Question of the day: What should team owner Rick Hendrick do about the Jeff Gordon-Jimmie Johnson feud (and who's at fault)? [Updated]
Four reporters from the Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day and feel free to leave a comment expressing your opinion on the matter.
Jim Peltz, Los Angeles Times
Little, if anything. No figure in NASCAR is savvier than Rick Hendrick, and he knows better than to just impulsively sit Johnson and Gordon down and order them to behave, as if they were a couple of grade-schoolers caught in a shoving match.
These are two of the best drivers in NASCAR history with four championships apiece, and Hendrick knows that passionate striving is what makes both of them tick. He’s probably also (quietly) delighted that Gordon is again showing such competitive fire, and that the jawboning between the drivers is a plus for NASCAR’s popularity.
Sure, they’ll all talk during the week – the No. 24 and 48 teams are housed under the same roof, after all – but don’t expect Hendrick to decide he needs to hold a peace summit. At least not yet.
Keith Groller, The Morning Call
If Rick Hendrick cares about NASCAR, he does nothing with these spats between his stars, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
This is exactly what the sport needs — a rivalry, a soap opera among drivers who matter.
Hendrick can talk all he wants about the need for teamwork, but this isn’t Phil Jackson trying to get Kobe and Shaq on the same page in LA. At its core, this remains an individualistic sport with drivers who put their lives on line every weekend trying to win.
Johnson probably is to blame because he has been NASCAR’s best — maybe of all time — and has tarnished Gordon’s legacy in the process. After playing Mr. Nice Guy for so long, the frustration of being a second-class citizen — even on his own team — is starting to get to Mr. Smoothie.
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Tania Ganguli, Orlando Sentinel
The difference, we’ve always thought, between Rick Hendrick and other owners is Hendrick understands how to manage his people to get the best work out of them.
Recall the famous milk-and-cookies meeting which turned Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus from bickering colleagues to a pair of four-time defending champion racers who love each other like brothers.
Johnson and Jeff Gordon have played nicely together until now, but Gordon’s frustration becomes more apparent each week.
The fact is, Johnson isn’t maliciously attacking Gordon. And Gordon likely knows that. Talladega isn’t Johnson’s best track and he admittedly made a mistake. Still, Gordon’s displeasure simmers.
What should Hendrick do about this?
An angry and aggressive Jeff Gordon is good for Hendrick Motorsports. It means Gordon knows the No. 24 team is good this year. It means he has some fire left in his four-time champion tank. It means Hendrick still has two of the fiercest competitors in the sport.
Photo: Jimmie Johnson, left, and Jeff Gordon talk in November 2009. Credit: Ralph Lauer / Associated Pres