by Steve Wronkowicz
I am co-host of the syndicated radio show: ON PIT ROW. Over ten years on the air and three on the net; see what can happen when I don't let the facts get in the way of my opinions.March 1, 2011 7:46 am UTC No Comments
Gordon had gone 66 races without seeing victory lane. Not a long time for some of the sports veteran drivers but an eternity for the four-time Cup champion. Interestingly Gordon hasn’t won a championship as a driver since he became a Cup car owner. Gordon is part owner of the #48 team that has won five championships since he won his last.
There was a time in the sport that the cries of “anyone but Gordon” were heard loud and clear well before the statement came to be used for Gordon’s protege Jimmie Johnson. But with the long winless streak now behind him the question is has Gordon moved into the next level of fan recognition?
There seems to be a point in a lot of athlete’s careers where they move from a polarizing figure to the beloved veteran and it seems that Gordon may have made that move with his win this past week in Phoenix. Other drivers have been there; from Darrell Waltrip to Rusty Wallace to Dale Earnhardt, Sr., drivers who early in their careers had a “love ‘em or hate ‘em” persona. Then a defining moment moves them into a new realm of fan acceptance.
Many times it revolves around a single win, championship or moment after suffering months or years of toil. Hardship and lack of success for a period of time after a career full of triumphs somehow makes the fans find a new respect for their former nemesis. The phenomenon isn’t relegated to the sport of racing; but can be found throughout the sporting world. Athletes like Reggie Jackson, Brett Favre and Jimmy Conners all have seen the acceptance of fans at a new level once their heyday has been completed.
Gordon may be beyond another championship; but never again will you hear fans bemoan him his victories. Gordon has proven once again that he can win a race and for NASCAR fans a smattering of them as he winds down his career will be just fine, thank you.
As an aside–Is it just me; or does Jeff look a lot like Ray Evernham in the above picture?
photo credit: BethAnne Heisler/ON PIT ROW