lot of you heard him cussing himself on the radio. But it ended up being a good thing. Three or four laps later he stopped cussing himself and said we had a chance to win this thing, and we did.
At the end, all the cautions were not what we needed. Saw Tony in Victory Lane. He said he found something on the outside lane. Drooling at the opportunity to start out there and certainly made it work.
At the end it was frustrating to see the same few cars over and over with the caution. That was something we certainly didn't want to see.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Jimmie, Carl or Jeff.
Q. Carl, is this a bigger miracle than Kansas City?
CARL EDWARDS: It's unreal. We were so bad probably 200 laps to go, I was thinking, Okay, the Cardinals didn't give up the other night. That's a little motivation. Missouri Tigers didn't give up the other night. That's motivation. I became all right with the fact we were going to finish 20th or 25th. I was already thinking about Texas, everything we were going to do.
My guys stuck with it and we got very, very fortunate. Just glad we could move on.
Q. Jimmie, it seems like the 83 was involved in half the cautions out there. I know you were a little disappointed the way that happened at the end. How do you feel when a guy who is not in the Chase is playing such a key role in the way things shook down today?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Well, I mean, I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen.
After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason.
When you're on the racetrack and someone wrongs you, you have some decisions to make in how you want to handle that. Each man's decision how they want to handle it.
I don't agree with the way things were handled at the end. Tony Stewart is sitting in Victory Lane smiling and he's real happy it turned out that way.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, in regards to Tony having to hold off Denny Hamlin while you were bunched up, looking back at it, how key is that for him to run that hard at that juncture of the race to stay on the lead lap and be able to have the benefit of working his way back to the front and winning it?
JEFF GORDON: It was pretty early, wasn't it? It wasn't right there at the end. So, I mean, you saw how many guys got their lap back today. I don't think that was that big of a deal. I thought a guy in that position up in the points, he's going to have to fight really hard to stay on the lead lap.
No offense, but as bad as his stuff was today, he still fought pretty hard to stay up. I think that's what Tony did. He did what he had to do. But, I mean, if he had gone down a lap, he would have gotten it back pretty easily.
It was more impressive to me about what the 14 did, when they had the problem with the 29, I'm still trying to figure out where he came from. I was up there battling with Jimmie. We came in, didn't have a great pit stop, and he came out in front of us. They say he took four tires. I'm questioning whether they took four. Maybe took two.
But he was fast. Doesn't matter. He was ahead of us and he was fast. Especially on the outside, I mean, Jimmie unfortunately got to see it, but I saw it earlier, too, when he drove by the 29 on the outside with two tires. So he definitely had a good car that could really rotate the middle even on the outside.
CARL EDWARDS: I think credit needs to be given to his crew chief. I raced around Tony for the first 100, 150 laps. I thought his car was as slow as mine was. They did a good job of turning the balance of that car around overall. It looked like he was struggling a lot.
Q. Carl, can you explain in essence what went wrong and what went right for you today. Also, in Victory Lane after the race, Tony said about you, being close to the points, He better be worried, that's all I've got to say, he's not going to have an easy three weeks.
CARL EDWARDS: He's wound up. He won the race. We'll see what happens at Texas. I mean, I feel like we're going to go there and we're going to have as good a shot to win as anyone.
This track has been really, really tough for me. I think this is one of those days where everything went wrong and everything went right as well. Unfortunately the timing of those things worked out so we finished ninth.
I think Tony and those guys, they've won three Chase races. When I sat in here on Friday, I told you guys I thought he was one of the guys that could win this race and be a guy that you'd have to beat for the championship. I think he's proven that. He's proving it right now.
But, yeah, we'll have fun. We'll go race hard. They're going to have to race us, too. I'm excited about the next three races.
