People often wonder how I, a professed atheist, ardent purveyor of leftist wisdom, can also be a hard-core fan of NASCAR. I guess I fell in love with cars going fast long before I understood politics or religion. So, in the midst of redneck rabble-rousers and Jesus freaks with agendas Evangelical you’ll find me, your local blind-ass cyberhippie, rooting on the likes of Earnhardt, Stewart and Montoya. So it was this Sunday, in my usual racing setting crouched before the big screen, that I witnessed the best stock car driver ever eclipse the win total of my racing hero, Dale Earnhardt the elder.
The driver of which I speak is of course, Jeff Gordon. Like many fans, I’ve watched this guy through his entire career, from USAC sprints to Daytona’s victory lane. I distinctly remember seeing him in his first Winston Cup race at Atlanta in 1992 and saying to my wife:” See that kid? Get used to him. We’ll be sick of him by time it’s all over.”
And Jeffy didn’t let me down. He became everything I thought he would, and even more.
I did get sick of him, especially all the winning. In the late ’90’s, he was on pace to surpass even the great Richard Petty in win totals. Seemed every time you looked up, that DuPont rainbow scheme was in the lead, or bearing down on it. He’d take the lead late in the race, and I’d pretty much shut off the TV because I knew that once he had that Chevy on point that late in the going, it was over. He would preserve his tires when warranted, or shove a guy out of the way if it called for it. He still embodies the perfect balance between driver and racer. A potent mixture, as reflected in his career stats.
So here I am, the sensible Earnhardt fan, professing my admiration for Jeff Gordon. What gives? Facts, pure and simple. Gordon has Earnhardt and pretty much anybody else who ever wheeled a stock car covered, factoring in modern-day competition and all. Oh, I’ve seen Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborourgh, Buddy Baker and all those cats, too. Gordon has their racer’s bravery, but he’s a much smarter driver than those guys. Waltrip? In his heyday, maybe. David Pearson? That win total is impressive (105), but not out of reach for Gordon. If he chooses to keep racing through say 2014, he’s gonna catch him.
I doubt that Gordon will match the 7 championships of Petty or Earnhardt, and there’s no way that ANYBODY will match Petty’s total of 200 wins. But, I doubt that Petty or any of those other guys will ever host Saturday Night Live.
So my fellow Earnhardt fans, grow up and face the facts: Gordon bested Earnhardt. Your jealous actions just re-enforce tired old clichés about ignorant rednecks. You look stupid, and you soil the legacy of our mutual hero, The Man in Black. While you were building up that wall of hatred and loathing against Gordon, you missed enjoying his spectacular career unfold. What’s the problem? Don’t have room for more than one hero?