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After wreck, impatience angers Gordon

The points leader is irritated by his fellow drivers.

By KELLIE DIXON
Published May 28, 2007


CONCORD, N.C. - Steve Letarte lifted his ballcap and wiped his brow as he headed for the No. 24 hauler to pack up. Minutes later Jeff Gordon emerged from the infield care center and shared his crew chief's obvious frustration about his early exit.

"My car was good, " said Gordon, who was the points leader going into the Coca-Cola 600. "And all I do is just drive it straight for a few laps and them boom, you're gone."

Tony Raines got loose next to Gordon on Lap 62 and clipped him, sending Gordon into the grass. Gordon shot up and slammed into the outside wall, collecting A.J. Allmendinger.

Gordon wasn't as frustrated with the hard tire, the source of several drivers' angst. He was more irritated by his fellow drivers.

The tire "does have a factor, but if you've got a brain, you know that you don't race right now, " Gordon said after his crash which involved five cars. "You run your own race. There are just too many guys out there who aren't doing that."

FOLLOW THE TOYOTA: Brian Vickers more than quintupled the number of laps that Toyota has led this season. Vickers climbed from his 26th starting spot to lead by Lap 113, and led four times for 76 laps. Coming in, all Toyota drivers combined to lead 13 laps. Vickers led eight of those.

HANGING OUT: Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith didn't grow up a race fan, but the sport has captured his attention during the seven years he has played in Charlotte. On Sunday, Smith was hanging out in Dave Blaney's pitbox, headphones on, radio in hand. Smith said he is an equity partner with Star Motorsports and that he's considering becoming an owner. "I'm just taking advantage of learning the sport and not jumping in there too deep, " Smith said.

STAR POWER: Carl Edwards couldn't find John Cena in his rearview mirror during a recent practice session. Edwards had told the World Wrestling Entertainment champion to follow his lead around the track.

"At the time I was downshifting, he came flying by me 100 miles an hour faster, " Edwards said. "He's definitely a very aggressive driver, but he can do that. Obviously he's huge. This is the smallest I've felt in a long time. I work out a lot."

Cena, listed at 240 pounds (Edwards is 185), just laughed. "The toughest thing after the show, " he said later, "was to relearn how to drive like a pedestrian."

Cena was paired with Edwards for the reality television show Fast Cars & Superstars featuring celebrities racing. The show debuts 8 p.m. June 7 on Ch. 28.