Hot/Not: Earnhardt, Gordon Tussle Just a Blip on Hendrick's Radar

Jeff Gordon Didn't Leave Michigan Happy with His Teammate, but it Won't Last

Yahoo Contributor Network

Whatever it is that Hendrick Motorsports does to celebrate the end of a NASCAR season, one thing is for sure - they won't be showing a highlight video of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. racing together in Sunday's race at Michigan or March's Bristol event. But don't expect that video edit to include deleting clips of Gordon wrecking or spouting off at Earnhardt Jr. in a public fashion. That's just not going to happen.

One of these two Gordon-Earnhardt skirmishes - the race at Bristol - was much worse than the other. There, Earnhardt inadvertently cut Gordon's tire to send the No. 24 to a day-ending, spinning impact with the turn three wall. Gordon chalked up the incident to hard racing and Earnhardt took full responsibility.

Forgiveness of Earnhardt, however, took a step backward when the No. 88 dropped low on his teammate for a four-wide move. It wasn't so bad at that point - restarts at Michigan often feature wide open jockeying for position - but it turned bad when Earnhardt slid up in front of Gordon exiting the corner.

"Well, he took me four-wide and that wasn't that big of a deal but then he slid up in front of me off of Turn 2 and I had to check up or I would have wrecked all of us," Gordon said. "So, I just didn't that it was the smartest thing to do, especially as teammates."

Admittedly, Gordon wasn't in the happiest of places when he delivered that quote thanks to an engine issue that ruined one-fourth of his remaining chances to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Still, he was ticked at Earnhardt for the move - and will likely be looking for some redemption in the next few weeks.

No, Gordon won't be spinning Earnhardt at Bristol, blocking his pit at Atlanta or slipping Kyle Busch a five spot to nudge the No. 88 at Richmond. (A driver has had to enlist help with payback in NASCAR before, haven't they?) Gordon, though, will be expecting Earnhardt to give him extra room when they come together on track or make a green flag pass easier than it normally would be. That's how teammates sort these things out - even if one dropped multiple expletives over the in-car radio in reactionary anger.

After all, it was just a few years ago when Gordon and Jimmie Johnson had a bit of a run in while battling for the lead at Texas Motor Speedway. The culmination? Gordon and Johnson issuing angry in-car radio remarks to their teams, then brushing off the incident afterward.

These things are bound to happen in big time auto racing, especially in a group as dominant and competitive as the Hendrick Motorsports outfit. It makes for a good television and good talk show fodder, but that's as far is it goes.

NOT: NASCAR dodged the most gruesome and tragic of crash-related circumstances Sunday at Michigan when Mark Martin avoided being impaled by the pit road wall by less than a foot. It's bone-chilling to think what a difference inches made when ESPN came to commercial with the live and fear-filled view of Martin's car literally stuck on the wall, oil spilled and fire starting.

I don't care what the long-term solution is, but the short term should mandate the sport covering wall ends in any area a race car could reach. Place water barrels there or drop in those temporary road construction barriers - something, anything to force a car away from the wall end. We can ponder movable gates and rounded walls for 2013.

Mark Martin got lucky Sunday. But he, and any other driver, shouldn't have to rely on fate going forward.

HOT: Greg Biffle is the points leader, and has two wins this year. He remains NASCAR's most undercovered performer of the year - and I'm not sure why. Can we chalk it up to his repeated Chase appearances without a title?

NEUTRAL: Jimmie Johnson may have blown up Sunday in the final laps, but imagine if he hadn't 1) lost his Michigan engine and 2) not wrecked on the final restart at Pocono Raceway. We'd be talking about a five-time champion winning three of four races and presumably ready to waltz in to NASCAR's championship sunset.

Can anyone, save for random mistakes, even touch the No. 48 when we get to the Chase? That's getting harder and harder to believe.

HOT: The reduced lanes and higher speeds have produced better racing at Michigan than expected when the track announced its repave. That's good to see.

NOT: Can we assume Jacques Villeneuve now knows what it feels like when others have to race Jacques Villeneuve? Also, is there a remaining argument for no Sprint Cup racing at the Montreal road course? I can't think of one. Let's go north.

HOT: Marcos Ambrose has two consecutive Top-5s and three straight Top-10s. With the Watkins Glen win under his belt, don't lose sight of him at Bristol (one of his best oval tracks) and Atlanta. He might be the darkest of Chase dark horses if he gets win No. 2.

NOT: Danica Patrick hasn't finished on the lead lap in the last four Nationwide Series races, though a shoe was a likely cause Saturday. A jump to full-time Sprint Cup in 2013 may seem right to the marketing executives, but it is most assuredly not the right for her competitiveness. Just ask Sam Hornish Jr.

HOT: Saturday's Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan was one the best shows of the season for that series. A little bit of a drafting and pack-style racing made it look like an old IROC show at the southeast Michigan two-miler.

HOT: The ARCA Series raced on dirt, as per tradition, Sunday in Springfield, Ill. Let's find a way to get the Nationwide Series or Trucks to do the same. It's quite literally not rocket science, and would be an incredible draw.

Enjoy Bristol.

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