February 2008 Random News

Abbreviated Schedule
FONTANA, CA. (February 25) - The long rain delay on Sunday night and the ensuing finish of the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway wound up altering Jeff Gordon's schedule. He had planned to attend several post-Academy Awards parties in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Instead, he spent the time in his luxury bus tuned in to television while waiting for the race to begin. With another west coast race this weekend in Las Vegas, Gordon planned to spend Monday and Tuesday snowboarding in Colorado. The mini-vacation was shortened due to the extended stay in Fontana. "We're the spoiled ones," Gordon said. "Our schedules are a little bit different. The team, that's what I really feel for, those guys. We've got cars and equipment to turn around and get to Las Vegas. That just really shortens those guys' week up a bunch. We're already trying to shuffle and figure out how to get guys to Las Vegas early, see what we can do airplane-wise, figure out how to move people around, back and forth. There's costs involved, as well as the inconvenience. It's about the team guys and the NASCAR officials that I see where this really affects those guys the most."

Down In Lucky Town
FONTANA, CA. (February 25) - It wasn't a victory for Jeff Gordon in the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, but he had a degree of luck on his side to pull off a 3rd place finish. While running in third on the final lap, Gordon's engine blew coming off the second turn. At that moment, the caution flag waved thus freezing the field and ending the race. Gordon was able to coast to the finish line for the podium finish. Gordon led the race on several occasions on Sunday and Monday, but faded behind eventual winner Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson due to handling problems. "We had a great car there in clean air," Gordon said. But nobody was going to beat Carl Edwards today. We have some work to do there. I feel like we are about equal with our teammate Jimmie Johnson, he had track position on us. I just couldn't make the pass on that restart. He knew exactly what to do to keep me behind him because I had gotten by him on the outside down there in one and two. I got by him once on the inside but we tightened the car up so much for those long runs, I got so loose off, it just hurt us on the restart. If you don't think we have any luck, we blew up right coming off turn two just as the caution came out and we were done. I coasted to the line. We got very lucky today. I thought when we took the white flag it was over. So thank goodness we got a little luck on our side today with what happened."

Initial Missteps
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 18) - Jeff Gordon saw his hopes for a fourth win in the Daytona 500 expire on lap 153 when a broken suspension piece sent him to the garage area. The malady was discovered after Gordon suffered repeated problems with blistered tires. He made it back on the track for a few laps before pulling in with a 39th place finish -- his worst Daytona 500 outcome since he finished 42nd in 1996. "We had issues during testing, when we saw some cracks and breaks," said Gordon. "At the start, the car was awesome, but then the handling went away, and I didn't understand why, but I knew we had some kind of failure." The race came down to a final restart with 4 laps to go. Ryan Newman received a push from his Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch and scored his first career restrictor plate victory in the series' biggest race. It was a disappointing day for Hendrick Motorsports as Jimmie Johnson spun out and finished 27th, Casey Mears crashed late in the race and finished 37th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr was shuffled from the lead and came in 9th. Gordon did show glimpses of strength having taken the lead on lap 17 with an assist from Johnson. He remained in the lead draft for the balance of the first 100 laps. However, he dropped to 8th on lap 115 and fell as far back as 19th on lap 145 before the suspension problem forced him behind the wall for repairs.

The Lonesome Jubilee
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 14) - Jeff Gordon will start 8th in Sunday's Daytona 500 after a strong third-place effort in his 150-mile qualifying race on Thursday afternoon. Gordon started in the rear of the field without any discernable drafting partners and patiently worked his way through traffic to briefly take the lead of the event. However, the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart proved to be too much in the closing stages as Gordon settled for 3rd. Gordon got a push from Kasey Kahne on the final green/white/checkered restart and flirted with the top spot before Stewart gave his teammate the winning push from behind.

Amp'd Debut For Junior
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 10) - The 2008 NASCAR season got underway with Saturday night's Shootout for last year's pole winners. Dale Earnhardt Jr captured his first victory for Hendrick Motorsports as he held off Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps. Jeff Gordon finished fourth on a night where he patiently worked his way to the front, only to choose the wrong line when it mattered most. Gordon started 22nd and spent the first 20 laps of the race drafting in the rear with Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports duo started their march to the front at the start of the second segment. Gordon was mired in traffic on lap 32 when he hooked up on the outside lane and moved up to 4th place by lap 37 behind Earnhardt Jr. Four laps later he ducked to the inside to take the lead from his teammate. The lead was short lived as Earnhardt Jr reassumed the top spot on lap 42. The field came to pit road under caution on lap 45. Gordon restarted 6th and hooked up with Johnson to move toward the front. The final caution came out on lap 64 which set up a three-lap dash to the finish. The double file restart moved Gordon behind Stewart on the inside line while Earnhardt Jr and Johnson started outside. Gordon pushed Stewart to the lead briefly before trying to find a different line. After all, he didn't want to push a Toyota to a victory over his teammates. However, when he moved to the middle he faded back in traffic. Earnhardt Jr got the push he needed from Johnson to assume the lead from Stewart. "You get in one line and you think that one is going to work and then you get in another line and see if that one is going to work," Gordon said. "I had a lot of fun pushing my teammates and I had a lot of fun passing them. So it's just one of those things where it's the Shootout and you've got to go for it and go for the win. And we were going for it as well as everybody else out there. I'm really happy for Dale Jr. It's awesome to have him at Hendrick Motorsports and I'm real proud of those guys to do that in their first race out."

Wrecking Prelim
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (February 8) - In an instant, Jeff Gordon's car was destroyed in turn three at Daytona International Speedway. The hours in the wind tunnel to improve the aerodynamics were rendered useless as the DuPont Chevrolet pulled to a stop with heavy front end damage. And the worst part about it? It was only practice for the Budweiser Shootout. Gordon and Jimmie Johnson both lost their pirmary cars for the Shootout when Ryan Newman spun in front of them during the Friday night practice. Gordon will use a backup car for the exhibition race on Saturday night. While the option to use the Daytona 500 car existed, it's simply unwise to risk losing "24A" in an exhibition event. The team built a new car for the Shootout that was destroyed; the replacement is the winning car from last year's race at Darlington.

Pacific Coast Highway
FONTANA, CA. (February 2) - Jeff Gordon wrapped up a two-day test session at California Speedway on February 1. The third pre-season test session took the Sprint Cup drivers to the 2-mile track about an hour east of Los Angeles. NASCAR ran three test sessions on Thursday and two on Friday.

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