I'm starting to think that one of my favorite parts of racing is the relationships among the drivers. Throughout the history of the sport the relationships and subsequent rivalries have been a large part of the fascination of the sport. The matches from hell have long served to spice up the action, adding one more element to our affection for NASCAR.
The actions between these two Hendrick teammates seemed to escalate at Talladega. My mouth fell open when I saw the contact between them as they both fought for position. That initial reaction was followed with a wry smile.
I guess the only question has to do with the motive behind the battle. Is it is real, or is it hyped for effect.
My take is, that it is most definitely real. Take a look at where it comes from. Here we have a four-time champion -- Jeff Gordon -- who introduces a new rookie -- Jimmie Johnson -- to the sport. Before long, Johnson starts making Gordon look bad. This is a classic example of the student outpacing the teacher. Sometimes the teacher is cool, just proud of what he has accomplished as he does the job he set out to do. But Jeff Gordon isn't a teacher. He is a race car driver. And I fear his ego is pretty black and blue at this point.
Let's face it, as much as I don't personally want to admit it, Jimmie Johnson has had a long winning streak. He's been a champion four consecutive times for cripes sake. Like manyNASCAR fans, I admit I'm sick of seeing him in Victory Lane too. But I can only imagine how sick of it Jeff Gordon is. Jimmie has tied Jeff's excellent championship record and it looks as though might surpass it. That would be pretty hard to take.
But consider that it is just as hard for Johnson. This can't be easy for him either. And that is why I think Jimmie's feud with his mentor might just be the one that does him in.
Johnson couldn't stay on top forever. Something has to give. At the very least, if this battle between he and Gordon continues, it will become a distraction. That isn't to say he won't win a fifth championship, but if he does, it will be the hardest one he will ever win.
In fact, I'm going to take that a step farther. With Johnson and Gordon feuding, and 41 other drivers as hungry as a bears in the springtime, this one is Johnson's to lose. And, he just might.