A week or so ago, Claire B. Lang, host of “Dialed In” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, mentioned an article written by Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press about the void that will be left with the departure of Jeff Gordon from the driver’s seat of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at season’s end. The article was published back on Aug. 17, the day after the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
I realize I’m late to the game, that debate game regarding this article, that is. But I think Windsor’s article is still debatable. Basically, Windsor wrote that Gordon’s “don’t call it a retirement” at the end of 2015 will leave a pop culture void for NASCAR that no current driver will be able to fill. His big supporting point was Gordon’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” several years ago.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m offended by the article, I do have a proverbial bone to pick with Windsor. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely don’t want to make light of Gordon’s contributions to NASCAR, in popularity and pop culture. He’s made a tremendous impact, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that. But to say that no other current driver could give pop culture a NASCAR flavor here and there? Really!?!
In Windsor’s world, is “Saturday Night Live” the only place to get a taste of pop culture, or something? Sharknado 3, anyone? Team Penske drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski made cameos in that one. I admit, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see the first two, so why start now? But that doesn’t take away from the fact that these two potential championship contenders appeared in a movie that’s part of a franchise that seems to be on its way to becoming some kind of cult classic, no matter the perceived cheesiness.
What about guest appearances on TV shows? Anyone remember Tony Stewart on Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing?” How about Keselowski on that short-lived show, “Sullivan & Son?” There have been several others, but for some reason, the aforementioned were the two that popped into my head.
What about music videos? I realize MTV not longer shows music videos, but I digress. That’s beside the point, here, anyway. Since Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Stewart’s starring roles in the 3 Doors Down video for “The Road I’m On,” most NASCAR driver appearances in music videos have been country in nature. But isn’t country music pretty mainstream these days?
Before I rest my case, I have another point to make. Windsor suggested that Gordon’s the only driver people who aren’t NASCAR fans have heard of. I could nearly fall off my proverbial seat laughing at that one. Are we really to believe the general public hasn’t heard of Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Danica Patrick?
Really, dude !?!
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox with this. And, again, I’m not making light of Gordon’s contribution when I bring this up. But, NASCAR lore has the late Bill France and/or Bill France Jr. telling drivers that “you need NASCAR more than NASCAR needs you.” Maybe we need to revive that statement, here.
Again, no disrespect to Gordon. His departure will be deeply felt, but I’m thinking Windsor may be stretching it a bit.
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