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Gordon glad to survive Talladega’s wreckage

No. 2 finish behind Kenseth came after annual Alabama pileup

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, Oct. 08, 2012

Jeff Gordon has had just about enough of restrictor-plate racing.

“I remember when coming to Talladega was fun,” Gordon said Sunday after finishing second behind Matt Kenseth in the Good Sam 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. “But I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time. I don’t like coming here, but it’s racing that I have to do.”

Talladega and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway are NASCAR’s biggest and fastest tracks – so fast that cars’ engines have restrictor plates to limit speeds.

That’s what caused Sunday’s final-lap big wreck that took out then-leader Tony Stewart and 24 other cars. And it’s what had Gordon – who luckily avoided the wreck – so frustrated.

“It’s part of racing at Talladega,” said Gordon, who moved up to sixth place in the standings but trails leader Brad Keselowski by 42 points. “You have to accept it and you know you’re going to go through it – if not during the race, then at the end of the race, for sure. …

“This is literally bumper cars at almost 200 mph. I don’t know anybody who likes that.”

Actually, Gordon thinks the fans probably do, although there were large sections of empty grandstands at Talladega. There was an estimated crowd of 88,000 at a track that can hold 108,000.

“From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway,” Gordon said. “I don’t get that at all. If I’m a race fan, I want to see two-to-three wide racing all day long, passing back and forth, shoving. I’d want to be see the ‘big one.’ Everybody being so aggressive, defying danger.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was caught up in the wreck and finished 20th, disagreed.

“It’s blood-thirsty. If that is what people want,” said Earnhardt. “It’s ridiculous.”

Gordon and Earnhardt were joined in their lack of enthusiasm for restrictor-plate racing by Jack Roush, team owner of Kenseth’s car.

“I’m real conflicted about restrictor-plate racing,” said Roush. “These are supposed to be our marquee races at Talladega and Daytona. But it’s now more about having to keep the drivers out of harm’s way more than on the short or intermediate tracks. I’m figuring that my cars are write-offs when we come to restrictor-plate races.”

Said Earnhardt: “If this is how we raced every week, I’d find another job. I don’t even want to go to Daytona or Talladega next year. But I ain’t got much choice.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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