Knockin On The Golden Door
BRISTOL, TN. (March 24)- - Although Jeff Gordon has not scored a points-paying victory in 2007, he's finished strong enough each weekend to rack up four top-10 finishes in the first five races. The latest was a 3rd place effort at Bristol Motor Speedway, which gave him the points lead for the first time in more than two years. Gordon started on the pole at Bristol but began a backwards decline shortly after the green flag. A loose handling car hindered his performance off the corners and he fell back to 10th by lap 62. A caution flag on lap 119 saved Gordon on the lead lap as he had fallen to 20th. A pit stop under caution on lap 125 seemed to change his fortunes. A track bar adjustment paid dividends as Gordon began a steady climb through traffic. He moved up to 18th on lap 210, and was running 14th at the halfway point. The complexion of the race changed on lap 280 when Tony Stewart experienced fuel pump problems. Gordon re-entered the top-10 on lap 325 and moved up to 6th before a caution on lap 368. With 95 to go, he entered the top-5 and set his sights on leader Denny Hamlin. A caution with 16 to go changed the race as Jimmie Johnson slowed in the racing groove, which allowed Kyle Busch to pass Hamlin. Gordon ducked onto pit road for tires and restarted in 6th with 10 laps to go. He quickly passed on the outside on the restart and took 3rd from Hamlin with 8 to go. Gordon took 2nd from Greg Biffle with 2 laps to go before a final caution flag resulted in a two-lap sprint. Jeff Burton passed Gordon on the outside on the restart but couldn't catch Busch who recorded the 200th NASCAR victory for Hendrick Motorsports. "We started on the pole and went backyards pretty fast," Gordon said. "Steve Letarte and all the guys on this team did a great job making adjustments. That was teamwork right there. We were fortunate not to go a lap down there a couple of times. Right there at the end, we actually had a pretty good race car. We put new tires on and I wasn't as good as some other guys. So I'm real happy for Kyle Busch."
HAMPTON, GA. (March 18)- - Jeff Gordon seemed to be in a position to win his first race since last summer. However, a problem on pit road on lap 194 at Atlanta Motor Speedway started a series of events that resulted in damage on the right front and a lost lap on pit road later in the Kobalt 500. Gordon started the race in the top-five and took the lead coming off pit road on lap 36. He lost the top spot shortly after the restart as the DuPont Chevrolet was better on the longer runs. He worked through race traffic early in runs and eventually re-took the lead on lap 167 from Jimmie Johnson. A green flag pit stop on lap 194 changed the course of Gordon's day. A problem putting the right front tire on the car resulted in a damaged crush panel, allowing fumes to come into the driver's compartment. When the caution waved 30 laps later, Gordon came onto pit road for extensive repairs. He lost a lap while sitting on pit road and restarted 24th-- 1 lap down-- with 85 laps to go. He moved up to 18th and got a caution flag for debris with 15 laps to go. The caution put Gordon back on the lead lap. The final restart came with 11 laps to go. Gordon passed Bobby Labonte to take 15th with 6 laps to go, and passed Jamie McMurray and Dale Earnhardt Jr with 2 to go. On the final lap, he edged ahead of David Stremme coming to the checkered flag to finish a hard-fought 12th. At the front of the field, Johnson won his second straight race by passing Tony Stewart with 3 laps to go. "I'm very disappointed obviously," Gordon said. "We had a couple of issues we'll have to work through. We had a crush panel come loose and we're getting to the bottom of that and we made little mistakes where we got a lap down in the pits. That shouldn't have ever happened. We all recognize it. We make mistakes and we learn from it but what an incredible race car we had. I know we had a shot at certainly a top-3 but I think we had a shot at winning. It doesn't matter. We came out of here 12th, got the best finish we could."
Ahead Of The Curve
DARLINGTON, S.C. (March 14)- - Jeff Gordon concluded a two-day Goodyear tire test at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday, March 14. The test session should give Gordon an advantage over his competitors-- experience with the Car of Tomorrow on the tricky 1.36-mile oval in the Palmetto state. "Most guys are going to show up without any testing whatsoever with the COT and it's going to be very interesting," Gordon said. Darlington has traditionally been one of his strongest tracks. He's scored 6 wins there over the course of his career-- though just one win in the last 8 years. Lately he's been consistent with three consecutive top-3 finishes heading into May's race. Each manufacturer was represented at the test session with Greg Biffle (Ford), Reed Sorenson (Dodge), and Dave Blaney (Toyota) joining Gordon at the test. Speeds were not reported.
Long May You Run
LAS VEGAS, NV. (March 12)- - Jeff Gordon has started the season with three straight top-10 finishes for the first time since 1997. By leading the most laps and scoring a runner-up finish in the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gordon has established himself as a weekly contender for the first time since 2004. Gordon started 36th at Las Vegas and worked his way up to 26th place by the time the caution waved on lap 16. Crew chief Steve Letarte called for Gordon not to pit under the caution and he moved up to 6th place. A loose handling car hindered his efforts in the early going. A four-tire change on lap 41 dropped him to 16th, but a long green flag run turned things around. Gordon entered the top-10 on lap 60 and passed Kyle Busch for 6th on lap 93. A two-tire change on lap 107 brought Gordon to the lead. He led the race through the mid-stages and seemed to be pulling away in the final 70 laps. However, a caution flag for Clint Bowyer's crash with 42 laps to go bunched the field. Gordon lost the lead to Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson shortly after the restart. He passed Burton with 23 to go and seemed to be making headway toward Johnson. But his victory hopes were dashed by Kasey Kahne's crash with 18 laps to go. On the restart, Johnson pulled away and cruised to his third straight win at Las Vegas and 24th of his career. The win was also the 150th for Hendrick Motorsports at the Cup level. The HMS organization celebrated in victory lane following the race with all four drivers and teams in attendance. Gordon moved up to 2nd in the points standings, just 6 points behind Mark Martin.
BOWLING GREEN, KY. (March 7)- - Fans will have an opportunity to spend an evening with Rick Hendrick at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The "Evening with Rick Hendrick" event will take place at 5:30 p.m. on April 26. Hendrick Motorsports will be sending several Corvettes from Rick Hendrick's collection to be displayed along with the Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson showcars. Attendees to the event will also receive the following: the 2006 Daytona pace car diecast autographed by Gordon, Johnson and Hendrick; Jimmie Johnson special edition diecast autographed by Johnson and crew members of the #48 car; HMS collectible DVD of the 2006 race season; meet and greet with Rick Hendrick, who will address those in attendance and then take questions. A donation of $250 per person reserves a spot, and proceeds will go towards the Museum's building addition. For more information, contact the museum at (270) 781-7973.
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