June 28, 2010
By Matthew Pizzolato
Carnage and wrecked racecars reigned supreme last week at Sonoma. Enemies were made and new feuds were begun. The driver at the center of most of the controversy was Jeff Gordon.
Earlier this month, Gordon spoke about the importance of focusing on winning another Championship instead of wrecking other drivers on the track.
"If I battle a guy, I want to patch things up," he was quoted as saying in a Terry Blount article for espn.com. "I don't want it to linger. I don't want it to affect me at a crucial point in the championship. Rivalries are great for the show, but not for you as a competitor."
Why then, the sudden change in attitude? At Sonoma, Gordon did his best pinball impersonation and bounced off of everything in sight and didn't seem too concerned about the repercussions. As a matter of fact, he seemed to welcome them.
"I think you're going to have to get in line," Gordon said in a Dave Rodman article. "Last week, we left the race track with quite a few guys upset at us and for good reason. It was intense racing and some mistakes on my part and when you make those kinds of decisions and those things happen, then you've got to deal with 'em.
"It might be for this weekend, it might be for the next several weeks, it might be several years down the road -- who knows, you know? You've just got to go with it, and that's what we'll do."
What happened to his "focus" on the Championship?
One of the drivers Gordon ran into for no reason was Martin Truex Jr, who is now a changed man due to the incident and vows to show other drivers on the track the same respect that he is shown.
There were a lot of wrecked racecars and a lot of hot tempers at the end of the race. And all of this controversy stems from the new rule that NASCAR officials instituted before the season started, their "Boy's Have at It" policy.
Drivers have taken that philosophy to heart and are certainly pushing the limits of it. How long will it be before officials are forced to step in do something about it?
One of the biggest advocates for something to be done is veteran driver Jeff Burton.
"I thought last week was horrendous," he said in an espn.com article by Terry Blount. "The lack of respect from driver to driver was completely unacceptable. If our sport becomes that, we need to change the name from racing to demolition cars because that wasn't racing."
As part of the policy, officials wanted drivers to police themselves on the track. But instead of policing, a lot of drivers are taking advantage of the new rule.
Aggressive driving is one thing, but intentionally wrecking another driver for no good reason is something else entirely.
However, as long as officials continue to look the other way while it happens, there is no reason for drivers to stop wrecking each other.
"It's in the drivers' hands, but the question is what are the drivers doing about it?" Burton asked. "That's the negative of 'have at it, boys.' It's not about ability. It's about a lack of willingness to do the right thing."
And that is a profound sentiment.
If you would like to learn more about Matthew, please check out his web site at matthew-pizzolato.com.
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