February 2004 Random News

Full Circle
NEW YORK, N.Y. (February 26)- - Jeff Gordon is featured on the cover of the March 2004 issue of "NASCAR Illustrated." The lead article, written by veteran motorsports writer Godwin Kelly, examines Gordon's changing role in NASCAR racing. Whereas he was the young rookie with a powerful team in 1993, he is among the veteran leaders in the garage area with a stronger than normal voice in the NASCAR world. Watching the infusion of younger, 20-something drivers into the Nextel Cup series, Gordon realizes that he's come full circle at 32 years of age. When he came into the sport, the veterans were Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip, and Bill Elliott, just to name a few. In his 12th season of Nextel Cup racing, Gordon is now viewed as the veteran by drivers such as Brian Vickers, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Jamie McMurray. Does Gordon view himself as a member of the old guard? "Wiser," he said with a smile. "I'm definitely getting older but I don't mind it. The 30's have been good. It doesn't bother me at all. I like getting more experience and learning more from racing and life and all those things. I wouldn't trade it for anything right now."

Champion's Day
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (February 23)- - Matt Kenseth edged Kasey Kahne by the width of a front fender to win the Subway 400 at the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. It was the reigning Nextel Cup champion's eighth career win and first since March 2003 when he took the checkered flag in Las Vegas. Though Kenseth dominated the second half of the event, the victory was in doubt after he came onto pit road for the final time on lap 351. While on pit road, Robby Gordon crashed to bring out the caution flag. When NASCAR froze the running order, Kenseth was still on the lead lap since he hadn't been lapped when the caution was displayed. On the restart he pulled away from Kahne and Jamie McMurray but began slipping off the corners with less than ten laps remaining. Kahne closed in and got a strong run off turn four coming to the finish line to produce the closest finish in NASCAR's top series since Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch staged a fender-to-fender duel at Darlington last spring.
Jeff Gordon finished 10th at Rockingham-- his best finish at the track in the last three races. Though he did finish two laps down as he was hindered by a pair of ill-timed caution flags which came out shortly after he had made green flag pit stops. Gordon led twice in the first 100 laps of the race but was mired in traffic after getting trapped a lap down due to a pit stop on lap 130 just before Ken Schrader and Jimmie Johnson crashed on lap 131. He was awarded his lap back under caution on lap 213 when he was scored as the first car one lap down. However, Robby Gordon's late race crash sealed his fate. "We just can't seem to catch a break on these cautions," Gordon said after the race. "It's something we know about and we know we need to stay out there as long as we can. But we were gambling and it just didn't pay off for us. We came out with a top-10." He moved up to fifth in the points standings and trails Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 54 points. Earnhardt Jr finished fifth at Rockingham and leads Kenseth by 7 points. Johnson's early crash resulted in the Lowe's driver falling to 25th in points-- the first time he's been outside of the top-ten in 70 races.

Analyzing The Rock
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (February 21)- - With four career wins at Rockingham in 22 career starts, Jeff Gordon is one of the few drivers in Nextel Cup racing with multiple victories on the 1.017-mile track. "While I enjoy racing here because you can run low, middle or high through the corners, it can be frustrating as well," Gordon said. "Tires fall off quickly which could mean a long day if your car isn't handling just right." Softer tires, which wear out quicker, were introduced this season could change the complexion of many races compared to years past. "The new tires won't change the racing here," Gordon said. "Rockingham is tough on tires, so it'll be the same sort of racing seen here for years. Lap times will fall off drastically during a run and we'll be searching high and low for a groove that works best." Of course, the comparisons from Daytona to Rockingham are immense. "The track changes so much," Gordon said. "Everything changes. There are about one-eighth of the media that will be there. And an eighth of the fans that will be there but the competition is just as tough. It's just back to racing without restrictor plates and checking out the new aero and tire package that we have. That's about the only thing that's different from a normal Rockingham. But it's tracks like that that help you win championships."

Live From Daytona
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 10)- - Jeff Gordon was interviewed on "Fast Talk" airing on the Performance Racing Network on Tuesday, February 10. The one-hour show was broadcast live from the Volusia Mall in Daytona Beach. Gordon was one of seven drivers interviewed live during the hour. Following that he was one of the six drivers on "NASCAR Live" on MRN Radio broadcasting from the DaytonaUSA museum.

HMS 20th Anniversary Pole Ticket
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (February 5)- - The 20th anniversary season of Hendrick Motorsports begins in February with the Daytona 500. To further commemorate the milestone season for HMS, Lowe's Motor Speedway will have a commemorative pole ticket for the Coca-Cola 600 in May. The ticket will feature a tribute to 20 years of Hendrick Motorsports.

Social Rounds
HOUSTON, TX. (February 3)- - While some of his peers spent Super Bowl weekend turning laps in the Rolex 24 hour race at the track, Jeff Gordon has been making the social rounds. Following a two-day test session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he headed west to the NBC studios near Los Angeles for an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He discussed his recent book, scuba diving adventures in the off-season, and the upcoming Daytona 500. He jetted to Houston for Super Bowl weekend where he took in a basketball game, some local flavor, and the championship football game. He pledged his support for the Carolina Panthers, who came up three points short to the New England Patriots.

Media Favorite
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 3)- - According to balloting conducted during the recent Lowe's Motor Speedway-hosted media tour, Gordon is the favorite (at least among the media) to win a fifth Cup championship. Media representatives were asked to name the 10 drivers they expected to make the playoff at the end of the season to decide the champion, and Gordon was the only driver named on every ballot. Based on that format, the top 10 should consist of Gordon (100 percent), Tony Stewart (96.9), Ryan Newman (95.3), Jimmie Johnson (95.3), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (93.8), Matt Kenseth (87.5), Kevin Harvick (73.4), Bobby Labonte (68.8), Kurt Busch (60.9) and Dale Jarrett (37.5).

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