What does Talladega have to do to get love?
by Joe Medley
Oct 08, 2012 | 6076 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA --- So, Jeff Gordon, am I hearing you right?

You came into this weekend 10th in the Chase for the Cup and needing to make up ground.

You said Friday that you had to race for the victory and hope Talladega’s signature “Big One” takes out some Chase competition.

You survived the “Big One,” finished second and made the biggest jump in the points, up to sixth.

You’re welcome.

“I mean, do we have a choice,” he said after Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500, when asked about the edgy, close-up racing required at Talladega. “I guess we do, but I don’t feel like I really do.

“It’s just part of racing here at Talladega. You have to accept it.”

So, you’re NOT happy?

“I remember when coming to Talladega was fun,” he said. “I really do, and I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time.”

NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track just can’t get any love.

To be fair, Gordon, by far, is not the first and won’t be the last to kvetch about at Talladega.

He wasn’t the only one Sunday. We caught that little quip, Roush Racing owner Jack Roush, about considering the cars you bring to Talladega a “write-off.”

We also know it’s not the track, per se, or its fans that get criticized, though they once famously threw beer cans as Gordon spun out to celebrate a victory.

The gripes come from the kind of racing done here, resulting from years of rules tweaks since NASCAR mandated restrictor plates to slow down the cars and keep them on the track during a crash.

Lots of cars run close together at 190 mph.

Lately, amid rules changes designed to “bring the pack back” to Talladega, cars have gotten so close that drivers can see only the sponsor-adorned bumper in front of them.

“All I saw was ‘Text 50555,’” Kyle Busch said about riding Gordon’s bumper Sunday.

Quipped Gordon, “My sponsor is going to love you, man.”

There was no love for the current style of Talladega racing after Sunday’s race, just whining and pining for the past.

“I do remember times when the draft and the thought you had to put into it, the strategy working the draft and the cars in the lines was fun,” Gordon said. “You had some room between the cars, and you had to use the air, instead of the bumper.

“To me, you could still come from the middle of the pack to first in the closing laps, but just how you did it was different.”

With drivers bumper-to-bumper at nearly 200 mph, the slightest bump and turn of one car amid a pack can cause a chain reaction, hence the “Big One” crash.

It happened on the last lap Sunday, when leader Tony Stewart tried to move down the track too late to catch a push from Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears. Lots of smoke and 20 mangled cars later, Stewart took full responsibility.

The contact started as Matt Kenseth was separating from the pack. He avoided trouble and won.

Gordon got through it and finished second.

Other Chase drivers, including Stewart and Gordon teammate Jimmie Johnson, weren’t so lucky.

Oh, and there’s history to consider here. Since NASCAR went to the Chase format in 2004, lots of drivers have crashed in Talladega’s fall races, which fall during the Chase portion of the schedule. Only Johnson in 2006 managed to do it and still win the Chase.

Talladega’s “Big Ones” have big losers.

They also have big winners, and Gordon was Sunday’s biggest winner. He had to take risks and hope others suffered the damage, and it couldn’t have gone much better for him.

Gordon entered the day 48 points behind leader Brad Keselowski with seven Chase races left. Gordon left Talladega six points and four spots closer to Keselowski with six races left.

Not that you’d know by hearing from arguably the track’s least popular, non-Dale Earnhardt human.

“I mean, that literally is bumper cars at almost 200 miles per hour,” Gordon said. “I don’t know anybody that likes that.”

C’mon, Jeff. For the love, how about some love for Talladega on a day when Talladega’s fortunes loved you.
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