January 2004 Random News

Nothing But Nets
HOUSTON, TX. (January 31)- -Jeff Gordon attended the Houston Rockets/New Jersey Nets basketball game at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday, January 31. Since it was Super Bowl weekend, other celebrities at the game included Serena Williams, Adam Sandler, and P.Diddy. The game ended poorly for the home team as the Nets came away with the victory.

Retro Rainbow
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 24)- -Diecast dealers have begun taking pre-orders on a special Jeff Gordon paint scheme to be run at the Nextel All-Star race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. Since retro has made a comeback, the "Retro Rainbow" scheme commemorates the original DuPont rainbow paint scheme that Gordon drove from 1993-2000 in NASCAR competition.

Meet The Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 24)- - The Media Tour, an annual event where more than 200 media members are shephered to the various race shops to meet the drivers and owners in the Nextel Cup series, paid a visit to Hendrick Motorsports on Thursday, January 22. The media met with team owner Rick Hendrick, drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch, along with their respective crew chiefs Robbie Loomis, Chad Knaus, Jim Long, Peter Sospenzo, and Lance McGrew. After NASCAR's announcement on Tuesday regarding a slightly revised points system, along with a ten-race "playoff" (yes Brian, it is a playoff), the drivers stated their opposition to the change, but are resigned to the new system.
Comments from the Media Tour visit to Hendrick Motorsports:
Rick Hendrick: "Last year was a great year for us. We had three guys in the top 10, we finished second in points and we won the Busch driver's championship. It's exciting to think about that and the fact that we haven't had any changes to this team during the off season. In most businesses after 20 years, you can rest on your laurels, but that's not the way it is in this sport. You're only as good as your last race."
Jeff Gordon: "I feel really good about where our race team is. We haven't had anybody leave during the off season, and we've only made our team stronger. We talked about things that we didnít do well last year, and have tried to rectify that. I like being in the position I'm in. You've got no pressure. No more than normal, anyway. People aren't even picking us. It reminds me of 2001. No one really picked us, cared about us, and I love that, because we can just go do our thing. Not be talked about, not be mentioned, and let the pressure be on those other guys."
(On the new points system) "I think the only other thing they should do is give something to the guy that worked his tail off to get the point lead after 26 races. But the end of the season is always good for us, and those tracks are always good tracks for us."

Hardly A Virtuoso
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 24)- - It seemed like a really good idea at the time-- buy a piano and learn how to play it. At least that's what Jeff Gordon had envisioned when he purchased a piano in the mid-90's. "I asked him who's going to play it," said Dewey Marshall, co-owner of Marshall Piano Company in Rock Hill, South Carolina. "He said, 'My wife and I are going to learn to play.'" A year later Gordon returned to the store. "He said, 'Have you got one of those pianos that plays itself?'" Marshall recalled with a laugh. The two worked out a trade, giving Marshall a celebrity piano to put on display. "I had a good time showing off Jeff Gordon's piano," he said. (from The Herald)

Swimming With Sharks
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (January 15)- - Jimmie Johnson might be able to emulate his boss, Jeff Gordon, on race tracks across the country, but there's still one venue where Gordon holds all the cards. During a vacation in the Bahamas, Johnson went on his first scuba dive with Gordon, a diving enthusiast. "Jeff spotted a shark and then chased the shark, which I thought was a bad idea," Johnson said. "As he is chasing the shark, it led us to probably 15 more sharks. It's weird on how calm you are when surrounded by one of your biggest fears. I realized there wasn't anything that I could do to get away from them and if they wanted to they would just swim over and take a bite out of me. I hung on to a rock on the bottom and watched for a little bit and then left. I climbed out of the water basically speechless. But Jeff was high-fiving one of the guys who was on the dive with us. They thought it was one of the best dives they'd ever had, but I couldn't really see or understand that." For an avid diver such as Gordon, the experience was simply a fun time on vacation. "He doesn't scare easily but I think he was pretty nervous," Gordon said. "It was quite an experience and a lot of fun." The shark enounter marked the end of a whirlwind couple of weeks for Johnson, who proposed to his fiancee, Chandra Janway, prior to the scuba trip during a Colorado snowboarding adventure. "I caught her off-guard on the mountain and actually proposed to her with a photographer there," Johnson said. "I acted like we were just going to get our pictures taken on the mountain early in the morning and caught her off-guard, so it worked out good. It took her a little while to answer. She fell down a few times, rolled around in the snow. She thought I was joking with her. When she realized I wasn't, she said, 'Yes.' So it was great."