Q. Carl, what was going through your mind when the black flag came out, then it was rescinded?
CARL EDWARDS: I'd forgotten about that. My spotter Jason, NASCAR was telling him for me to pass the 31. Jason was yelling at me, We've got to pass the 31. I drove around the outside of Burton right as the green was coming out. I have to give credit to Burton. He probably had no clue what was going on. He thought about turning me around in turn one. I'm grateful he didn't do that.
Whether or not there was a communication error, what was going on, I appreciate NASCAR looking at it and realizing they told me to do what they were black flagging me for. Not very often they rescind the black flag like that.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie, at the end of the race with two laps to go, there's a restart, what are you thinking being on the same team, points race? Are you both gunning for the win or trying not to ruin the other one's chances, but you're still going to try for the win? Are you communicating?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think at the end of these races, you're not going to blatantly drive over the top of a teammate, but you're going to go race and race as you always do.
When I saw the 24 lined up behind me, I knew he had taken tires earlier. Knew how fast his car was in the short run. When I restarted, I was actually a little more concerned with the 24 than I was the 14. I was hopeful to clear the 14 off of two, Jeff and Tony would be racing side-by-side, I could get distance on those two.
Certainly didn't work out that way.
When I was inside of Tony, I went down in the corner and thought that eight tires would be a lot better than four. I changed my mind. With where he is in the points, what's going on, the fact we raced throughout the day today, he never touched me, I had a hard time doing that.
JEFF GORDON: I think it would have been great (laughter).
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Jeff probably would have won the race if I would have done it.
I couldn't bring myself to that. He got by. I tried to be smart. That's typically how I race guys. I don't run over people to get positions.
Q. Jimmie, you've had these championship runs before and had things happen like with Carl today. Do you feel like what happened today may be something that will contend for a championship now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, at the start of the year I said I thought the 99 would be the guy to focus on. I think there's a lot of things through the history of Bob and Carl together that show their strength. They were separated at one point and came back. We didn't hear things about these two trying to kill each other in the process, even though the toughest time, when they were trying to turn Roush around a couple years back.
I definitely know what he's capable of, feel that he's a threat.
Tony is going to be tough from here on out. Highly motivated. Going to be on some good tracks, he's been fast on those mile-and-a-half's. I think it's going to be a great run all the way to the end.
Q. It seemed like all year long we've heard guys talk about people with lack of respect amongst the drivers. Seemed like today you heard that a lot from a lot of drivers. Why do you think that is? Just the end of the year, short-track racing?
JEFF GORDON: It's just Martinsville, isn't it? I think it's a combination of late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes. If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there.
Seems to me that's what happened. We couldn't get into a rhythm with the race, couldn't get it going. Seemed like guys were ticked off at one another, driving over their heads, whatever it may be. We saw that for a big majority of the race.
Obviously the 83 had that throughout the whole race. But I think it was just one of those crazy days. I don't know. You can't always explain it. Usually Martinsville does contribute towards that.
Q. Carl, lug nut issue on a pit stop. Get the lucky dog at least twice, maybe more. You're sitting here with a ninth-place finish at what's probably the toughest track for you in this quest. Is this basically like victory?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, it is. If we could come just out of here in the top 10, that's like a win. Very happy with the result. Not happy with the performance. We struggled. We struggled in a bunch of different ways today. We've got to work on this. We've got to figure out exactly what causes us to struggle here. Looks like a couple of our teammates figured it out. We have some homework to do before we come back next time
Q. Jeff just made the comment, This is Martinsville. We only have three tracks on the schedule that are less than a mile in length. Would you like to go to more short tracks or is a day like today enough to make you think we have enough of them on the schedule?
JEFF GORDON: Who would like to answer that?
I mean, I'll admit that when we went through this big building process of all these mile-and-a-half's, nobody considered building something more like a Bristol or a Richmond or something like that. I think that we need one or two more tracks like that on the circuit.
So, yeah, Martinsville is a little extreme. This place is tough on brakes, tempers flare. It's a narrow place to race on. It can be tough. But it's very entertaining. So you got to like that.
I mean, if I had my choice, we have two races here. It would be nice to have something a little unique and different but still in that short-track fashion.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 12:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:14 pm
By Pete Pistone
(For many the advent of the two-car tandem has negatively impacted racing at Talladega and Daytona)
Controversy and Talladega Superspeedway have been married to one another since the sprawling track was born back in 1969.
Driver boycotts, lightning fast speeds, horrific crashes and since it debuted in 1987, restrictor plate racing, have kept Talladega in the headlines pretty much on an annual basis every NASCAR season.
The latest chapter in the track’s stormy history was written on Sunday, but this one might not be very easy to brush off.
There was a distinct distaste in the air during and after the Good Sam Club 500 that more than likely will linger for some time – or at least until the tandem style of racing disappears.
Which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon.
While some drivers, crew chiefs and fans do like this next evolution of restrictor plate racing, they seem to be in the minority.
There’s a lot more opposition to the phenomenon and that’s even resonating with the sanctioning body itself.
NASCAR vice president of operations Steve O’Donnell took to his Twitter account after Sunday’s race to offer this assessment of the final plate race of the season: "Know we have work to do on superspeedway [racing] and we'll certainly stay after it.''
The response isn’t surprising when some of the sport’s biggest names have spoken out about their distaste for what has become of the racing at both Talladega and Daytona.
“Yea, bored,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought the crowd to its feet when he got to the lead for a lap before filing back to hook up with Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson as a drafting partner. “I'd rather race up in there and try to lead laps and do whatever but it's really not my style of racing. Being pushed and carrying on all day long. Trying to lead a couple of laps that are sort of meaningless really doesn't make a lot of sense either.”
Even though all drivers understand the benefit of hooking up in the nose-to-tail formation and how it’s now become a necessary part of the equation, the practice is still not universally accepted.
“From the driver’s seat, I’m not a big fan of it,” said Matt Kenseth. “There’s just not a lot we can do about it, unless the cars or the rules or something changes. There’s not really anything you’re going to do about it because it’s so much faster, but driving I’m not a real big fan of it.”
Watching drivers ride around for three plus hours in two car pods until all try to make a mad dash to the checkered flag isn’t winning over many fans either. While Sunday’s crowd was announced at over 100,000, it was hard not to notice the chunks of unused grandstand areas around the at one time jam packed Talladega Superspeedway.
"Most of them will say to us, 'It was kind of neat at first, but I'd really like to see what I used to see, which is the big packs,' " Talladega president Grant Lynch told The Roanoke Times of customer reaction he’s heard on the pairs racing. "I like that probably better myself.''
The strategy of hanging in the back of the field for the majority of the event and then making a move for the lead in the latter stages of the race has also come under fire.
Fans pay to see drivers “race,” something that is not being done when they drop anchor at the drop of the green flag and simply go on a Sunday drive for most of the afternoon. It goes against what the sport is supposed to be about and that is to get to the front as fast as possible and stay there.
The perception of the head to the rear philosophy is that drivers simply are not trying. Strategy or not, the idea is something fans don’t want to watch and its understandable if some who bought a ticket for Sunday’s race or watched on television felt cheated by the experience.
The tandem racing also brought into light another major hot button topic over the weekend regarding team orders and drivers being told who they had to race with and weren’t able to help.
Now it’s not the first time since the advent of plate racing that we’ve heard drivers accuse one another of reneging on deals to draft when it came down to nitty gritty time.
The very nature of racing at Talladega has always been about wheeling and dealing and being on the lookout for drafting partners. More often than not those alliances disappear when the checkered flag comes into sight.
But the process has seemingly become much more premeditated today with individual race teams and manufacturers dictating who their drivers can and cannot work with in the draft.
It came to a head when Trevor Bayne agreed to run with Jeff Gordon in the closing laps only to bail in favor of Ford stable mate Kenseth.
Bayne said he was the victim of being caught in the middle while his team co-owner Eddie Wood reiterated there wasn’t any pre-race plan in place for Ford drivers only to work with fellow Blue Oval mates.
And Jack Roush, despite the official Ford Racing website stating otherwise, vehemently denied any such plan was in place with a statement of his own.
The bottom line is manufacturers and teams do dictate how drivers behave on the race track putting the men behind the wheel in compromising situations that certainly have an impact on winning or losing.
So the laundry list of what’s wrong with restrictor plate racing today definitely outweighs what’s right, which is an odd statement in light of Clint Bowyer edging Jeff Burton by .017-seconds to win Sunday’s race.
However while the finishes of recent Daytona and Talladega races have been close and exciting, the journey to get there is fraught with troubles.
But what can be done to address these issues and “fix” the problems?
"You have to be very careful because the cure could be way worse than the disease," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "We're here to make things as even as we can across the board but we do understand that the likelihood of [two-car drafts] gaining popularity is not there.''
Pemberton is probably right, but that’s not a comforting answer to thousands of unsatisfied race fans in the aftermath of Sunday’s trip to Talladega.
Posted on: October 25, 2011 11:27 am
Posted by Pete Pistone
Wood Bros. co-owner Eddie Wood denied any type of "team orders" were given at Talladega this weekend that may have led to the decision of driver Trevor Bayne working with Matt Kenseth rather than Chevrolet's Jeff Gordon in the closing laps of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500.
Wood was a guest on Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive" and provided his perspective of Sunday's controversial finish:
LISTEN TO WOOD'S COMMENTS
However there is still confusion around the weekend's directives based on a story posted prior to Talladega on the Ford Racing website, which would indicate team owner Jack Roush did indeed mandate drivers from within the manufacturer stable to work with only one another.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 9:16 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 6:35 am
By Pete Pistone
Restrictor plate racing and its new tandem drafting style claimed another pair of drivers who don't see eye to eye in the aftermath of Sunday's Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Jeff Gordon and Trevor Bayne, who famously worked together back in Daytona at Speedweeks, were also hooked up in Sunday's final plate race of the year. That is until it mattered most.
Ford driver Bayne bailed from Chevrolet driver Gordon in the final dash to the checkered flag leaving the Hendrick Motorsports driver high and dry. Without a drafting partner Gordon sunk like a rock and finished 27th, a long fall from what looked like it would be a promising day.
"The unfortunate part is that we made a deal with somebody and they reneged on it after we took the green,” Gordon said after the race.
Gordon said at first he was a bit surprised Bayne had even agreed to draft with him given the manufacturer difference between the two. But once the deal was in place, Gordon believed it would stick to the checkered flag.
“I didn’t expect him to agree," Gordon said. "I came on his radio and asked him and he said, 'Yeah man, I’m pushing you. We’re good. Let’s go, let’s go."
Bayne didn't formally comment to the media in Talladega but took to his Twitter account to explain his side of the story.
“I'm not happy about what this has become ... It's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around is,” Bayne tweeted.
“I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell (Jeff Gordon) I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing.”
The controversy comes in the wake of several team owners specifiying that their drivers assist only teammates or others within manufacturer camps.
Jack Roush was the most vocal over the weekend reportedly instructing his drivers to not assist anyone outside the Roush Fenway Racing or Ford stable.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:37 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 2:38 pm
Following a tight race filled with close calls with Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon talks about falling down a notch in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with the hosts of Inside NASCAR.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 3:35 pm
By Pete Pistone
The 15-car accident that took the life of Dan Wheldon in Sunday’s series season finale broke out when one car wiggled and the oncoming group of tightly packed cars could do nothing but run into one another.
However this week in Talladega, new NASCAR rules will be in place to hopefully encourage drivers to race more in packs.
There is a bit of irony in the two directions to say the least.
The two car tandem racing that has exploded at Daytona and Talladega has not exactly caught the fancy of either fans or many drivers for that matter.
