Jeff Gordon continues to hurt his credibility as a Fox Sports analyst
By John Haverlin
October 5, 2017
When Ryan Newman did his post-race television interview after the Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway on Sunday, Jeff Gordon walked past him on pit road and uttered a sarcastic remark, which Newman didn’t appreciate.
Gordon said, “Thanks for the help,” in reference to Newman racing aggressively in front of leaders Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch, and Newman called him out on it.
“You said it as a smart ass,” Newman said about Gordon’s comment, and Gordon dismissed it by saying, “No, you took it that way,” as he walked into the garage area.
A few minutes later, Gordon was seen putting his arm around Newman’s shoulder and appeared to be rectifying the incident on pit road.
The Racing Experts attempted to talk with Gordon as he walked to the infield RV lot but he respectfully declined, “No sir. We’re good, but thanks.”
Gordon, who has always represented himself as one of NASCAR’s friendliest personalities throughout his career as a driver, went outside his element with his run-in with Newman.
He had no reason to say anything to Newman, and it hurts his credibility as a Fox Sports analyst.
This isn’t anything new. Gordon is perceived to have a bias toward Hendrick Motorsports, particularly Chase Elliott and the No. 24 team, where he was the former driver with 93 wins until 2015.
But how many times have fans heard that he believes Elliott will win a race or that he’s been the car to beat on-track?
For example: at Pocono Raceway in June 2016, Brad Keselowski expressed his displeasure of Gordon’s on-air comments after his No. 2 team was seen making an illegal body modification during a pit stop.
Keselowski was upset because Gordon said his crew did a similar thing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier that year and was penalized for it then, but that was incorrect. He was penalized at Las Vegas for a pit road speeding penalty.
“They need to get some people in the booth who aren’t inbred to the sport and own teams and have internal knowledge, because that’s pretty crappy. But it is what it is,” Keselowski said. “You need to have people who don’t own teams or have commercial interests in the sport, because they say things that are very biased.”
Look, we’re all human and we all have biases — myself included. I’ll admit that when I first started watching NASCAR in the late 1990s into the 2000s, Gordon was my favorite driver. I still have Dupont diecast cars and hats in my bedroom closet to this day.
But when I started covering NASCAR as a part-time reporter last year, I put aside my fandom or dislike of any driver. The goal of every reporter and news analyst is to be objective, and I can honestly say I haven’t rooted for or against anyone in the last two years. I aim to treat everyone equally.
Gordon needs to make that his goal too because he continues to make himself and Fox Sports look bad when he has confrontations with other drivers. NBC Sports, which caught their pit road discussion on camera, discussed it on NASCAR America because they can. Neither men have allegiances to the network.
However, Fox Sports avoided the topic on NASCAR Race Hub because Gordon is one of its employees and if it were to debate what happened, it would essentially be condoning a poor reflection of itself.
Ultimately, it was a heat-of-the-moment reaction. Gordon was sitting atop Elliott’s pit box hoping the 21-year-old could earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory. On the other hand, Newman was racing as hard as he could because he was on the brink of playoff elimination and was about to be lapped by Elliott and Busch.
Hopefully, Gordon doesn’t let this sort of affair happen again. He’s a four-time champion and a legend of the sport, and it’d be a shame if he couldn’t maintain a respectable portrayal as a Fox Sports race analyst. Even though he still has financial interest at Hendrick Motorsports, he can’t let that interfere with his job with Fox Sports.
His contract with Fox ends after 2018. According to a report by Sports Business Daily, neither Gordon or Fox have a deal in place beyond next season.
“If my role increases here (at Hendrick), it’s hard to do both. I can do both right now at the level that I’m at,” Gordon said. “(Rick Hendrick, team owner, and I are) constantly talking about the future and what that looks like, but no decisions have been made.”
Fox declined to comment on the matter.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
Austin McFadden/The Racing Experts Dante Ricci/The Racing Experts
SOURCES Racing-Reference.info Sports Business Daily