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Jeff Gordon says, after watching Busch-vs-Stewart at Daytona, he's got some tricks up his sleeve for that last lap at Talladega in championship chase.....

Surprises coming at Talladega? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   JOLIET, Ill.
   Chicago is a sports town, maybe the biggest, hottest sports town in America. They take their Bears and Bulls and Cubs and Sox seriously here, very, very seriously.
   But NASCAR?
   Well, after nine years here, at Chicagoland Speedway, out on the western fringes, where I-80 crosses I-55, NASCAR still has a ways to go to grab their hearts and minds in this town.
    And Jeff Gordon still has amends to make for that, uh, unusual rendition of 'Take me out to the ball game' he delivered at Wrigley Field three years ago. (HERE.)
   "Obviously the attention I got is not the kind I'd like for the singing," Gordon, one of Saturday night's favorites, says. "It wasn't even the singing -- it's the fact that I called it Wrigley's Stadium."
   He laughs ruefully.
   Need 'big shoulders' to make it in this town.
   Maybe a shot of Danica might help….
   Gordon concedes he's not been that big a baseball fan over the years, and admits he needs to do his homework: "Yeah, we want to 'clear our name' around the Chicago area…so I'd like to do a nice sweep of the race, and maybe one day get the opportunity to go back and do the seventh inning stretch song again.
   "I've become a bigger baseball fan because of that…. because I feel like I need to grow my knowledge in case I ever do that again.
   "I didn't want to sing; I wanted to throw out the pitch. But they said if you do that, you have to sing. So I agreed to do it….."
   Next time he may even sing it in tune.
   But for the moment, after last weekend's controversial finish at Daytona, another last-lap crash at a plate race, Gordon is more concerned with the implications for the last lap at Talladega in this fall's championship chase event. That Talladega 500 comes Nov. 1, and it's now a real wild card in the title chase.
    "One this that's evident to me (after the Daytona and Talladega crashes this season) is that I don't want to be leading on the last lap, or coming off the last corner," Gordon says. "That hasn't turned out too good for those guys recently at those tracks.
   "I'm looking at it more from a 'blocking' standpoint, instead of what the guy in second place is doing.
    "We've gotten so comfortable as drivers out there that we believe on these restrictor plate tracks that all you've got to do is just block your way all the way to the finish line and you'll finish first. That's worked in the past. That's not working anymore.
   "We've learned too much about these cars and how to draft with these cars and how to get ourselves in position to make that move coming to the finish line, if you're behind.
   "That said, I've been the leader on restarts in different situations on these restrictor plate tracks, and as a competitor you get so focused on 'How do I get to that finish line first, and what do I have to do to win?' that a lot of times even though you know you're blocking and shouldn't be, you still do it.
    "It's like you'd almost rather go down fighting than give it up and finish second or third or fourth."
   However Gordon disputes Kyle Busch's claim that winner Tony Stewart 'dumped' him the last lap to win.
   "I certainly would not say he got dumped," Gordon said.
    "If Carl Edwards (after Talladega's crash) had said that, I would have said the same thing.
    "It's not getting dumped when the guy has got a fender or bumper inside you and you turn and come across.
   "This is stock car racing. We've got spotters, and in stock car racing, if you have a half an inch of your bumper inside their rear bumper, then you expect them to know that you're there because we have spotters.
    "There were a lot of aggressive moves at Daytona. I give credit to both of them for putting on one heck of a show…right up until that happened.
    "But I would put more blame on the guy leading -- who is blocking -- more so than I would the guy from behind."
   Of course Stewart is one of Gordon's teammates.
    The Regan Smith-Stewart incident at Talladega last fall also plays on everyone's mind too. Smith, while trying to pass Stewart the last lap for the win, went below the yellow line rather than crash Stewart, who had moved to block him low. NASCAR then penalized Smith instead of giving him the win. Many drivers point to that NASCAR decision as leading to the two ensuing crashes.
    Gordon says he hopes drivers take last weekend's crash, and the other two finishes, as learning experiences, on what not to do.
  "That is such a hard thing for you to think clearly about when you see the checkered flag and you have got an opportunity to win that race," Gordon admitted.
   "As a race driver, that is the one thing that separates us from the average person -- you become so hungry for that victory in that moment you don't really think rationally.
    "You don't think 'Well, I am going to put a block here, and I am going to do it once, and then if that doesn't work, I am just going to give it up.'
    "Going back to Talladega last year, Tony would have been in the exact same situation that Carl and Kyle, had he had maybe somebody a little bit more experienced at a restrictor plate track.
   "The one thing you know you don't do, once the yellow line rule came around, is that you don't go below the yellow line -- never. Not even if a car runs in to you.
    "You do everything you can to keep from going below that yellow line…and that usually means the guy in front of you turns across your nose and goes in the grass or goes out in to the fence.
    "That is just kind of the nature of restrictor plate racing, especially since the yellow line rule came out.
    "You have got to look at it as 'Is the yellow line rule a good thing?'
    "It probably is, or we'd be driving through the grass. And that isn't a good thing either.
     "So I think some responsibility lies upon us as competitors to make some better judgment calls when it comes down to that finish.
     "These are not airbags we are driving around there. These are fast, expensive race cars.
     "You have got to think a little bit about that when you are closing in on the finish, especially at the restrictor plate tracks.
     "Like with Regan, drivers then said 'Oh, there was a lesson.'
     "And at Talladega (in April's crash) there was a 'Whoops, there is a lesson.'
    "Daytona I look at as another lesson.
    "I am just hoping that in that moment -- while I  know how blind and stubborn I'm going to be if I am in that situation -- I am hoping that some of those other situations come into the back of my mind and help me make a little bit better choice.
    "I'm not saying I am going to think clearly; I am hoping I do. There have been plenty of cases where I haven't.
    "We are race car drivers..We aren't necessarily going to be thinking clearly on the white flag lap at Daytona and Talladega.
    "….But I have some things up my sleeve, if I get in that position, that I think might help me win the race -- I'll put it this way -- and not be in the fence.
    "We'll see."

Gordon, He Didn't Come Across

Busch held his line and Stewart hooked him. Gordon is standing up for a quasi-teammate instead of telling the truth.

And Gordon's defense of the yellow line rule is pathetic - "if we didn't have it we'd be racing in the grass." That never happened when they DIDN'T have this rule.

Jeff Gordon

I've been a Gordon fan from day 1, but now have second thoughts. Jeff Gordon needs to get out of the car and retire, because finishing second is good enough for him. There's more to racing than winning championships.
I'm not thrilled about watching my once favorite driver settle for second place finishes. He's getting like Rusty Wallace was, talks a good race.

Drivers need to use intelligence

Instead of the leader blocking the leader should move away from the car attempting to pass and prevent them from gettin the side draft. With out the side draft the car won't be able to complete the pass. Moving away isn't a natural reaction but can be the winning move.

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