NASCAR & Auto Racing

Gordon's win exposes cowards


NASCAR wants us to believe racing is a sport with room for everybody. Regardless of your gender, the color of your skin or the color of your collar, you can buy a ticket, find a seat and enjoy the show.

Wonder how many decades the debacle at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday set that image back?

I used high-definition television to check the debris fans threw at Jeff Gordon after he had the audacity to win the Aaron's 499.

Here's what I didn't see: legal briefs, stethoscopes or keys to foreign cars; hardcover books, paperback books or books with big words; anything with the likeness of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.

All I saw were the three C's (cans, coolers and chicken bones) and the two B's (beer bottles and broken glass). Fans were so angry at Gordon that some of the bottles still had beer in them and some of the bones still featured poultry. Many fans undoubtedly returned Monday for breakfast.

Folks in Phoenix last week also threw trash at Gordon after he won there. Maybe NASCAR fans should be shipped to Philadelphia for an Eagles game so they'll learn to be less bitter and more accountable.

I understand why fans in Alabama were angry. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the driver they came to see win, failed to. But they should be used to it. He hasn't won in 2007.

Earnhardt Sr., who would have turned 56 Sunday, was a Talladega Superspeedway superstar. And Gordon, who matched Dale Sr.'s Winston Cup victory total in Phoenix, passed it at Talladega.

To let Gordon know how they felt about this, fans hurled everything but the deed to the double-wide and their first two ex-wives.

Don't blame Alabama -- throwing garbage at athletes is not an Alabama thing. Tuscaloosa, where Alabama plays football, is less than two hours from Talladega. Fans expect so much from Crimson Tide football and get back so little. But they don't go after the players, at least not with their arms. They have too much respect for tradition.

Plus, they'll get caught.

If you throw garbage onto the surface of any other major-league stadium, arena, ballpark or race track, you get arrested. But those facilities have state-of-the-art detection equipment such as cameras.

The Talladega County Sheriff's Department couldn't say late Monday how many fans they had arrested. A rough estimate, however, would be, not enough.

When racing fans complain that they miss the old days, I understand. There was a lawless quality that made the sport come alive. But there also was respect.

Throwing bottles at a driver has nothing to do with respect. It's cowardly. A crew member, a track employee or another fan could be hit.

Some of the throwers undoubtedly brought their families. You imagine what their kid will tell his friends?

"I'm proud of my daddy. He's so brave. He threw a bottle of domestic beer at a Chevrolet.

"Someday I want to be just like him." IN MY OPINION Tom Sorensen