Friday, August 09, 2013

Gordon Says Stewart's Injury Can Inspire Change

Gordon excelled on dirt
Jeff Gordon hasn’t strapped into a Sprint Car in a decade or two, but the former Open Wheel star said he sympathizes with fellow driver Tony Stewart, who suffered a badly broken leg in a Sprint Car crash earlier this week and will be sidelined indefinitely.

“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet,” said the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion today at Watkins Glen International.  “I was in Knoxville this week… in that environment of Sprint Car racing and around the people that are feeling the impact of that. Now here I am this weekend (at) this race, where the impact is being felt as well.  Tony is such an influential person in motorsports, as a driver and as a supporter of racing. It’s tough. 
“I was looking all over those cars trying to understand what happened,” he said. “You’re there and you’re in awe of these awesome beasts of race cars; 930 horsepower, 1400 pound cars with tons of downforce.  They just fly… and it makes me want to get behind the wheel of one, so I totally understand the appeal.
“You look at Tony (with the) talent to go out there and be as competitive as he is. He has a shot at winning those races, which is unbelievable.  He’s racing against guys that do that every single weekend.  They compare to the space cowboys of the NASA program several years ago, where they’re sitting on top of a rocket, without a lot of protection.  I hope that this can actually be a great benefit and influence on the Sprint Car community to make these cars safer. 
“There are some areas that could be improved,” said Gordon, who won USAC’s National Midget championship in 1990 and its Silver Crown Series title in 1991. “These cars are lightweight, they’re fast and they’re cool and awesome, but we haven’t seen a lot (of advances) in seat technology. We’re seeing the type of injury happening with the torque tubes and driveshaft being exposed and the lightweight components.  I hope to see something like this (change) that. 
“We’re missing Tony and haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet, but can’t wait for him to get back as soon as possible.”
Gordon called criticism of Stewart’s Sprint Car participation unwarranted, saying, “When the conversation is about who is a real racer in this garage area -- who’s got the most talent, who’s out there doing the most for motorsports -- Tony Stewart rises to the top of that list. Then, as soon as he gets injured, (people) say, ‘Oh boy, maybe he shouldn’t have been doing that.’ 
“I tell him all the time when he runs the Sprint Car races and wins or is competitive, ‘Man, that’s awesome. That’s unbelievable.’ 
“I couldn’t do that,” he said, “and I don’t choose to do that because of different things that are happening in my life. But I applaud him and definitely support him in that effort.  It’s just unfortunate that this has happened.”


  1. Brian Kramer2:45 PM

    Loved the Diet Pepsi car. It was owned by Rollie Helmling who was a friend of mine. We spent many a Thursday night on the infield at IRP. I still have a tee shirt I bought out of John Bickford's station wagon, autographed by Jeff as well as John Andretti. Those were the days.

  2. It is great to see other drivers, in particular other future hall of fame drivers. get behind Tony and support him and his other then NASCAR efforts.

    Tony is a great supporter of all motorsports and should be celebrated as such.

    I think it is highly commendable that Jeff spoke out and vocalized his support for Tony.

  3. Anonymous3:21 PM

    Great report Dave...."who is a real racer in this garage area -- who’s got the most talent, who’s out there doing the most for motorsports -- Tony Stewart" Amen. Thanks Smoke
    Josh, retired sprintcar crewman exiled to Vt.

  4. Anonymous1:56 PM

    Nice article, Dave. Thanks for it. Jeff obviously respects Tony, even through their differences of opinions over the years. It seems reasonable that the sprint car community takes a serious look at where they could improve the safety w/o taking anything away from the sport.

  5. As someone who has season reserve seats at Williams Grove, I do appreciate sprint car racing, however I think as far as chances go, it's about 70/30 were the focus should be on making the tracks safer.

    Anybody remember the Doug Wolfgang lawsuit?

    I would like to remind people he won, but did race tracks sit up and take notice? For the most part no they did not, because it's still too easy for me to go find a short track that doesn't have an ambulance and/or proper safety staff on hand, never mind the design flaws a lot of these places have built into them.

    Sprint car racing will never be totally safe, and that's part of the appeal of it, but safety can be improved, and a big part of that would be the tracks themselves.