October 16, 2007

Is Jeff Gordon on his way to a 5th Title? Is He The Best of The Best ?: He's passed Earnhardt for sixth on the career wins list, has 81 career victories, and will soon pass Cale Yarborough for fifth, and four victories will slide him past Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. Check out his stats inside.

posted by texasred to auto racing at 06:36 AM - 23 comments

I say yes but only time will tell. I believe it is his to lose.

posted by lippido at 07:57 AM on October 16, 2007

Jeff is clearly the odds on favorite to win his 5th title.... but in racing, lots of things can happen. One clear reason for his long success is the very great teams he has had supporting him. A single lug nut or valve spring can ruin one's day on the track... so lots of people have to perform without error for someone to win a race, let alone a whole season. Is the the best of the best. Not nearly, repost this question after he wins race number 201!.. This then the King is still the King.

posted by Fly_Piscator at 08:42 AM on October 16, 2007

Jeff is behind "The King", and a host of other drivers who labored in the early days of NASCAR. Richard Petty will always be "The King". Just one season alone can make give him that title. 1967- won 10 races in a row, and 27 races for the season. Sure Jeff has made more money because the purses are huge compared to what the early dirver's had.

posted by coach at 11:21 AM on October 16, 2007

Jeff Gordon is just one part of thousands of parts that need to perform properly to win races. These parts make up a whole team, the car and all it's parts, crew, shop members, engineering dept, sponsors, etc. Jeff has enjoyed being a part of the best team most of his career. To say he is the best of the best "drivers" is near impossible. There are many who if teamed up with the "Rainbow Warriors" could have put up the same numbers. There are some who still wouldn't perform with this team. Over time one can tell the "best" from the rest and Jeff fits in, but by what can we truly measure the "best of the best"? One thing nobody can match, Jeff has been with the same team, his only team, his entire career, with the same main sponsor and even basic paint scheme! Congrats to Jeff and his entire team, and this coming from a die-hard Mark Martin fan.

posted by ovalteam at 12:27 PM on October 16, 2007

A question for NASCAR followers -- just out of curiosity, is the current level of competition considered to be higher or lower than in the heyday of Richard Petty and other NASCAR greats? Is it considered to be more difficult or easier for one driver/team to dominate now than in the past? I would be interested in how historical context and level of competition fits into the analysis when considering where a driver fits into the ranks of all-time greats.

posted by holden at 12:37 PM on October 16, 2007

In general, competition in most sports is extremely keen today. Look at baseball. Where da yankees? Huh?? Rockies in the Series. Who woulda bet on that in April? Look at College Football. The best get "upset" (defined as not conforming to the coach's poll against a lesser opponent) Look at Golf. A couple of stars... Like Lorena Ochoa on PGA and Tiger on PGA, but any given week, you would be hard pressed to guess all the winners. Yeah, the best teams and players seem to win more than average... but not in such a dominant fashion that you would put your rent money on it. Look at Gordon two weeks ago, with 10 laps to go, would you have bet a bundle he would actually win?? likely not at even odds. He only led one third of one lap... the final one. So today, competition is very very keen. I'll let someone else speak to 30 years ago in NasCar

posted by Fly_Piscator at 01:44 PM on October 16, 2007

Is it considered to be more difficult or easier for one driver/team to dominate now than in the past? These are the days of multi-car teams that share information on setup, gears, etal. Because of this it seems to be easier for some teams/drivers to get an advantage over the single car owners. Then on the other hand if one driver on a team has engine trouble the others get really nervous since the same people built the motors for all the cars on the team.

posted by Folkways at 02:22 PM on October 16, 2007

If you have ever seen the movie "The Natural", in a sense that is the difference between sports 40 or 50 years ago and now. Its so much more about money and sponsorships these days and athletes in any sport are so specialized. Lost are the Babe Ruths and the Richard Pettys of the world, the guys who came out of nowhere to absolutely dominate and revolutionize a proffession. Sadder than that to me is the loss of the Alan Kulwicki character. Kulwicki arrived in Charlotte in a borrowed pickup truck. He was the owner, driver and chief mechanic. He is also, according to NASCAR's own video, the only NASCAR Nextel/Winston Cup champion (1992) with a college degree (mechanical engineering). Here's to the little guy who made good.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 06:27 PM on October 16, 2007

