By admin | April 21, 2010
By Richard Allen
Earlier this season, television crews broadcast a bit of a spat between Jimmie Johnson and his long time crew chief Chad Knaus. On Monday in Texas, Johnson found himself in the midst of another high profile spat with a teammate of a different sort. This time, instead of fussing with his crew chief over the in-car radio he got into a on-track scrap with fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon.
The bumps the two four time champions engaged in didn’t exactly appear to be accidental. And to add to the excitement, Gordon threw in some not so nice words directed toward his teammate over his in-car radio as he went on his way.
“He must want to be treated different from everybody else,” Gordon declared just after the bumps had been exchanged. The damage done to Johnson’s car eventually caused a flat tire which led to an unscheduled pit stop.
Was this a true assessment of how Gordon has come to feel about his teammate? Has Gordon finally grown resentful of Johnson’s success? Or, was this just something said in the heat of the moment?
“He was really loose,” Gordon explained in a post race interview. “I got to him and got underneath him. He was just too loose and my car was too good. I guess he thought I was being too aggressive and he just drove into my door. He also ran into the back of me [earlier] for no reason.”
For his part, Johnson was not quite so harsh. “This is gonna happen in racing whether you’re teammates or not,” he said. “Sometimes you get irritated. We’ve had this issue in the past. Sometimes you have good communication and sometimes it’s bad.
“But don’t let your headline writers say ‘Trouble at Hendrick.’ I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
To me, the best and most interesting aspect of this little spat is that the two drivers didn’t fall back on their often used strategy of offering never ending praise for each other. Instead, they said what they thought.
While both of these drivers have large fan bases, they also have significant numbers who dislike or even resent them. In my opinion, not that it really matters, there would be fewer of those who dislike them if they more often dropped the overly sterile image they and their teams seem to go out of their way to foster.
I really believe that one of the leading contributors to the drop off in fan appeal NASCAR has seen over the last few years has not had as much to do with the on track competition as it has had to do with the perceived lack of personality the sport’s top stars so often exhibit.
As to whether there is trouble in the paradise that is HMS, I have no idea. I would actually tend to doubt it. But whether there is a deeper issue or not, the new showing of real emotion is refreshing.
Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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