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Love Him Or Hate Him, Gordon Will Be Missed

Love Him Or Hate Him, Gordon Will Be Missed

by February 2, 2015 0 comments

Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

By: Jason Beck

What good would Batman be without the Joker? The Yankees without the Red Sox? Republicans without Democrats? That is what NASCAR will be like for me without Jeff Gordon.

Sports are no fun without a villain. Growing up, my father was loyal to Ford with the amount of fervor some hold for politics or religion. When Gordon abandoned his early career with the blue oval and signed a Winston Cup deal with Hendrick Motorsports, he became public enemy No. 1. The decree was issued – no one in our household cheered for “Wonder Boy.”

For some he won too much, and for others he wasn’t from the South. Jeff Foxworthy said Gordon was unpopular because he annunciated. Some of the more outrageous mockery from the anti-Gordon heyday is unprintable. One thing is for certain; millions joined my family on the crusade. You either loved him or hated him, but you certainly had an opinion. Meanwhile, NASCAR experienced its greatest period of expansion. It wasn’t a coincidence.

Sports are a distraction from everyday life, and for every hero you need a heel. When Gordon joined Bill Elliott as the only Winston Million winner in 1997, I was incensed. His bumper tag that day with Ford’s Jeff Burton ruffled my feathers. So did his late-race pass on the apron to seal the 1999 Daytona 500. Watching the 2005 “Great American Race” in the emergency room with a case of the flu, my fever probably increased a degree when Gordon took the checkered flag. I recall watching the Las Vegas race on my honeymoon and cheering when Gordon crashed gunning for the win.

It seems I remember more about rooting against Gordon than I do all those Ford victories over the years. And come to think of it, it was a lot of fun.

A few years ago I also began to realize how much I respect the man. The epiphany came on Mother’s Day weekend in 2007 while sitting in the turn one bleachers at Darlington watching Gordon lead lap-after-lap at the sport’s toughest venue, water spewing from his dying engine the last 100 laps of the race. I may not have been happy with the outcome, but Gordon’s victory that day cold cocked me with the simple truth – I just watched a performance by one of the best to ever hold a steering wheel.

I was only 8 years old when Richard Petty made his final laps in 1992 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Of course that was also Gordon’s first Cup start. I’m pretty sure Gordon’s final race in 2015 at Homestead Speedway will have the same impact on the sport. But only time will tell who will step to fill “Wonder Boy’s” shoes.

Jason Beck
With a passion for both racing and writing, I've found my niche here at The Fourth Turn. In addition to covering local short track and Cup series racing, I'm a racer in the Charger class at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C.

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