Jeff “I Hit Back” Gordon bumped Matt "Cheap Shot" Kenseth out of the way to take over the third finishing spot in Mondays Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, after a green-white-checkered finish.
It was just a matter of time before the NASCAR boards would blow up with blog after blog, but this time with the Gordonites complaining that NASCAR once again dictated the finish of another race.
Even Gordon, who is known around his own clique as a driver that never complains about the outcome of a race, was quick to express his feelings that somehow he was robbed of a victory by his friends who run this racing organization.
"We were 100 feet away from getting that white flag, getting the victory," Gordon said after the race.
Then he went on to say, "So that's frustrating. But I shouldn't be too upset. We were a third-place car before that, and we finished third."
Gordon found out Monday that he is not as invincible as he thought he was, and that NASCAR does not play favorites when it comes to putting their star drivers into victory lane just for the sake of boosting the ratings.
Just don’t tell the Jimmie Johnson detractors that any of this is true, because they will be the first to point out his controversial win at Auto Club speedway in February, with its well placed yellow flags, or the faulty caution lights that played into his win at Las Vegas a week later.
Which, by the way, twice cost Kevin Harvick a chance to break his winless streak that dates back to the 2007 Daytona 500, along with Harvick saying that Johnson secretly hides a horseshoe where not even NASCAR would dare try to find it.
It’s not so much that many of the fans are once again beginning to think that NASCAR wants to see certain drivers excel, but you have to wonder if maybe the sport is becoming more and more predictable, which is pushing them away for something less foreseeable and more surprising.
When Tony Stewart spoke these words on his Sirius radio show back in 2007, you have to wonder if maybe a small portion of what he said actually had some validity to it.
"It's like playing God," Stewart said. "They can almost dictate the race, instead of the drivers doing it.”
Stewart went on to say that fans are complaining about debris cautions and NASCAR isn't listening.
"I guess NASCAR thinks 'Hey, wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged', so I guess it's going to work in racing, too.”
Stewart also added that, "I can't understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they're stupid before the fans finally turn off NASCAR.”
Stewart wasn’t the only driver to express how he felt back in 2007.
Roush Fenway driver Matt Kenseth, who was involved in Monday’s altercation with Gordon, added more fuel to the argument with this statement:
"There's for sure entertainment cautions, there's no doubt about that, but we're in the entertainment business and you're going to get some of that and group the field every once in a while."
Of course, we couldn’t leave out everyone’s favorite commentator Kyle Petty, who jumped on the bandwagon with this witty remark:
"We're in the entertainment business. If they want to throw a caution every 40 laps to keep everybody bunched up, so the fans have a better experience, more cautions, the better.”
Now, along these lines NASCAR may not be as pre-determined as what was stated, but it sure is becoming more and more predictable ever since our friend the Car of Tomorrow was introduced the same year Stewart blasted NASCAR with his vigorous statement.
Fan participation in the sport is at an all-time low, with most of the blame being put on the economy.
When you look around at the other sports and how much they are feeling the effects of the recession, it’s not nearly as much as NASCAR, because they have stuck with their bread and butter while leaving well enough alone.
The NBA, the NFL, and MMA, along with most of the other sports, have constant action which keeps the fans begging for more, and this is one area where NASCAR has been lacking in the past few years.
Like Stewart, Kenseth, and Petty all stated, it’s all about entertaining the fans, but how entertaining is a race when all of the action happens after a double file restart or the last few laps of the race?
Where is all the high-speed, fender-to-fender, race-it-like-you-stole-it action that the sport was built on during the middle of the race, when most fans are looking for other venues to entertain them?
Instead, once again the fans on Monday were treated to the drivers being courteous, as if they agreed, "Lets give each other the racing room that we need, and on the last five or so laps we will unleash a fury that will have them sitting on the edge of their seats."
There is no longer any consistency when it comes to the nail-biting action and suspense that most of us grew up with, even though NASCAR did implement some changes that were supposed to bring the personality back to the sport that has been stripped away.
The double-file restarts so far did bring back some excitement for a lap or two. But the anticipation over the spoiler coming back has turned out to be more of a cosmetic improvement so far, with no significant change to the action out on the track.
How many more of these changes will NASCAR throw our way before they get their hands dirty and get to the real root of the problem?
To think that a spoiler change was all that was needed is like putting a Band-Aid over a gushing wound.
In reality, it’s the whole car that needs to be looked at.
Until some major, significant changes are made, all we can do as fans is hope for a yellow flag, so that the double-file restarts will tease us with a few laps of added excitement.
It's also come down to the last few laps, where all the drama and excitement come from, so why shouldn’t NASCAR allow the drivers to tear up a few good race cars for the sake of giving the fans their money's worth?
Sooner or later NASCAR will find out that the sport cannot survive on these last-lap heroics, or these multiple green-white-checkers which are coincidentally playing into the hands of the top tier drivers.
What the sport desperately needs is a well balanced mix of excitement, along with an occasional dose of drama, while throwing in an occasional rivalry throughout the race, instead of waiting for the white flag to wave.
You have to sit back and wonder if maybe Kyle Busch had some sort of premonition, when he blurted out this statement:
“I said that I wanted to go out and win this race so I could tell everybody how terrible this thing is to drive,” Busch said at the time. “I can’t stand to drive them. They suck.”
Because so far he, along with Stewart, Petty, and Kenseth, have almost predicted, in their own way, which path the sport was headed down.
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