The Longest Week : A Gordon Fan’s PerspectivePosted by in NASCAR
It’s been a heckuva week for this Jeff Gordon girl. I have been semi mum (for me anyway) on the subject because frankly the emotions were too high. Aside from a handful of angry tweets and some pointed re-tweets, I have been mum…but now that it is all said and done ,and I can contemplate the events of the last week without fire steaming from my nostrils, let me tell you what it was like for me and I am sure most of the 24 fans.
Saturday’s race at Richmond, in itself, was a roller coaster ride of emotions. Jeff needed to race his way into the Top Ten in points to make the Chase. Starting from the pole was a good way to get there. So was leading the first 50 or so laps, but then he began to fade, having used up his tires in that first run, the handling of the car went away and he didn’t seem to have a car capable of winning the race. However, all was not lost as Logano – the person he needed to unseat from 10th in points was having a FAR worse night- having fallen two laps down early on and remained stuck there.
But suddenly my cautious optimism went to hell in a handcart pretty quick, when Jeff had a loose wheel and had to pit under green. I believe at this point I jumped up, yelled something to the effect of “that’s it we are done! No Chase this year!” and stormed down stairs resigned to the idea. Now in my house the race is on every TV and my dad was watching down stairs, and reminded me that last year at Richmond all seemed lost too, but Jeff pulled it off in the end. I sighed and continued to watch. Sure enough, Jeff did it- he raced his way from two laps down to the lucky dog position. Why did I doubt Big Daddy?
The race was progressing nicely and my optimism was coming back when BOOM! Jeff is caught on pit road for a green flag stop when Johnson’s blown tire causes a caution – to say I said some not too nice words about 5 Time and Jeff’s HMS teammate, would be an understatement. However, once again Jeff pulled through- Alan’s call kept him the first car a lap down and he got the Lucky Dog.
With 9 to go, Jeff was racing Truex hard for position and Truex had been told not to let him by. Truex, too, was fighting for a Chase position by virtue of a Wild Card. Not happy, but understandable! Then BAM! Cl-itchy Bowyer spins all by his lonesome and the race is up turned. With bated breath I watched the re-start, listened to the announcers say Joey had taken a wave around. My stomach was in knots! Hands shaking! Within a few minutes it was over – Logano was in, Gordon was out and rumors and speculation of Spin Gate were swirling.
I was DEVASTATED- I literally had tears in my eyes and venom boiled in my blood. Had that really just happened – had MWR really done what they were saying. I can’t even describe the anger and disappointment I had in NASCAR, MWR and the world and its lack of ethics and sportsmanship at that moment.
I went to bed and tossed and turned and dreamed about that race all night. I woke up sick to my stomach. Had Jeff’s loose wheel cost him the Chase spot- I would have been disappointed, sad, but not heartbroken and disgusted like I was on Sunday morning thinking about what had transpired. A quick check of Social Media made it apparent I was not the only one furious and angry. Plenty of others were too. I found a Change.org petition asking NASCAR to DQ MWR and add Ryan Newman and Jeff to the Chase. Ryan Newman had Richmond’s win all but locked up with Cl-itchy pulled his shenanigan – and cost Newman not only the race but his Chase position, that went to Truex instead. So not only had Jeff been screwed, so had Newman and in effect all of SHR – since Newman was their only shot at a Chase position. You can bet I signed that petition and was one of only 100 or so who had done so, at that time.
By Monday the petition and the anger was growing, and it seemed like a real possibility that NASCAR would actually take action. A press conference was called for 5:15 Pacific Time and NASCAR announced that it had deemed MWR to have manipulated the race on many levels, including the 55 car pitting for no reason and slowing to give positions away. Fines, penalties were dealt and the end result was Truex was out, Newman was in and there was a 50 point penalty for each of the three teams. Initially my reaction was, “Well still sucks that Gordon is out, BUT hey at least Bowyer won’t have a real shot at the Championship”. Then I realized NO! Bowyer’s penalty was pre-Chase, meaning he had no real penalty for his spin. I WAS LIVID! So Truex (who I truly believes only crime is driving for an unscrupulous organization) was out of the Chase, but Mr. Spin Gate himself was good as gold??? What the heck was NASCAR thinking!
I couldn’t believe it. That little petition was growing and by all rights I should have given up , but no way – there had to be something more to do about Bowyer. At that point it wasn’t a matter of getting Gordon in the Chase, it was about punishing the right person! Truex was not the right person. Bowyer was. Now NASCAR could have made this ALL right by docking Bowyer enough points to slip him out of a Top Ten, which would have moved Jeff in and with the rest of the MWR team’s point penalty Newman would have been in and NASCAR fans would have felt OK.
The week went out and further allegations came to light against Logano and Gilliland and that petition I mentioned earlier was the little engine that could and had grown to nearly 10k by Thursday when it made Fox and NBC news. From there it grew to nearly 16k by Friday morning! NASCAR acknowledged that they were investigating but had not made a final determination. As a Jeff Gordon fan this kept hope alive, but also nerves on edge. I could not put my phone down for more than 5 minutes without checking twitter for updates, rumors, news of any kind.
Then it happened – a tweet told me that Brian France and Mike Helton would be addressing the media at 12:55 pm PACIFIC. My stomach flipped – whatever was going to happen was going to happen and it would all be done. I happened to be in the car so thanks to Sirius Radio I was listening to the presser live, when Helton announced the penalties for the 22 and 38 was probation. A finger stood at attention to my radio – BIG DEAL! Probation! They sat around for two days, playing with my emotions only to put the teams on probation?! That could have been settled days earlier and I could have begun the healing process. BUT THEN – France took the podium and made the announcement that due to a myriad of circumstances in the Richmond race that led to a clear and definite unfair disadvantage for Jeff Gordon they could and were adding a 13th Chase position! Deep sigh of relief and joy! As France said, “It was the right thing to do.” And it was the right thing to do on many levels and here is my reasoning on why:
1. At Richmond Jeff had driven into a Top Ten points position which would have secured his Chase position, but because of manipulations and I dare say outright unsportsmanlike conduct if you don’t want to define it as cheating, he was ROBBED of that.
2. Jeff Gordon is one of the most popular drivers and with not only his fans, but the media and other drivers acknowledging he was screwed over, NASCAR could not ignore that. In this economic climate, it makes no sense for them to disenfranchise thousands of fans and compromise the integrity of the sport by doing nothing
3. Adding a 13th spot is a simple solution, it puts the person who deserved to be in the Chase in a position to “put up or shut up”. If he has what it takes for a Championship this year, the next ten races will prove that. NASCAR makes other changes at the drop of a hat, why not just allow one more spot?
Truex being ousted is a result of a penalty assessed to his organization and team and therefore he has no leg to stand on in terms of complaining about the addition of another spot. He lost his spot because he, his team and his organization were punished.
This is one Chase that will not soon be forgotten – no matter who sits at the head table in Vegas at the end of the season. Bowyer said in one of his pressers that he hopes this does not define the Chase this year. Not only will it define this year’s Chase, but I truly believe it will come to define his career. It is certainly something he will not be able to overcome in many fans minds for some time to come.
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