The Snows Of Kilimanjaro
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 15)- - John Bickford, the stepfather of Jeff Gordon, is off on a true adventure. Along with Dee Papathanassiou, wife of the famed Hendrick Motorsports pit crew coach Andy Papathanassiou, they flew to Africa on January 14 to join a group of eight others to climb Mount Kilimanjaro-- the 19,340-foot mountain. After hearing Bickford talk about hikes in Colorado and Montana, Papathanassiou was intrigued. Two years ago they watched an IMAX film about Mount Kilimanjaro. The next morning they booked their trip to climb the mountain. Kilimanjaro is located in northeast Tanzania, near the Kenya border. The mountain is actually an extinct volcano with an ice dome at the top. Kilimanjaro's summit crater, known as Kibo, measures an incredible 1.5 miles across.

A Return To Sesame Street
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 8)- - For the third consecutive year, The Jeff Gordon Foundation will join forces with Sesame Street to produce a special diecast car to benefit several children's charities, including The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Marrow Foundation, and the Riley Hospital for Children. The 2004 car will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Sesame Street. Big Bird will be featured on the hood of the car (as well as the right side), along with the number "35" signifying 35 years of Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie are on the rear bumper, Oscar the Grouch is on the left side near the door, Elmo is on the left front bumper, Cookie Monster is on the right front bumper, and Grover is on the left rear quarterpanel. Elmo (2002) and Cookie Monster (2003) were the Sesame Street characters featured prominently in previous years. The JG Foundation cars are not raced in competition but have raised thousands of dollars for worthy charities over the years.

Pit Crew Changes
NEW YORK, N.Y. (January 6)- -Jeff Gordon made no secret about needing changes to his pit crew in the latter stages of the 2003 season. After David Smith departed in June 2003 to a higher position with another race team, the DuPont team used two different tire changers in an effort to rebuild the lost chemistry. For 2004, the team has hired Mike Atwell to change the rear tires on the car. Atwell comes to Hendrick Motorsports after serving as Sterling Marlin's rear tire changer for the past two seasons. Shane Church will return for a fifth season with the DuPont team as the front tire changer. The tire carriers remain Craig Curione and Steve Letarte.

2004 DuPont Paint Scheme
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 6)- - At first glance Jeff Gordon's paint scheme for the 2004 season remains as it did for the past three seasons. The car is the same base blue with red flames. DuPont, Pepsi, GMAC, and Quaker State returns as sponsors. One change is the addition of Lay's on the rear quarterpanel. Last year Fritos corn chips was the featured Frito-Lay brand on the car. However, Frito-Lay will feature its line of Lay's potato chips in 2004. Among the special paint schemes for 2004, Gordon mentioned in an online chat session that he would have new Pepsi schemes for two races, a new scheme for the Nextel all-star event in May, and a possible tribute to the 20th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon's 14th season of stock car racing begins in February with the season-opening Daytona 500.

Pepsi Ice Shards
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 4)- - For the April 2004 race at Talladega, Jeff Gordon will have a Pepsi Ice Shards paint scheme on his #24 Chevrolet. The 'Ice Shards' design made its debut in 2003 in the U.S. and Canada on everything with a Pepsi logo-- plastic bottles, cans, 12- and 24-packs, fountain cups, vending machines, Visi-Coolers, and advertising signs. Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Twist, Wild Cherry Pepsi, and Pepsi Blue have also made slight adjustments to mimic the look.

400 Chevy Wins
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (January 4)- - Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson are expected to commemorate Chevrolet's success in NASCAR's modern era with special 'fleck finish' paint schemes for a limited edition program in 2004. The cars will acknowledge the manufacturer's milestone victories in NASCAR's modern era. Petty, driving the #43 STP car, won the 100th modern era checkered flag for Chevrolet at Nashville Fairgrounds in 1980. Waltrip, in the #17 Tide car for Hendrick Motorsports, won the 200th modern era race for the manufacturer at Martinsville Speedway in 1987. Gordon, in the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, captured the 300th modern-era victory for Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1996. In 2003, Johnson and the Lowe's team captured the 400th checkered flag for Chevrolet at New Hampshire International Speedway. The four drivers have combined for an astounding 354 career victories and 14 NASCAR championships.

Cameo Appearance In "Taxi"
LOS ANGELES, CA. (January 4)- - In late October, Jeff Gordon spent a day in California filming a brief cameo for the movie "Taxi." Starring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon, the movie is scheduled to be released in October 2004. "Taxi" is a remake of the original 1998 french-language movie of the same name. The movie centers around Belle Williams (played by Latifah), a former New York City bike messenger who changes careers and becomes a taxi driver. She soon gets a reputation for having lightning-quick speed. Andy Washburn (played by Fallon) is an overeager New York City detective who is without a doubt the worst driver in the NYPD. Washburn seeks help from Williams in pursuit of an all-female gang of bank robbers including its ringleader played by model Gisele Bundchen.

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