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Is Gordon’s recent record really any better than Junior’s?

By admin | April 8, 2010

By Richard Allen

Before anyone gets too excited by the headline of this piece, let me just say that this is not going to be a condemnation of either Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Instead, it is more of a commentary on what modern day NASCAR has become. But to make the point I hope to make, I have chosen these two high profile drivers as my examples.

When talking about Junior many fans and media types alike often compare his record against his teammates. To be honest, that’s perfectly fair to do so. Logic says that the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers ought to be driving pretty much the same equipment so measuring one HMS driver against the others is not a terribly outlandish thing to do.

Earnhardt joined HMS in 2008 amid much fanfare. The sport’s most popular driver joining up with the sport’s most powerful team was surely a can’t miss pairing, right? Instead, it seems fair to label the driver’s time at HMS as a disappointment.

At the same time, if you were to ask the average fan or media member whether Gordon or Earnhardt has had more success since 2008, the resounding answer would almost certainly be that Gordon has outshined.

But has Gordon really been better than Junior in that time span? I say not really.

Sure, one look at the statistics so often quoted in modern day NASCAR would seem to boost the case for Gordon. Junior has thirteen top-5s and 23 top-10s since 2008 while Gordon has 31 top-5s and 46 top-10s over that same time frame. Also, Gordon qualified for the Chase for the Championship in both 2008 and 2009 while Junior only made the playoff in 2008.

Now, this is not to say that those statistics are not important because, of course, they are. Or at least they are at the time they occur. Only Ricky Bobby(Talladega Nights) would argue that, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” However, those stats should never overtake winning as the most important thing, but in modern day NASCAR it seems as though they have.

But in the grand scheme of things, is any driver ever going to be remembered because he piled up a lot of top-10s.

Isn’t the main goal in racing supposed to be winning? If that were so, both Gordon and Earnhardt have won only once since 2008. In that regard, they are equal. And both have been beaten out for the Sprint Cup championship by their mutual teammate, Jimmie Johnson, in those years. In that regard, they are equal.

Too often, modern day NASCAR drivers are quoted as saying something to the effect of, “It was a good points day for us.” I’d prefer to hear something along the lines of, “We didn’t win today but we busted our butts trying.”

Having “solid” runs and simply sitting at the head table during the year end banquet have become the new benchmarks for success in racing today. I would argue that if a driver isn’t winning races or championships then he might as well be doing what Junior and Gordon do as much of if not more than anyone else in NASCAR, and that is making money.

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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

Topics: Articles |

13 Responses to “Is Gordon’s recent record really any better than Junior’s?”

  1. KyCupFan Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 8:29 am

    It’s called points racing!!!

    NASCAR is more about points racing now than it has ever been. The Chase was supposed to rectify that. Maybe when the seats are completely empty, NASCAR will make the MAJOR changes needed, and not just the nickel and dime stuff to manufacture excitement.

    Get rid of the common template car. (COT but keep the safety innovations it has brought along)

    Get rid of the Chase!

    Get rid of the top 35 locked in to qualifying. I mean why even have qualifying? Just let the ones that arent in the top 35 qualify everyone else line up by points or a blind draw. I am being sarcastic of course. I say let the fastest 43 race, the rest go home! Yes even if their name is Jr, Gordon, Johnson, Biffle, Edwards, etc…

    Bigger diversity in the tracks on the schedule. To many tracks that are much to similar. ie 1.5 mile tracks.

    Just my .02

  2. Bill B Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 11:23 am

    If wins are the only litmus test to determine a drivers success “factor” then Jr and Jeff have a lot of company. Unfortunately the way this sport is set up those top 5s and top 10s are the measuring stick used to gauge success.

  3. Ritchie Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Jr. is much better than Gordon (Zorro). He races a lot cleaner also. One more thing. I never could stand that weezle Gordon anyway.

  4. Gina Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    To answer the question, yes, it is. Although I want Jeff to win the championship every year, the fact that he has contended for the championship every year - even with the idiotic crapshoot that the chase format is, than where Jr has finished every year, so Gordon is clearly better on that record.

    I hate the whole points racing thing as much as anyone. In particular I hate the stupid chase which has made that an artform. Instead of having to be competitive over 36 races, now you have to get “seeded” into the chase and then it’s a crap shoot from there - a little bad luck and you’re screwed. Plus, the deck is stacked with tracks that are the same old, same old for that 10 race sequence and a smart crew chief like Knaus has just plain got it all dialed in for those tracks. A lucky horseshoe up Johnson’s posterior doesn’t hurt either.

    You start out with a “leading headline” like that one and then tell people NOT to get excited. Bogus, Rich!

  5. Bill B Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    So Ritchie,
    Are you saying Jr is a better driver than Gordon because he races cleaner or did you really have nothing to say but saw a chance to bash Gordon? Just wondering.

  6. JR Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    What a lame article. And you had to go back to 2008 in order to even mention Earnhardt Jr.’s name. For the record, in addition to Junior, Newman and Boyer are the two other drivers who also only won one race since 2008. Gordon last won on 4/5/09, which is less than a year ago. Junior as good as Gordon recently…not even close. Junior’s not even as good as Keselowski or Reutimann or Logano or Vickers, all of whom have won races since Junior’s joke win in Michigan were he passed the pace car under caution several times without penalty in getting a fuel mileage checkered flag. But hey, you did get to use Junior in the title of your article so you could get hits and make some money.

  7. Overra88ted Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    What a dumb article. Why don’t you go back 5 years, Dale Jr. has only won 3 races in half a decade, while Gordon has most likely averaged 3 wins a year in that time span. And would have had Championship #6 in 2007, but it didn’t count because of Na$crap’s 10 race Do-Over chase for the chumpionship. Jamie McMurray has won more races the last 2 years than Gordon and Jr. combined!

  8. Richard Allen Says:
    April 8th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Since the two most recent comments have questioned why 2008 was chosen as the time frame for the column, that is the year Junior and Gordon became teammates.

  9. Marcus Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Pretty solid reason to pick 2008 as a bench mark. I truly believe that Dale Jr is a damn good driver, But when the car isn’t right you just can’t drive it. I think that When Dale Jr teamed up with HMS it looked good on paper. I don’t think people realize that Darian Grubb was a huge part of the 88 teams success in 2008. Since then, they just haven’t found the right combo of Engineer, Crew Chief, Driver. Jeff Gordon and HMS works, Jimmie Johnson and HMS works, Dale Jr and HMS, I just don’t think it works. I think Jr needs to be some place where he is the flagship driver. He is 4th in pecking order these days at HMS I don’t care what anyone says. Everyone is quick to say that Dale Jr has all the same equipment as his teammates, but Its what you do with that equipment, and clearly the 88 team is really not that good compared to the elite teams. Everyone in the NBA has the same equipment. They all play on the same court, they all shoot the same size basketball with the same inflation. The 3 point line, free throw line, and basket height are all standard throughout the entire NBA. Every individual player on a basketball team has the same opportunity to accel. They all have the same coach and same information given to them. But the best player on that team is only as good as its team. Lebron James didn’t make the playoffs when he had no supporting cast. To the NFL, an NFL Defensive Tackle sometimes doesn’t get to show his true talent and abilities when he plays in a devensive scheme that doesn’t suit or compliment his individual talents. Thats what were looking at here with Dale Jr. Talented driver, but doesn’t fit well in the scheme he is in. He doesn’t have the players around him that I believe he needs to succeed. He might be on the best “team” in nascar but he isnt on the best team.

  10. bryant Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 8:12 am

    im going to stop reading comments because all yall do is bash my favorite driver.

  11. earl lewis Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    You cannot compare dale jr to jeff g, on any statistic! It is like comparing a drag car, up against a riding lawn mower. Even junior nation, knows that is just ignorant , to do that. heck, you cannot compare dale jr, to kurt bush! Or matt kenseth, dale jr is nowhere in that league. I honestly believe, that rick h , needs to park dale jr when there is a road course, and put in a road ringer (boris said) . Really, jr should not even be racing a full cup schedule, he has a long ways to go, and alot of learning to do , with the big boys! Sometimes RICH, gets a little silly , with these articles!

  12. earl lewis Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I really do not believe , rick h will resign dale jr , when his 5 yr” s is up! Heck, he fired kyle busch , from hendricks, and kyle can win in anything. Trucks, Nationwide, or Cup. Its like jeff g said, IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNEW NOW, WE WOULD HAVE KEPT , KYLE BUSCH, AND JUST TOLD DALE JR, WE WERE NOT INTERESTED IN HIM!!

  13. earl lewis Says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Rich, we need to ease up on blowing dale jr, up so much! Dale jr has got a long way to go, to get the respect from a JEFF GORDON, or JIMMIE JOHNSON!