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Race Day: Gordon Committed Serious Error At Chicago in 2005

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 11 2009
Jeff Gordon's 2006 win at Chicago was not a big hit with local fans. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon's 2006 win at Chicago was not a big hit with local fans. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Joliet, Ill. – Jeff Gordon has something to prove in Chicago. A pride thing. Capital “P”, too. Chicago is the site of one of the biggest mistakes Gordon has made during his racing career and by golly, he wants a chance to make amends.

Unfortunately for the four-time Sprint Cup champion, redemption will not come this weekend. That’s because Gordon has not been invited back to Wrigley Field to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the NASCAR weekend.

It was in 2005 during the annual race weekend at Chicagoland Speedway that Gordon did the honors of singing the song during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley.

Cubs fans, many of whom thought the NASCAR driver had  dishonored the song, booed Gordon out of town.

Bummer, Gordon said this weekend.

“Obviously the attention that I got is not the kind that I’d like for the singing,” he said. “It wasn’t even the singing; it’s the fact that I called it Wrigley’s Stadium. I’m obviously not a huge baseball fan and did not 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. But yeah, I probably got more negative attention over that than many things that I’ve done.”

Gordon did little to re-ingratiate himself to area race fans the next year.

He won at Chicagoland, but he wrecked Matt Kenseth, of nearby Wisconsin, to get the win.

“The incident with Kenseth wasn’t just all positives, but we still got the win,” Gordon said. “It was a big day for us. But so yeah, we want to clear our name around the Chicago area so I’d like to come here and do a nice sweep of the race and maybe one day get the opportunity to go back and do the 7th inning stretch song, I don’t know. 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.”
Chicagoland Speedway is a so-called cookie-cutter track – a 1.5-mile oval with intermediate banking.

As such, it has taken a beating from critics over the years.

However, the reviews from competitors have become more positive as the track has matured over the years.

Now, many drivers like the place.

“This place is fun,” Carl Edwards said. “It’s got some character.  It’s got some bumps and different grooves, and I really enjoyed the race last year.  We made it all the way to the lead and had a little bit of mechanical trouble, but it should be good and it’s good for the fans, too.  I like these night races.

“Yeah, the old the asphalt gets the better it gets at all these places.  The only bad thing about the night race is just waiting all day for it to start.  Other than that, they’re great.”

Even Gordon has come to like Chicagoland.

“Well I think it is one of the premiere facilities of the mile and a half tracks that we have on the circuit,” Gordon said. The way that this track has aged and weather. You can see how gray it is and how black how the groove is so it tells you how the racing has really changed over the years.

“I feel like this has always been a great area for a lot of race fans to get a chance to come watch the Sprint Cup series and its drivers and competitors and Nationwide on one of the best tracks that we go to. It has always been a great track, well designed in a great location if you ask me for our Midwest fans that are huge. We see it in Kansas, we see it here. We see it in Indy. It’s obviously one that is high up on the list for a lot of the guys.”

Not all drivers get to go to baseball games like Gordon when they come to Chicago. Like Ryan Newman.

“I got to spend some time with my family yesterday,” Newman said. “We went to the county fair and petted some pigs which was something different that most of the time we don’t get to do.”

Fast Facts
The Race: LifeLock.com 400
The Date: Saturday, July 11
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Track: Chicagoland Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval)
The Distance: 400 miles/267 laps
TV: TNT, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, Sirius
2008 Polesitter: None (weather)
2008 Winner: Kyle Busch

Up Next: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Jeff Gordon owns the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and poles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, which begins at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 26. Other interesting notes:

• Jimmie Johnson, who earned his second Indianapolis win last year from the pole, is tied with Tony Stewart and Dale Jarrett with two wins there, surpassed only by Gordon’s four victories.
• Jimmie is one of two drivers to win from the pole. Kevin Harvick did it in 2003.
• Thanks to Gordon and Johnson, Rick Hendrick owns six Indianapolis wins, the most of any team owner, He’s followed by Joe Gibbs with three. Richard Childress and Robert Yates each have two wins.
• Gordon took the checkered flag in the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis on Aug. 6, 1994. Just 23 years old, he led 93 of the race’s 160 laps and passed Ernie Irvan for the win.
• Four drivers have the most starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with 15 – Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin.

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 11 2009
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