Random News - April 2002

A Different Point Of View
FONTANA, CA. (April 29)- -When Jimmie Johnson pulled into victory lane at California Speedway it marked Jeff Gordon's first victory as a car owner in the Winston Cup series. Gordon teamed up with Rick Hendrick to start the #48 team in 2001. Johnson became the fifth rookie driver to win a race in the past four years. The Lowe's team is now eligible for The Winston on May 18. As for the 30-year-old car owner, he's just trying to find his role. "It feels awkward," Gordon said. "I feel like I don't belong there (in Victory Lane). But Rick Hendrick and I worked hard to get the sponsorship and Hendrick Motorsports worked hard to put this team together and it's just neat to see it all working out the way it is. The chemistry on this team has been right there from the beginning. Jimmie and Chad and the team have just clicked. It's just awesome." Johnson's sudden success has surprised his car owner. "If you would have asked me last year, I would have said we would have to be patient and that it would take a while and you just never know," Gordon said of Johnson's team. "I do know that Hendrick Motorsports has best race teams and resources out there. The #24 DuPont team has contributed to this Lowe's team coming along. But these guys went out there and did it. We're happy for Lowe's too. We're happy to get them a win here and we're looking forward to many more."

DuPont Job Cuts
WILMINGTON, DE. (April 29)- - DuPont Textiles and Interiors (DTI), which makes Stainmaster carpets and Lycra fabrics, will cut 2,000 jobs as part of a restructuring effort expected to save $120 million a year. Stainmaster has been featured on the rear of Jeff Gordon's Winston Cup car several times this season, most recently on Sunday at California Speedway. DTI generates $6.5 billion in annual sales, or slightly less than a quarter of DuPont's total sales, has struggled against cheap textile imports as slow orders from big retailers have caused inventories to pile up. More than two-thirds of the job cuts, which amount to about 10 percent of the company's work force, will be in manufacturing facilities and offices in the United States, with most of the balance in Europe. In the United States, the company plans to shut down a manufacturing unit in Niagara Falls, New York and parts of its spandex operation in Waynesboro, Virginia. More than half of the jobs will be eliminated by July 31. In the light of the pink slips, the company touted a yellow brick road ahead. "These are difficult but necessary actions to position DTI for success in a highly competitive and rapidly consolidating industry," said DuPont executive vice president and chief operating officer Richard Goodmanson, who is leading DTI. DuPont's stock price dropped 1.4% on Monday to close at $43.27/share.

Homestead Speediatrics
CORAL GABLES, FLA. (April 24)- - The Betty Jane France Pediatric Center "Speediatrics", the new, dedicated Pediatrics unit at Homestead Hospital, opened its doors with a Grand Opening on Tuesday, April 23. The project involved the construction of a completely renovated Pediatrics unit with a motorsports decor. "Speediatrics" is designed to make children feel as comfortable as possible at the Hospital with every part of the floor being transformed into a racing-themed experience. Participating in the April 23rd Grand Opening at Homestead Hospital were Betty Jane France, Assistant Secretary and International Community Relations Director for NASCAR, as well as reigning Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Testing For The Road Ahead
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 24)- - Hendrick Motorsports prepares for the upcoming events on the Winston Cup schedule with simultaneous test sessions this week. Jerry Nadeau and Terry Labonte tested at Richmond International Raceway on Monday-Tuesday, April 22-23. Jimmie Johnson tested at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, California on April 23 and will return for a second day of testing on the 12 turn road course on Wednesday, April 24. Johnson has never raced on the Northern California road course and the test session will serve as an educational session.
Among the highlights in May is The Winston, the annual exhibition race under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 18. Jeff Gordon won The Winston a year ago, but he won't have the car he drove to victory at his disposal. "Jimmie Johnson and the Lowe's team have that car now and use it as a backup car," crew chief Robbie Loomis said. "We'll probably use our Atlanta car for The Winston and bring our Texas car for the Coca-Cola 600."

Introspection and Retrospection
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 24)- - Despite a shake-up in his personal life this season, Jeff Gordon contends his focus is squarely on the performance of the DuPont Chevrolet. "If we weren't running good, I'd be concerned," Gordon said. "But we're running so good. I've had a lot of distractions for many years and still been have able to do my job. This is a little different level, but it's no different than when my success and popularity started to grow. I was dealing with things back then, with business decisions and my parents and everything. The distractions haven't stopped me in the past and they won't in the future. The team recognizes I'm giving everything I can. We're just having tough luck. If we weren't leading laps and sitting on poles, I'd be apologizing to them." Despite the off-track distractions, Gordon has remained focused on his job and has strived to accept who he is. "Lately, I've recognized I'm a lot more human, and that's OK," Gordon said. "At times, people have seen me as 'Mr. Perfect' and that's not the case, whether it's on or off the race track. My values are still that I want to do the right thing and that hasn't changed. Trying to live up to that (high standard) was impossible. There may have been times that I tried to live up to that and put pressure on myself. I'm trying to hold a certain bar, but I'm not putting pressure on myself to be perfect because it's not possible."

Co-Hosting With Kelly
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 20)- - Jeff Gordon joined Kelly Ripa as co-host of "Live with Regis and Kelly" on Thursday, April 18. The pair discussed current events and spoke with Harry Hamlin and Rita Wilson. Gordon is a perennial guest on the show having co-hosted with Regis Philbin in January 2001.

New York State of Mind
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 15)- - Elliot Spitzer, the New York State Attorney General, says he's a big motorsports fan. He recently confided that he has a relative who's an engineer for Jeff Gordon's NASCAR team. "I've got three pictures on the wall in my office: Bill Clinton and me; the federal judge I was law clerk for and me; and Jeff Gordon and me," Spitzer said. "I tell people who come to my office that if they can identify all three pictures they can get what they want. So far, nobody in New York has identified Jeff Gordon."

Changes For 'The Winston'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 13)- - NASCAR's all star race 'The Winston' got a revamped format for 2002. In years past, the race was 70 laps and split into three segments, ending with a final 10-lap shootout and no elimination. The new format stretches the race to 90 laps, with a final 20-lap shootout for a record prize of $750,000 to the winner from the $3 million purse. At present, 26 cars will take the green flag on May 18 under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Only the top 20 will be allowed to advance to the second segment. The next segment is a 30-lap race and only the top 10 finishers advance to the third leg. The final twist is that the remaining field will be inverted based on a fan vote, with either four, six, eight or all 10 cars involved. Jeff Gordon is the active leader with three victories in NASCAR's prestigious exhibition race. "The elimination of cars is going to promote the drivers to run as hard as they can to get the best finishes they can," Gordon said. "Even though we're pretty sure they're going to invert all 10 in that segment, we really don't know. If you're trying to be in that 10th spot, and you've got guys who know they have to be in that tenth spot to make the next event, there's going to be a lot of action going on right there." The additional 10 laps added onto the final segment should also change driving style. "You can run pretty hard (at Charlotte) for 10 laps before the handling starts to go away," Gordon said. "Sometimes you'll see a guy break away. When you start adding 10 more laps, he's going to have to be careful how hard he pushes that car because the handling will go away and somebody can run him down."

One Fine Day
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 10)- - Danielle Flannagan, a 12-year-old Jeff Gordon fan from Marietta, Ohio, will serve as the grand marshal for Saturday's Advance Auto Parts 250 truck series race at Martinsville Speedway. Danielle, who suffers from spina bifida, a birth defect of the spinal column, will get to shout out the most famous words in motorsports, "Gentlemen Start Your Engines" to start Saturday's race at Martinsville Speedway. "I have butterflies in my belly every time I think about it," the fifth grader said about her race-day duties. "It's going to be so much fun. I canít wait." Danielle and her family will be guests of Advance Auto Parts the entire weekend. She will participate in pre-race activates before the Advance Auto Parts 250 and will get the chance to meet both truck series and Winston Cup drivers. Danielle's mom says despite the illness, Danielle always puts others' needs before her own. "Her heart is bigger than the world," her mom says.

Writing The Big Book
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 6)- - Viacom's Simon & Schuster will pay Jeff Gordon a $1.2 million advance for his life story. "We've been talking about just climbing the mountain to get back on top as far as racing is concerned," Gordon said. "I think I've got a whole lot more chapters in my life before I can write things about it. But there's a great story about where this team started, and what they've gone through for the last eight or nine years. We all dropped down and then worked our way back to the top. I think that's a great story and I'd like to see it be told, and we've been pursuing that." