Gordon needs to start fighting back

For three years now, Jeff Gordon's been getting fed up with teammate Jimmie Johnson. Though they've pledged their allegiance to each other publicly and remained friends (publicly), Gordon's been bubbling with resentment toward Johnson, who's won four straight Sprint Cup championships while Gordon's been stuck in a nine-year quest for a fifth. While Johnson's taken over the sport, dominating like no one has since Gordon's reign in the mid to late-'90s, the No. 24 car's been plagued by inconsistency - up one season and down the next. Meanwhile, Johnson's success has been eating away at Gordon, to the point where he resents the driver he brought to Hendrick Motorsports and helped mentor when he first entered NASCAR's Cup series. Gradually, over the past four years, Gordon's grown tired of watching Johnson win year after year while his own team, housed in the same shop, has struggled to give him cars fast enough to challenge his protege. Now, Gordon's resentment is barely tolerable and is boiling over into outright contempt and dislike. After run-ins on the track the past two weeks, Gordon's had it, saying at Talladega last week he was "pissed" at Johnson and that his patience with the four-time champion was wearing thin. "It's about reached its boiling point," he said. It's time for Gordon to do something about it. It's time for Gordon to stand up for himself and show Johnson and the rest of the NASCAR world he's not about to be pushed around and intimidated by his own teammate. It's time for him to allow his emotions to boil over and to take matters into his own hands. Gordon needs to get even by sending Johnson a message with some contact on the track, either by denting his fender, slamming into his door or even sending him for a spin. Isn't that what this season is all about? It's time for Gordon and Johnson to "have at it, boys." Gordon needs to show the fire and determination he displayed when he was the sport's most dominant driver. That, like his true feelings for Johnson, has been bubbling to the surface this year. He seems faster, more aggressive and more determined. And his motivation is simple: beating Johnson. He could take a big step in that direction by retaliating against the guy who's getting under his skin, even if he's a teammate and a so-called friend. Though Johnson doesn't have a reputation for racing dirty or using his bumper, many fans and most of the competitors are desperate for someone to not only challenge him with speed, but to rough him up a bit, to show that he doesn't have a clear-cut path to a fifth championship. Johnson's not only won four straight championships by having the best team and by outrunning everyone, but also by keeping his nose clean. That means staying away from the rivalries and feuds that lead to confrontation and cause drivers to wind up in the wall, or the type of intimidation and mind games that cause teams to lose focus and make mistakes. Johnson has rarely faced that. It's time he did. And who better to deliver it than Gordon, a not-so-natural rival. The sport needs for someone to step up and prove they're not only willing to race Johnson hard, but to make contact with him and even take him out if a victory is on the line. Other drivers have been willing to do it to each other recently. Matt Kenseth knocked Gordon out of the lead at Martinsville, and Gordon immediately retaliated by hitting Kenseth back. Denny Hamlin swore he'd take out Brad Keselowski last year, and he did, intentionally spinning him out at Homestead. The next day, Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Stewart banged into each other during a dust-up in the season finale. Carl Edwards released months of pent-up frustration with Keselowski by intentionally wrecking him at Atlanta this year, sending his car airborne. But no one has ever even attempted to rough up the four-time champion. Now, thanks to his run-ins with Gordon, there's an opportunity for that to change. Gordon was miffed at Johnson for racing him too hard at Texas and for slamming into him during a side-by-side battle. The result was both drivers expressing their "disappointment," or displeasure, with each other after the race. That incident had barely blown over when things blew up again at Talladega, with Johnson forcing Gordon off the track during a late rush to get to the front. Gordon wound up in a wreck and was once again furious with his teammate. This time, Gordon doesn't need to let his fury blow away. He's needs to let it simmer and boil over. He needs to retaliate and prove he's willing to take on Johnson and get even on the track. The sport badly needs a heated rivalry, and it needs to involve Johnson, the driver everyone wants to beat. That it could involve his own teammate adds some drama and spice, and a dose of irony, to the situation. Team owner Rick Hendrick could do his part by stepping aside and letting his two drivers settle their differences between themselves. What are a few wrecked cars for the good of the sport? Gordon, in the process, could do wonders for his reputation and popularity among fans. He's often been viewed as a squeaky clean, image-conscious racer without much of an edge, as well as being a bland personality. He's a nice guy who can often be too nice. He was Jimmie Johnson before Jimmie Johnson. By taking a hard line against Johnson, Gordon could prove to fans he's a tough customer who's willing to mix things up and push back when warranted. He's shown a hint of that in the past, using his bumper to win races on short tracks and lashing out at drivers like Kenseth and Tony Stewart. Now he needs to push back against his own teammate. Gordon dominated the sport from 1995-98 by not only outrunning the competition, but by withstanding the intimidation and roughhouse tactics of Dale Earnhardt, the original "Intimidator." Now that he's on the other side of the game, watching Johnson dominate the sport, he needs to do a little intimidating of his own.