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Pedley: An Aye Vote For Loyalty

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 1 2010

Steve Letarte have been standing by each other for five years. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

As a sports fan, I have this frustrating tendency to be continually disappointed. The reason is, I simply cannot view teams and athletes as merely teams and athletes. I can’t separate what they do from whom they are.

For example, Cam Newton. Evidence seems to point to the fact that he and his father are snakes, putting the sqeeze on college football programs which they view as little more than banks to be robbed.

Many – make that most – of my media peers are like: So what? What an athlete. What a quarterback. Heisman, baby. And besides, college is all about turning already greedy people into money making machines anyway, right?

So, I pull for whoever Auburn happens to be playing that week.

And, it’s why 11 times this season, I’ve been frustrated and disappointed when final college scores are announced on Saturday nights.

And it’s why I invested over three hours watching Harvard vs. Yale a couple weekends ago, why I like the old bowl system better than a playoff and why I would not mind one bit if my alma mater “downgraded” its athletic programs by ditching the Big Ten and applying for admission in the Ivy League.

Same with other celebrities. For example, started to watch “The Naked Gun” the other day and up pops O.J. Simpson. I used to think a couple of his scenes in that movie were hilarious. But that was before we all found out he was a murdering swine. So, when the “alleged” murderer’s scenes came up in the movie, I surfed.

Which brings me, circuitously, to Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports.

Last week, it was announced that team-owner Rick Hendrick was shaking up the order on his teams. The driver-crew chief order.

Only two his drivers made the Chase and only one contended – albeit successfully – for the Sprint Cup championship. The other two drivers – Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – struggled all year long.

Complacency had settled into the shops on Papa Joe Hendrick Blvd., the team owner said.

For me, some in the media and some fans, something had settled into the No. 24 team shop several years ago. During the five seasons since Steve Letarte had been moved to crew chief for Gordon, there had been only 10 victories. And for the last three seasons, only two victories.

Those would be terrific numbers for Robby Gordon, but for four-time champion Jeff, they can be described only as terrifically disappointing.

So, a popular discussion among media and fans involved the Gordon and Letarte combo. Specifically, should it be scrapped?

In discussions with collegues, I found myself arguing with myself. On Monday morning, I thought, yes. But by noon, no.

Swaying me in favor of no was Gordon. Race after frustrating race, year after disappointing year, he stood by his man. Without equivocation and with a hefty amount of vociferousness.

Gordon said Letarte was not the problem, that he trusted “Stevie” without hesitation and that together they would chase and win more races and championships.

I dig that kind of loyalty. I dig Gordon because of it.

When Hendrick took the decision out of Gordon’s hands last week by reassigning Letarte to Earnhardt’s team, Gordon maintained championship style and grace by saying, in essence; Well, OK, but I still have faith in Letarte.

And I dig it that Hendrick opted to re-assign people whom I have met and very much like, instead of going with 21st Century vogue and just freakin’ axing them.

Loyalty, baby. Even when the stakes are tens of millions of dollars.

Yes, pulling for Gordon may be frustrating and disappointing in the future, but it will be really easy, too.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 1 2010
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • Just like i posted before the season started last yr. [take from one and give to another] like MARK AND JR. DANG OLD MAN RICK DID MARK IN AGAIN.

  • Marybeth says:

    …or ponder why JG wasn’t given McGrew as a cc instead of Gustafson…? We have heard for 2 years that the problem with the 88 was that Jr. could not give feedback info correctly. That Jr. was not the problem, not McGrew. So why wasn’t JG paired with McGrew instead of Gustafson…?

  • Terry says:

    Jim,
    Although I had said earlier that this was more dusting than cleaning…..it was an first read reaction more than a comment. I don’t know enough of what is going on inside the garage for me to make a comment…..” big swing or air preasure…” ???
    THAT ….is why I am just a fan and you get paid the BIG MONEY….
    Jeff is pressing late in his career much like….as your KC STAR covered ….George Brett and Tom Watson….in later years.
    What was so easy ….now is not so natural…..
    George lost his batting guru Charlie Lau to cancer…..
    Tom lost his putter……
    Jeff needs to think back….way back and remember sitting in the
    ” Baby Ruth Thunderbird and how it felt to KNOW…..
    ( before anyone else ) you were good and KNOW you were going to win BEFORE it happened…..
    Pearson will tell you he felt that before every race….
    How he gets that is what HENDRICK has to figure out.
    Good article as alway’s…..Go Chiefs!!!!!
    Terry