Random News - March 2001

Meeting of the Minds
BRISTOL, TN. (March 26)- - Following the Food City 500, Tony Stewart, his crew chief, and car owner were summoned to the lounge area of the NASCAR hauler to discuss the last lap incident with Jeff Gordon and the subsequent post race altercation on pit road. "My spotter told me he was looking low," Stewart said. "By looking at the tape he was a little further than that. But I didn't see him at the door and I know that any time the roles have been reversed he is expecting me to lift. The reason we ended up in the trailer is because I spun him on the pit lane and that was wrong. I could have hurt somebody, in all reality." Gordon expanded on Stewart's comments. "I got a heck of a run and he slipped up coming off turn 2," Gordon said. "I had my nose in there, and I guess somebody didn't tell him I was there because it was pretty obvious. I did everything I could to keep from hitting him. I was sideways, too, and he just came down." Stewart took the diplomatic approach after a lecture from NASCAR. "I've got no hard feelings against Jeff and I don't think he has any against me," Stewart said. "We both are open-wheel racers that are stock car racers now, and we're both aggressive and we both want to win and we both want to get every spot we can get every time we're on the race track. We just had a meeting of the minds in the last quarter of the last lap after a 500-lap race. They (NASCAR) are going to call me (on Monday) as far as what I did on the pit lane. But that's the only thing that they really called us into the trailer for. They wanted to make sure that there weren't any hard feelings between us and there's not." On Monday, NASCAR announced that Stewart had been fined $10,000 and will be placed on probation until August 29.

Jeff On CNN
WASHINGTON D.C. (March 20)- - Jeff Gordon appeared on "Larry King Live" on CNN on Monday, March 19 to discuss NASCAR racing. With safety in NASCAR becoming a paramount concern following the death of Dale Earnhardt, King explored the issues with NASCAR's prominent voices. Along with Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty appeared on the show. Recent advances such as the HANS device were among the topics of conversation. Gordon became the first driver to win a race using the HANS device when he pulled into victory lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in early March. The panel also discussed the loss of Dale Earnhardt and how safety improvements, such as soft walls, can be implemented. In addition, Gordon told King about his earliest racing days in Vallejo, California and discussed the licensing and marketing aspect of NASCAR that has turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry.

+CNN Transcript

A Day In Chicago
CHICAGO, IL. (March 15)- - The Winston Cup series visits Chicagoland Speedway for the first time this summer for the inaugural running of the Tropicana 400. To add some pre-season hype into the equation, Jeff Gordon visited Chicago's Navy Pier on the shores of Lake Michigan on Wednesday, March 14 for the announcement concerning Tropicana's sponsorship of the July 15 race. Gordon contributed to the festivities by unveiling the official Tropicana 400 race logo. "All of the Winston Cup drivers have been looking forward to racing at Chicagoland Speedway for a while now," Gordon said. "Tropicana's involvement in the sport and the race makes the weekend even better. Every driver is going to be looking to add the inaugural Tropicana 400 trophy to his trophy case." Gordon also visited the Joliet, Illinois track for the first time and thanked several customers who ordered "Track Packs" over the phone. Tropicana is a wholly-owned subsidiary of PepsiCo, one of Gordon's associate sponsors. (From

Safety Improvements
GULF STREAM, FLA. (March 10)- - When Jeff Gordon pulled into victory lane at Las Vegas, he became the first Winston Cup driver to score a win while using a "head and neck support" (HANS) system. The HANS device attaches to the back of Gordon's helmet and comes across his shoulder blades to keep his head from moving forward in the event of a head-on collision. The device has been praised for its effectiveness. However, it makes getting in and out of the car quite cumbersome. Further improvements on the device will likely be needed before widespread use. The day after the Las Vegas race, Gordon's collarbones were so sore that he had trouble moving-- and noted that he was still a bit tender almost a full week after the event. "I'm one who believes in what it does, but I also know it needs work," Gordon said. "I'm glad I went with it at Las Vegas because it gave me more confidence, even though I was in a lot of pain the next day. I've been working since last year trying to get that device in my car and get it to work. Each week more guys are wearing them. I don't know if you'll see us wear them on the road courses. We might not wear it at Martinsville or Bristol. There are a lot of things that go on in the car (at those tracks) that the driver has to be able to do."

High Rent District
OCEAN BEACH, N.Y. (March 14)- - For the first four races of each season, the NASCAR pecking order is determined by last year's points standings. Everything from the preferred garage stalls to the order the cars are allowed out on the track for practice sessions to provisional starting spots are doled out based on the 2000 standings. However, starting with the fifth race the series relies on the 2001 standings. As the current points leader, Jeff Gordon will have the second garage stall (Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte always gets the first), will lead the field out to begin practice sessions, and will have the early choice in the draw for qualifying order among several perks. In addition, truck driver Jeff Craven will be able to park the DuPont team hauler in the second spot at the track (Labonte gets the first). To begin the season, Gordon was ninth in line for perks based on last year's standings. That all changes this week-- 2001 has officially arrived.

A Different World
GULF STREAM, FLA. (March 6)- - With the tragic passing of Dale Earnhardt, the drivers, race fans, and members of the motorsports media have wondered who will step up to fill the enormous void. "I'd have to say Jeff Gordon is in that position," Dale Jarrett said of the three-time Winston Cup champion, "but we're not gonna put that on one person. It's gonna take a lot of us to step up and help carry this sport and continue what (Earnhardt) built here." Filling the spot created by the biggest star is nearly impossible to fill. "I don't think there ever will be a replacement for him, just like there wasn't when Richard Petty retired," Gordon said. "I don't necessarily feel that it's me." It will take a group effort by the elite drivers to carry the sport. And even then there will still be something missing from the NASCAR world-- namely the black #3 car and its driver who will forever be on the minds and in the hearts of race fans everywhere.

Mims Strikes It Rich
LAS VEGAS, NV. (March 4)- - When Rodney Mims of Clanton, Alabama was selected for the No Bull Five program at Las Vegas, he could not have envisioned the final outcome. He knew he'd be paired up with one of the following drivers- Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, Mike Skinner, Joe Nemechek, or Kenny Wallace. Gordon was the perennial favorite of that group. When the pairings were announced earlier in the week, Mims was paired with Gordon for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Things looked somewhat bleak through the first half of the event. Gordon struggled with an ill handling car and didn't crack the top ten until after the halfway point. However, as he has done numerous times in his career, Gordon put the hammer down late in the event. When Gordon passed Dale Jarrett for the lead with 26 laps remaining, Mims could smell the money. As television cameras focused on him, Gordon came across the finish line to win the event and make Mims an instant millionaire. Mims made his way to victory lane to celebrate with the three-time Winston Cup champion. In a state of shock, all he could say to Gordon was "thank you." Happily ever after, every now and then.

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