Jeff Gordon "Has At It" with Jimmie Johnson, Sonoma Raceway and Jeff Burton
Past the stories of Kyle Busch’s behavior and the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski feud, there were many other stories that hit the headlines with the new "Boys, Have At It" policy. Lots of other drivers showed their displeasure with each other in their own unique way.
Jeff Gordon is one of the subjects to this discussion via his dustups with teammate Jimmie Johnson, the road course race at Sonoma and the fight with Jeff Burton.
All of these have created controversy surrounding Gordon as people are questioning whether this is due to frustration with the lack of success, or if Gordon is finally letting his personality show.
The fun all began in April at Texas Motor Speedway after some contact between the teammates. When they were racing side-by-side, Gordon made contact with Johnson, while it could appear that Johnson crowded his teammate.
“I guess four-time doesn’t like how I was racing him.” Gordon commented on the radio following the contact and some radio discussion.
Then at Talladega later in the month, Gordon blamed Johnson for getting him caught in the big wreck after a controversial move in the draft.
“I am mad right now,” he said in the interview after the race. “It takes a lot to make me mad and I’m pissed right now.”
Jealousy is something that some believe to have stemmed from the pair of incidents, as Gordon was taking out of his frustration on Johnson. With both of them being in the same shop, it would be believed that both would have the same equal amount of success.
This has not happened, while Johnson won the championship this year, Gordon finished ninth in points with no wins. Some people have questioned how even things are in the shop, though Rick Hendrick stands by the fact that all the information is shared from one team to another to, therefore, benefit all.
A lot of people have said the difference between the teams has been the lack of chemistry. As a result, Gordon will be working with Alan Gustafson in 2011. Whether the combination produces success is definitely a question that will be interesting to see answered.
Another interesting dynamic is how Gordon is now moving to the same shop as Mark Martin, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. moves up to the shop with Johnson. Does this come as a result of what happened in April? Or as a result of what happened later in the year with the pit crew swap? Or is Hendrick looking to just combine the best combinations and not as a result of anything above?
According to those inside at Hendrick, they say that things are still good between everybody and that it was a co-operative effort within the organization with the pit crew swap.
A couple months later, when it came to the road course at Sonoma in late June, Gordon found himself in the middle of it again. Multiple drivers complained after the race about Gordon driving too hard and as a result, causing problems for them. Martin Truex Jr. came out and said, “The 24 turned me around.” and vowed for payback.
Rather than jealousy, this could have been driven by frustration on Gordon’s part due to being so close to winning at tracks recently, yet still not finding victory lane. It could also be the new coming with Gordon in where he realized that if he wants a piece of the Chase and wants to be in the middle, he has got to fight for it. Maybe he interpreted that the wrong way and instead caused more problems then he intended.
Gordon’s most dramatic move, however, came in Texas with the argument with Burton.
Burton is known for being the mayor of the garage, having the voice of reason and being able to represent the drivers’ views in general.
Gordon is known for being the professional who became NASCAR’s first young-gun star that seemed polished. As he’s grown to be a more mature driver, he’s taking a role like Burton’s in having a professional representation of the sport.
Though following the events of what happened, it looked like both of their roles within the sport had fallen apart.
Under a caution for Martin Truex Jr. wrecking, Jeff Burton made contact with Jeff Gordon, causing them both to wreck.
“That sucker killed it," Gordon said after the contact on the radio. "What the hell? He’s the one being a dumb###.’’
Gordon was angry about the whole event and proceeded to get out of his car and throws some punches at Burton.
For Gordon, the entire trickle of events led back to the previous green flag lap before the caution.
"He went wide going into turn three, I went underneath him," Gordon said after the incident. "There were three car lengths between us and he came right down to me and got into me.
"Under caution, I went up to him to tell him what I thought; I never even touched him. He just drove into my right rear and put me into the wall under caution. Out of all the people, I never would have thought that Jeff Burton would do something like that. I had a lot of respect for him and now I've lost a lot of respect.
"I was walking toward him, and I started going through all the scenarios in my mind. Thankfully, I had a long walk down there to him, because I did about the least amount I wanted to do. I wanted to show him how upset I was, but I wanted to do a whole lot more than that. I held back.
"I'm just still in disbelief. I like Jeff. Usually he's a guy that's very rational and I respect his opinion. He apologized. It's over."
Burton said he didn't mean to get into Gordon, as he wanted to tell him he was right to be mad.
"Well, we came off turn four and he drove underneath me and when he drove underneath me, I should've let him go," Burton said. "He pulled up next to me to tell me he was upset with me. Then I went to pull up next to him to acknowledge him, to say he was right. I turned left, and he was turning left, and we just hung up. And when we hung up, off we went. I honestly don't know what happened.
"One hundred percent, it was my fault. It was definitely my fault. We got together, I couldn't get off of him. I didn't mean to hit him, I meant to pull up next to him and tell him he was right."
Burton also said that he's not mad at Gordon for wanting to say a few words.
"I knew he was going to be mad, and I don't blame him for being mad," Burton said. "He didn't do anything he shouldn't have done. He was upset, and he should have been upset. I wrecked him under caution—I didn't mean to wreck him, but I wrecked him under caution—and he meant to tell me he was upset. That's OK. I don't have a bit of problem with what he did. He was mad, and he should have been mad."
Burton also said later in the week, “I can assure everybody that there is no way that I would turn somebody driver-side first into the wall. That's not just how I am.”
It created an interesting dynamic as a lot of people were surprised, though as Burton said, it was needed via the events.
Whether Gordon's actions are possibly led by frustration, jealousy, or other reasons, they made for a lot of entertaining moments this year.
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