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.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”