LOUDON, N.H. – While NASCAR celebrates Jeff Gordon’s record-breaking 789th consecutive Sprint Cup start today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the milestone encompasses more than a number.
The accomplishment represents Gordon’s longevity – only eight drivers in NASCAR history have started more races – and all that he’s experienced since making his first series start in Nov. 1992.
That gives Gordon perspective. As fans focus on Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson after last weekend’s contact on and off the track, Gordon can relate. He understands Harvick’s frustration and knows Johnson’s desire to resolve the matter.
When Gordon sees Harvick and Johnson, he reflects upon an incident he had with Martin Truex Jr.
Gordon wrecked Truex at Sonoma in 2010. Truex fumed, saying after the incident: “I guess Jeff figured he couldn’t catch us on the race track, he was going to spin us out on the restart. Of course he said he didn’t mean it, but he did it. How many times have I spun Jeff Gordon out? How many times have I spun anybody out? It’s stupid. I’m pissed off.’’
Gordon admitted that day he owed Truex an apology.
Gordon explained this weekend what happened in the incident and afterward:
“I had Juan Pablo Montoya attacking me into a braking zone,’’ Gordon said. “I moved down to block him. I looked up in my mirror to see if I was going to clear him and I overshot the corner. I hit Martin Truex Jr. and took him out. I felt bad about it. I texted him, talked to him and he refused to talk to me and I was like ‘Okay, that is fine.’
“It was my role, I felt like, from that point on for a certain period of time to race him as clean and respectful as I possibly can to earn his trust back and for him to recognize what I had done was a mistake. That is not who I am. That is not how I go about it.’’
“It was about a year and a half later at Bristol, I remember racing him for like second or third down to the wire and I finally went up to him after that race and said ‘Now Martin, I hope you will agree I have done everything that I know possible to earn your trust back and make you realize that I messed up. I admit it, but I cannot continue to race you as clean as I’ve been racing you if it’s for second or for a win. I mean I’m going to have to lean on you a little bit here and there.’ He didn’t respond too much, but I think he got it.’’
OK, so what about Gordon’s incident with Brad Keselowski last year at Texas during the Chase? They were running for the lead when contact with Keselowski cut a tire and caused Gordon to spin. Gordon finished 29th and would fail to advance to the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“As far as Brad is concerned, I get he was racing hard,’’ Gordon said. “He was desperate. He had to win that race in order to move on. He was racing for that. I will throw in the fact I have no problem with that. What I had a problem with is that my left rear tire was cut down at that time.
“I missed (moving on) in the Chase basically because of that. I’m going to hold onto that until Homestead. That’s just the way it works. I’m not saying that I owe him that or a payback, but if I’m in the same situation I can guarantee I’m going to do exactly the same thing that he did. I’m not going to think twice about what it does to him.’’