“I don’t like this type of racing, and you know it,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after last April’s Talladega race. “It was just a foolish race.”
Saturday night’s Charlotte winner Matt Kenseth also takes a dim view of the new restrictor plate racing phenomenon.
"From the driver's seat, I'm not a big fan of it," Kenseth said. "There's just not a lot we can do about it, unless the cars or the rules or something changes. There's not really anything you're going to do about it because it's so much faster."
An even louder voice on the subject has come from the fans that have weighed in loud and clear that the “love bug” racing is not what they want to watch either in person or on television.
Daytona International Speedway distributed a survey following last July’s Coke Zero 400 asking fans to comment on a variety of subjects. The survey showed the number of fans who were dissatisfied with the race itself grew from 3 percent last year to 10 percent this year.
Daytona president Joie Chitwood believes the new style of racing is the culprit.
"The two-by-two racing was a novelty that has worn off," Chitwood told The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
So in an effort to return plate racing back to the “norm” of bigger groups of cars running side-by-side rather than the bumper-to-bumper tandem competition, NASCAR has mandated two rule changes for the season’s last plate race Sunday at Talladega.
A larger restrictor plate will give drivers an opportunity for more throttle response as well as a chance to pull away from one another. And a recalibrated pressure relief valve on the engine’s cooling system will force drivers to run more in clean air rather than tucked directly behind the rear bumper of another car or risk overheating their power plants.
While the impact won’t be completely known until Friday’s first practice session, the expectation is less nose to tail racing with drivers needing to swap positions more often or perhaps return to the bigger and more spaced out packs.
But what will that do to the safety aspect of the racing and the possibility of ramping up the potential of the infamous Talladega “Big One,” the multi-car wreck that has marred plate racing since its inception in the late 1980s?
At least at this point drivers don’t see it that way.
While all understand the risky nature of their business and the prospects of a big wreck happening at Talladega under any conditions, few correlate what happened in the Indy Car race at Vegas to what they’ll deal with this weekend.
“I wouldn't compare an IndyCar at Las Vegas to Talladega with a stock car, they're completely different, polar opposites,” Jeff Gordon said. “Looking at the aerodynamics, the weight of our cars, the fact that there are full fenders, NASCAR has implemented some incredible safety features for our cars over the years to allow us to go to Talladega.”
Gordon believes no matter what kind of racing develops this weekend, he’s comfortable being strapped in behind the wheel.
“While the drivers might not always be thrilled and sometimes the fans aren't always thrilled about the type of racing going on out there, I do feel very safe inside the cars,” Gordon said.
Kurt Busch’s team owner Roger Penske fields cars in both NASCAR as well as the Indy Car Series. He feels the comparisons between what happened in Las Vegas and racing at Talladega aren’t fair and has complete confidence in stock car racing’s safety initiatives.
“Well, I feel very safe, especially in a stockcar with the roll cage,” Busch said. “The speeds we run aren't as great as the IndyCars. Talladega is Talladega. Everybody knows it going in. There's much more comfort when you've done it year after year after year and you trust the 43 guys that are out there.
“It was tough what happened out in Las Vegas. A lot of new guys were racing in a pack that they weren't necessarily familiar with. So when you throw so many new variables in, that's the risk that happens.”
But while most see the difference in racing a 3,400 pound, full-fendered NASCAR stock car versus the much lighter and ultra fast Indy Car on high speed ovals, drivers do still consider the risk involved should pack racing return to Talladega this weekend.
However whether or not NASCAR’s rule changes actually will bring that back this weekend is still unclear.
"We'll have to wait and see what effect the new rule changes will have on restrictor-plate racing," said Ryan Newman. "We all have our theories but won't know for sure until we actually get on the track this weekend. Personally, I think there will be less tandem drafting than in the past because of the rule changes.”
Even if tandem racing remains in place, all bets will be off once the checkered flag is in sight.
"We all know what usually happens in the closing laps of a restrictor-plate race," Newman said.