Vaught's Views: Voda has Gordon as favorite

October 19, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

He's no longer leading the Nextel Cup championship, but Jeff Gordon still seems to at least one NASCAR expert to be perfectly positioned to win another title .

"I said before the chase (for the championship) started that I liked Jimmie Johnson because of his consistency, but he's too far out now," said Krista Voda. "I really like Mark Martin, but Jeff Gordon has the best shot based on his experience and track records at the places they still have left to race."

Voda is as close to a NASCAR expert as I know. She left her position as a sports anchor with WLEX-TV in Lexington a few years ago to join "Totally NASCAR," a nightly show on Fox Sports. She's now the anchor for the show that airs each Monday through Friday and provides daily information that the NASCAR junkie needs every bit as much as the Kentucky basketball fan during hoops season.


Gordon trails Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with five races remaining to determine NASCAR's top driver. However, Voda was as impressed with his second-place finish Saturday in the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as she's ever been with any of his wins. He was involved in a first-lap accident, got behind by two laps and was hit in the rear by Rusty Wallace.

"He had so much adversity that he should have been lucky to finish 20th," Voda said. "For him to be second was amazing and made me believe even more that he was the one to beat."

Like many NASCAR fans, Voda wasn't sure she liked the new championship format this year. The top 10 drivers in the point standings with 10 races remaining had past performances basically cast aside so the last 10 races would determine the champion this year.

"Everybody, including me, was against it at first because it was such a change. This sport is so rooted in tradition and against change," Voda said. "But now everybody is on board. There's no runaway champion. Many more drivers had a chance to win the championship.

"A driver like Jimmie Johnson took some chances at the end of June and early July that he would not have taken before because he had the points lead. He won at Pocono, then took a different car to Indianapolis because he had the (points) lead. It gave him a chance to experiment he would not have had before."

Those are the kind of insights Voda and a variety of guests, including most of the top drivers, provide nightly on "Totally NASCAR." There are tips, analysis and interviews.

Disagrees with Earnhardt's penalty

Obviously, a hot topic of discussion was the 25-point penalty Earnhardt was given for saying a curse word after a recent win. Without the penalty, he would be leading Busch by one point instead of being in second place. His appeal of the penalty and $10,000 fine was denied Monday.

"I don't think the penalty was right and most drivers agree," Voda said. "It was too severe of a penalty, but there really was no choice but to take the points away because of the precedent set earlier in the year when two other drivers were penalized.

"Taking points away is the only thing drivers really pay attention to. Monetary fines just don't matter that much to them. The points were originally taken off only for things that impacted on-track performance. Now I'm sure NASCAR will revisit its stance because I know they never guessed in a million years that their poster boy would utter a four-letter word when he was excited after winning a race and get penalized."

While Voda now spends more time in the studio than going to various tracks, she has developed a fondness for races at Talladega, Ala., Phoenix and Bristol, Tenn.

"I just like them better than some others. But all the races have great atmospheres," she said.

Then, just to make sure she let everyone know she has fond memories of her trips here, she added, "I miss the people up there. I miss the Danville Admirals and Boyle County Rebels. I loved those football games and watching those teams play. Those people are so loyal, just like the NASCAR fans."

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