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Race Day: So What’s Up With Wreck-And-Ring?

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 15 2011

Driver Jeff Gordon says don't bother calling him after an on-track incident. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The cell phone thing is out of control. And not just with teen-agers, multi-tasking morons on the highway and bin Laden. They’ve become thumb-sucking tics for Americans of all ilks this century.

They’re even big in NASCAR, where they’re used as basic communication, for sure, but also as peace pipes.

They are the communication of choice for apologies after on-track my-bads. And they are getting used for that purpose at rapid rates this season as bumping and wrecking have seemingly steamed on to new heights.

The guess is that late this afternoon, cell phone towers will be burning up around Dover International Speedway, site of today’s Fed Ex 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion was asked about the practice of wreck-and-ring this week. Here’s how it went:

Question: When you were coming up in the sport, who called you to tell you if you were racing over your head?

Gordon: “This whole calling thing, I don’t know who started that, but I didn’t know that existed. When I was coming up, we didn’t call one another. We didn’t say anything. We went to the next race and we either confronted it at the time or confronted it the next

It has been a wet and wild weekend in Dover. They're ringing in the rain. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

week or two weeks later.  The whole calling thing is strange to me. Because if somebody calls me on Tuesday, let’s say somebody wrecks me and somebody calls me on Tuesday – they’re calling me so I don’t wreck them the next week. They’re  not calling me because they really believe that we should have a conversation.

“I don’t want you to call me. If I call you, you should be thinking the same thing. I usually don’t call them either because I prefer to just – one is I prefer them to wonder if I’m ever going to get them back and then at the same time usually I forget about it and move on and we go racing and we don’t worry about it. I don’t let it linger. To me, having a conversation on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week doesn’t seem to resolve a whole lot.”

Question: Have you ever called anybody after a race?

Gordon: “In recent years I have because somebody started that and thought that was a good idea.  Nobody had my phone number my first five or six years in this sport.  Nobody had my phone number and I didn’t have their phone number so we didn’t call one another.  Nowadays it seems like everybody has their own – of course everybody has Twitter so you can reach out to them on Twitter these days.  All of the sudden, I get in a wreck with somebody and all of the sudden they’re calling me and I don’t know the number and I check my voicemail and it’s somebody that says, ‘Oh, I got your number from such and such through such and such through such and such and wanted to give you a call.’

“It’s not a bad idea to reach out to them, but I just am one that I don’t expect, I don’t take the call, I don’t call them back and I don’t do that, I don’t call guys.  I will tell you the only guy that I really reached out to and called was Martin Truex Jr. and that’s because I completely screwed that up.  At Sonoma, I just made a bonehead, bad move watching my mirror because Juan Pablo (Montoya) was making a diving move in on me and I ran over the top of him.  I felt really bad about that. I called him.  But if it’s a racing incident and we’re racing hard or whatever something happens, I don’t call them.”

Fast facts

Clint Bowyer's car launches into the air during the final lap of the NNS race at Dover on Saturday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

What: FedEx 400

Where: Dover International Speedway; Dover, Del.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90

Track layout: 1-mile oval

Banking: 24 degrees in corners, 9 degrees in straights

Grandstand seating: 135,000

Race distance: 400 laps/400 miles

2010 winner: Kyle Busch

2010 polesitter: Martin Truex Jr.

Today’s polesitter: Jimmie Johnson

First race: Mason-Dixon 300, 1969

First race winner: Richard Petty

First race polesitter: David Pearson

Trivia time

Only one Cup driver got his first career victory at the Monster Mile. Who was it?

Keep having at it

Jimmie Johnson, going for his sixth straight championship, was asked if he enjoys

Jimmie Johnson says he finds it humorous when those trying to dethrone him throw punches and fenders at each other. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

watching two guys who were picked to knock him off this season – Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick – knock each other out of races.

“At times, yes,” Johnson said. “I remember being here in the Chase and watching the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the No. 29 (Harvick) going at it. At that point in time, yes. But now, the championship implications haven’t crossed my mind because it’s so far from now; things seem to get rectified in 2 to 3 weeks. So I haven’t thought of it in that perspective.

“It was exciting seeing discussions about it in major newspapers and the social media world; it’s been everywhere. So you hate to see somebody potentially injured and the stuff on pit road is really the sore spot of all of it. But it was exciting. It gave us all a lot to talk about. If something like that happens in the Chase, It certainly will affect those two drivers there, but we’re too far away from it now.”

Ringing non endorsement

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked this week if he thinks it’s good that NASCAR races at Dover.

“It’s not bad,” he said.

Earncon alert

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has one victory at Dover, but that came 10 years ago. He has just one podium finish in the last 13 races. Conditions are not good for an Earnhardt slump-ending victory today.

This week, we are at Earncon 2.

Drive across this line

Popeye the Sailor Man used to say at his breaking point: “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”

Ryan Newman was asked this week: When do you have to show that your are not

Ryan Newman says there comes a time to stop being the pushee. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Sharon Ellman)

going to be pushed around?

Newman: “I think if you look back at the history of the sport, it’s always been there and it’s been some of the benchmarks for the sport.  The first race on TV and the fight that happened out there between (Cale) Yarborough and the Allison’s.  The Intimidator (Dale Earnhardt) himself, he wasn’t just the Intimidator because of his mental game.  He was an Intimidator because of his physical game.  There’s a lot of history in our sport with not being pushed around or being the one that pushes around.  There’s a fine balance for that depending on the driver, the competition and the race track – where you’re at in the season and all those things play a part of what you have to do as a driver to either get that respect or make sure that you’re given that respect.”

Trivia Answer

Ryan Truex Jr. got his first career Cup victory at Dover in 2007. He is the only driver to break into the career win column at Dover.

Track tidbits

Races: 82

Most victories: 7, by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison

Most poles: 6, by David Pearson

Most top-fives: 22, by Mark Martin

Most laps led: 2,802 (Bobby Allison)

Most lead changes: 29 (1986)

Fewest lead changes: 3 (1971)

Most cautions: 16 (1993)

Fewest cautions: 0 (1971)

Narrowest margin of victory: .08 seconds (2005)

Last five winners (starting with most recent): Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle.

Up Next:

The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch won last year’s All-Star Race.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 15 2011
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