Jeff Gordon is the BEST in the Modern era I seen the KID race at Baylands raceway park when Jeff was 13 years old. Folks can write and say when Jeff get to 201 wins Jeff will the the King? Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt BOTH were great legend's and made Nascar what it is today. I feel this era is way different....and Jeff Gordon has helped continue Nascar to where and what Nascar has become today. Jeff Gordon is the best out there right now and maybe over the course of the past 13 years Look at the Talent in Nascar EVERY team can win now BUT.......... Its the DRIVERS who win races and championships Drivers Like Tony Stewart Jimmie Johnson Matt Kenseth and many others shouldnt be left out of this debate either. I am a Dale Jr fan and hoepfully Jeff can HELP Jr get to the top the way Jeff has helped JIMMIE JOHNSON. I am sure when Jeff Gordon retires one day there will be another guy to take his place and a new debate to be written As for Now I think Jeff Gordon is tops. Love Jeff or Hate Jeff really there is NO way around Jeff Gordons Greatness!

posted by HalloweenKingDiamond at 07:14 PM on October 16, 2007

I'm in total agreement with Fly_Piscator. 80 down, 121 to go. IF that happens - I will be duly impressed. It should be a cinch, as EVERY track in the Series is his "home town track" it seems. Hard to get behind one who never even gets his hands dirty (perhaps with good reason) on behalf of his team's efforts. Good driver - yes, deserving of the title "best ever"? In my opinion - Questionable. When is that track in Lichtenstein due to be complete?

posted by B-2 Spirit at 07:37 PM on October 16, 2007

Excuse my clerical error - 81 down, 120 to go.

posted by B-2 Spirit at 07:44 PM on October 16, 2007

I'm in total agreement with Fly_Piscator. 80 down, 121 to go. IF that happens - I will be duly impressed. It should be a cinch, as EVERY track in the Series is his "home town track" it seems. Hard to get behind one who never even gets his hands dirty (perhaps with good reason) on behalf of his team's efforts. Good driver - yes, deserving of the title "best ever"? In my opinion - Questionable. When is that track in Liechtenstein due to be complete?

posted by B-2 Spirit at 07:51 PM on October 16, 2007

If you have ever seen the movie "The Natural", in a sense that is the difference between sports 40 or 50 years ago and now. Its so much more about money and sponsorships these days I thought that fallacy had left with the old man. Things have changed yes, but so has all aspects of society. With a hat tip to The Crafty Sousepaw: "...baseball is no longer a sport, but a business..." -- New York Times, 1891 Babe Ruth held out for more money, and the movie The Natural was just that, a movie.

posted by justgary at 08:03 PM on October 16, 2007

All hail The Crafty Sousepaw!

posted by tommybiden at 08:24 PM on October 16, 2007

When Petty won the first 100 of his 200, the world of NASCAR was very different. There were sanctioned races 2 and 3 times a week at little tracks all over the Southeast. The big names got appearance money to show up and race the locals and it all counted as a win. Look at Petty's record and you'll find wins at places like Bowman-Gray in Winston-Salem and Hickory Raceway, races where he was probably the only full-time pro in the field. I'm certainly not trying to downplay the dominance of the Petty team in their prime. Even at the big races with the best out there they were tough to beat. I'm just saying that holding any modern racer to the standard of 200 wins is nuts. The correct standard is 7 championships. Petty did it. Earnhardt did it. Gordon seems likely to get 5 this year and is still young. He could win 8 or 9 before it's over with. So, best ever? Still to be seen, but he's right there.

posted by gradioc at 09:33 PM on October 16, 2007

Have been to one of the little tracks you talk about gradioc. I saw Bobby Issacs take a "69" dirt track Dodge Charger and make lap after lap around the track at Augusta, GA. in practice. Then on Sunday go out and race all the other NASCAR drivers (Petty, Lund, Jarret,Yarabough,Pearson,Owens,and others for the wind. Each NASCAR driver of that era drove all the small tracks along with the locals if they could qualify. Was good racing on each track, both dirt and paved. Each team built their own engines, chassis, ect. Manufactues had to sell 1500 of the models racing. Sure has changed alot. Been following NASCAR since "59" when Lee Petty won the Daytona 500 and the race wasn't official till Wednesday after the race. Will stop there.

posted by coach at 11:18 PM on October 16, 2007

I think that's a very interesting topic actually. Petty is near impossilbe to pass up for many reasons. The scoring system was different back in the day. Petty was one of the very first sponsored cars and could then have better equipment, and was one of the first teams to actually have more than one car. They would score wins to his record for other races besides just the Nascar races...so he could essentially have a race on a Saturday in North Carolina with one car, and then fly back to Michigan for a race in his other car...which was a luxury not shared by most drivers. It would be the equivalent of the cup guys racing in the (for now) Busch series, and having those wins count towards their cup record. So it's a tough call to say who is the best ever. It's one of those timeless debates that goes with any sport...are the old-time Celtics and Lakers better than the 90s Bulls, is the 85 Bears team the best defensive team ever, would Tiger beat a young Jack. I think too many advances in the sporting and technology make that a difficult question to answer. ...which after posting this i see the comments above me refer to the same thing!

