With the Sprint Cup circus returning to Pocono Raceway this weekend, four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon (pictured) was asked Friday about his experience watching the IndyCars’ return to the ‘Tricky Triangle’ last month.
The former “Rainbow Warrior” made clear his appreciation for the quickness of the open-wheel machines, saying that it was “so cool to see those cars doing those types of speeds around this track.” But Gordon also noted something else at Pocono – the difference between the crowd sizes that IndyCar and NASCAR attract to the 2.5-mile oval in Pennsylvania.
“I am very, very appreciative of this sport and this series that we are in because when you drive in that tunnel for an IndyCar race, and you drive in here for a NASCAR race – you get a perspective of how big our sport is,” he said.
He also added: “Sometimes we see the decline or something going flat and we are not seeing these grandstands filled up, but let me tell you, go to an IndyCar race and then a month or two weeks later and come back here. We better be very thankful for all the people we have here. It’s pretty amazing.”
When those comments got back to Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he issued a cutting response.
“I was at the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 [both at Indianapolis Motor Speedway],” Kanaan said according to Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star. “It was the same shock to me.”
Cavin writes that a surprised Kanaan asked twice about the context of Gordon’s comments. For the record, Ryan Newman won last weekend’s Brickyard in front of an estimated crowd of 80,000. Kanaan won the Indy 500 in May in front of an estimated crowd of 250,000.
Now, it’s easy to give Gordon the benefit of the doubt. He doesn’t seem like a guy that we’d expect to bash somebody or something just for the sake of doing so.
He acknowledges that NASCAR’s popularity has dipped a little bit. Also, he probably knows that the fans’ ability to travel to events has been hampered by a rough economy.
Nonetheless, it’s still the most popular form of racing in this country despite those problems. Certainly, that’s something for him and his stock car compatriots to be thankful for.
But after seeing one of his sport’s crown jewels, the Brickyard 400, play out last weekend in front of perhaps one-third capacity at IMS, it may still be surprising to some that Gordon would comment on the topic of crowd size – especially after the noticeable amount of press that was focused on NASCAR’s attendance woes at the world’s greatest racecourse.
What do you think, readers? Were Gordon’s words unflattering toward IndyCar, or was he simply being grateful for NASCAR’s relative prosperity?