Hendrick teammates, fans, rally to Jeff Gordon’s defense

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With Ryan Newman getting promoted into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup as a result of penalties issued to Michael Waltrip Racing, the one driver who has gotten the short end of the stick is four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Gordon missed out on the 10th place position in the pre-reset points standings by exactly one point to Joey Logano. Radio chatter involving Logano’s car passing another, the Front Row Motorsports Ford driven by David Gilliland, was a subject of debate on Wednesday as to whether a deal had emerged to allow Logano enough points to make the Chase.

As it is, an online petition at Change.org has emerged to see if Gordon could make the Chase and Logano, and for that matter Clint Bowyer, be bumped out. Its official title is “NASCAR: Disqualify Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano from the Chase and add Jeff Gordon.”

One key phrase from the plea reads, “While the fans appreciate the fact that NASCAR did something positive and penalized Michael Waltrip Racing as a whole, NASCAR has not done nearly enough. Jeff Gordon was affected equally by the cheating of MWR and Penske Racing, and he deserves to take a spot in the Chase over Bowyer and Logano. There is no place for cheaters in the Chase or NASCAR. Period.” More information is here.

Additionally, and unsurprisingly, Gordon’s three Hendrick Motorsports teammates who did make the Chase – Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – all took time at Thursday’s NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup media advance at Chicago’s Navy Pier to assess the recent controversies and come to Gordon’s defense.

“We need to make some changes and look at all options,” Johnson said. “The technology is out there but we do not have it in hand. Let’s figure out a way to police stuff live-time. It’s no fun when you’re waiting for a decision on a Monday or Tuesday because the racing’s what should dictate the finishing order. Jeff Gordon’s a perfect example of that. It put its right for Ryan Newman, but not Jeff. I wish we could let racing play out in the future.

“Right now, if you’re bold enough to make the direct admission, you’ll pay the price. The vagueness of things is what allows wiggle room,” he added.

Kahne didn’t dismiss the possibility of there being another caution within the last 10 laps that wasn’t orchestrated by Waltrip’s team, but still felt Gordon was unjustly affected.

“I think Jeff really took a hit on it,” Kahne said. “More than likely there wouldn’t have been a caution, but there could have been another one if MWR hadn’t have done everything they did. I think Jeff’s the only guy that got messed with on the whole thing. He did get kind of screwed over.”

Earnhardt Jr. took a philosophical approach, noting that the impact of Truex being kicked out will have lingering after effects.

“NASCAR needed to deter this type of activity and that was a good move for the sport. It sent shockwaves through the sport,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “Once you get a little further past this, you’ll see how big a deal that was for Truex to be moved out, and the impact for him, his team and his sponsors, that’ll be profound.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.