posted by Griff23Jordan at 12:03 AM on October 17, 2007

I guess I didn't really articulate my point well, and I don't mean to degrade Petty for a good part of his career he was a full time world class driver running against primarily amatuers and maybe a handful of pros. Whereas now they are all world class full time drivers. If Gordon, Earnhardt, or even Earnhardt Jr had run back then with the support team, sponsorship and the ability to devote full-time effort to the cause anyone one of them would have had the chance to approach 200 wins. Conversely, if Petty ran today with the level of competition and very closely matched abilities of the automobiles being what they are then I would speculate that he would be respected as a great driver, a consistent front-runner with a half dozen titles and maybe 120 or so wins. The beauty of these discussions is its all speculation anyway. By the way what do you mean "The Natural" wasn't a true story? Next thing you know you'll try and tell me Santa Claus isn't real either.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 04:46 AM on October 17, 2007

I have been a NASCAR fan for abotu 25 years. Long enough to remember the guys like Petty and Allisons and such but not to remember the real early days. But one thing stands out in my mind. In the 60's and 70's Petty had the big sponsor ship (big by those days standards). He was a great driver, one of the top 5, but you could have put several other drivers in that same car and they could have dominated also. Today you have much the same type of scenario. The big multi car teams with deep pockets when races. There are 10-12 drivers that in Gordons ride could win also. Not saying he is not good, but the money and multi car testing is a huge huge advantage. Additionally comparing todays drivers to the drivers of the 50's and 60's is like comparing the great football players of the 50's to today's players. It flat can not be done.

posted by scottypup at 09:21 AM on October 17, 2007

I met Jeff and didn't have to get a shot after yes he is the greatest wheelman of this era. Richard Petty will tell you who the greatest of his era was as well it was Richard Pearson.

posted by thatch at 09:35 AM on October 17, 2007

It may be that Gordon has the best team with the biggest money and the best shot at winning every week (or among the best anyways), but isn't that as much a part of winning NASCAR (or Indy, or F1, or any of the top circuits) as anything else? Sure, some of it is good fortune built up over years that gets a Jeff Gordon to the top of his profession, but he has to hold up his end too, and as many fans as there are who hate him for allegedly not being enough of a good ole boy, if any of them owned a team, he'd be the first one they called. I mean, I like Tony Stewart a lot, but Jeff is Jeff. The consensus here sounds pretty much right. Best ever? It's impossible to compare straight across, but almost certainly the best of his generation, and whenever he hangs it up, he'll be right in the thick of that discussion.

posted by chicobangs at 10:26 AM on October 17, 2007

chico I agree that Gordon has to be a above average driver to win as he does. My point was simply that there are others who could have as much success with the team and equipment he has. Same thing for Petty in his time.

posted by scottypup at 11:29 AM on October 17, 2007

scotty, I certainly see your point, but how do you think drivers get picked up for the big teams in the first place? Team owners scout and recruit, just like colleges to for players. Gordon was noticed by Bill Davis Racing when he was a kid, and then later by Hendrick Motorsports, because he could tear up the track, no matter what he was driving. From go-carts to the Cup Series, he's won everywhere he's been. To refute the thinking that anybody could win with the kind of support Gordon has, look no further than Kyle Petty or Dale Jr. Both have incredible name recognition, and a pile of money behind them, and both have been disappointments. Granted, Junior still has the potential to succeed at a level like Gordon and Dale Sr., but so far he hasn't lived up to it. Also, look at the rocky road Gordon had to traverse after Ray Evernham left to form his own team. The money, the sponsorships, and all that other stuff were still there, but the chemistry with Robby Loomis wasn't right, and wins were few and far between. I know we tend to simplify things in NASCAR, but there's a very delicate balance in putting together a team that can sustain a championship level year in and year out. Granted, I have a bias as a Gordon fan, but I firmly believe he's the second-best driver of his generation, only because I still count Dale Sr. in that group. For those that point to Richard Petty as the best ever because of his 200+ wins, I say yes, that's very impressive, but it would be nearly impossible for anybody to break that record. Petty could win three races in one week back in the day, and they all counted. That'll likely never happen again.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 08:50 AM on October 18, 2007

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