Commentary

Will the real Jeff Gordon show up?

Updated: August 7, 2010, 3:37 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- No exorcist is standing by this weekend, even if Jeff Gordon needs one.

The four-time champion seemed possessed by something evil the last time Sprint Cup went road racing, slamming into other cars like a man on a mission of destruction.

Gordon angered half a dozen drivers, including Martin Truex Jr., two months ago at Sonoma with his overly aggressive driving.

Gordon rammed into Truex entering the 180-degree Turn 11, causing Truex to fall back and get involved in a race-ending wreck later.

Though Gordon apologized for his actions, Truex wasn't impressed, saying he would "get him later." Kurt Busch had a new name for Gordon one week later: Jeff "Bulldozer" Gordon.

Sonoma was an out-of-character moment for one of NASCAR's most respected drivers, as if Gordon became someone else for a day.

[+] EnlargeJeff Gordon
John Harrelson/Getty ImagesJeff Gordon may not even get to race Sunday. It all depends on whether or not wife Ingrid goes into labor with their second child. Scott Pruett is Gordon's backup driver.

He won't have a life coach nearby waiting to calm him if road-racing rage happens Sunday, but Gordon will have a driver waiting in the pit box in case he needs to make a quick exit.

Not for anger management, but labor management -- "labor" as in wife Ingrid giving birth to baby No. 2. She is due any day, so road-race ringer Scott Pruett will take over in the No. 24 Chevrolet if Gordon is called home for the delivery.

"I think Scott could do better in the car than I could, to be honest with you," Gordon said Friday. "It is very comforting if something were to happen where we needed him."

Pruett said Friday that he's secretly hoping Ingrid goes into labor just in time for him to sub for Gordon. Pruett, who drives for Chip Ganassi in the Grand-Am Series, made a couple of laps in Gordon's car during practice Friday.

Gordon, who starts 16th on Sunday, said he thinks it's a benefit to the team just to have Pruett in the pits.

"It could be a positive to get the feedback of a great road racer like him," Gordon said. "He can tell us what he thinks the car is doing and what we could do to make the car go faster."

As for controlling that road-course aggression thing, Gordon is on his own. In fairness, he wasn't the only driver making some wild moves at Sonoma. It's a product of double-file restarts when drivers are diving into tight turns up and down hills in different directions.

But Gordon knows Watkins Glen is a much different course than Sonoma.

"Sonoma is such a tight, finesse racetrack that we could run side-by-side for the first five or six corners," he said. "With the esses here [Turns 2 through 4], you have to get single-file pretty quick."

That could mean fewer confrontations on restarts and less aggression than fans saw at Sonoma.

Tony Stewart, who has won five of the past eight races at The Glen, doesn't expect as many crazy moments Sunday.

"I think it's a little more out of control at Sonoma because we're running slower speeds," Stewart said Friday. "It seems like everybody is a little more respectful here because of how fast we're running.

"At Sonoma, you have corners that are so slow from the speed on the straights that guys get stacked up and just plow in there. I don't think you'll see that this weekend."

That doesn't mean you won't see some bumping and banging.

"I think you're going to see plenty of excitement, but it's not going to be quite like Sonoma," Gordon said. "I think we're going to see plenty of action, especially just down in Turn 1 and getting through the esses. It just seems like there's always a lot of guys getting knocked around in those first couple of corners. It's going to be hectic for sure."

[+] EnlargeJeff Gordon
AP Photo/Russ HamiltonJeff Gordon's car was junk last year at Watkins Glen, in the literal sense.

Double-file restarts for the lead-lap cars have made road races more exciting, but things got a little too exciting for Gordon last year at The Glen.

After Sam Hornish Jr. got pushed off the track by Kasey Kahne, Hornish's car bounced off a barrier and came back across the track right in front of Gordon. The cars collided and Gordon slammed head-on into the inside barrier.

"It's not one of my fondest races here," Gordon said. "It's not because I wrecked so hard. It just wasn't a good day for us. We didn't run well. I think more about a few years ago here [2007] when we were leading and spun out going into [Turn 1] with nobody behind me."

Gordon is considered one of the best road racers in NASCAR history, with nine road course victories. At one stretch, he won six of seven road course races from 1997 to 2000.

But Gordon hasn't fared as well since the Car of Tomorrow design came to Cup. He's winless in road races since Cup switched to the new car in 2007.

His most recent road course victory was 2006 at Sonoma. He hasn't won at the Glen since 2001. No wonder he's feeling a little aggressive in the road races.

"This new car is just a lot less advantage you have, everywhere we go, road course or on an oval," Gordon said. "But I think the drivers and the teams in general are just focused more on road course racing now. You really don't see anybody dominating like we did at one time. And this car makes a better road racer out of everybody."

And sometimes, it makes a good guy look like he's possessed.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter