By admin | August 4, 2013
By Richard Allen
As a fan of NASCAR racing, I hold Jeff Gordon in the highest of regards. As a matter of fact, I consider him to be one of the top three or four drivers of my lifetime, and that lifetime takes in some of the sport’s most recognizable names. He is, without doubt, a first ballot Hall of Fame driver.
However, there comes a time in the careers of all great competitors, whether it be in racing or any other sport, when it becomes apparent that the abilities of that particular legend just aren’t what they used to be. To me, that moment in the career of Jeff Gordon came on the final restart of the GoBowling.com 400 at the Pocono Raceway on Sunday afternoon.
After a Matt Kenseth spin brought out a caution at lap 156 of the 160 lap event on the 2.5 mile speedway, the field was given the green flag with two laps to go. Gordon, as the race leader, chose the inside line for the restart while Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne fired from the outside of the front row.
This final restart came just moments after Gordon had outdueled Kahne in a similar situation laps earlier. And had it not been for the Kenseth spin, it appeared as if Gordon would score the 88th Sprint Cup victory of his brilliant career.
Instead, however, Gordon pulled out to a slight lead at the drop of the final green flag as the cars roared into turn one. But Kahne came rushing back with a head of steam on the outside. The two cars were even as they raced side by side down the so-called Long Pond straightaway. But as they entered the “tunnel turn” Gordon got out of the gas noticeably earlier than did Kahne. From there, the #24 trailed his teammate back to the white flag and ultimately to the checkered.
“I lost that one for us guys,” Gordon told his crew over the team radio as he crossed the finish line.
In his post-race interview, Gordon himself admitted that he had been outdone.
“I thought we had him,” the four time series champion said. ”He was better than us, but I thought we could hold him off. I kind of protected the inside but he blasted up on the outside and outdrove me.”
As a Rusty Wallace fan at the time, I can remember leaving the Bristol Motor Speedway on a couple of occasions more than a little angry that my driver had been out driven by the guy in the #24 car. I can also remember instances when Gordon refused to back down from Hall of Famers like Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Jarrett.
That Jeff Gordon would not have gotten passed on the outside going into the tunnel turn with less than two laps to go. But on his 42nd birthday, the father of two who has already achieved just about all there is to achieve in this sport did get passed.
This column was not written to say that this driver is done by any means. After all, he is still very much in the Chase for the Sprint Cup race. And in my opinion, he’s still better than three-fourths of the guys(and girls) out there on any given Sunday. He just isn’t the Jeff Gordon of the 1990’s anymore. That Jeff Gordon was one of the greatest drivers of all time.
In a way, this is more of a statement about each of us. When we realize that time has caught up to those we idolize, it reminds us that time has caught up to us as well.
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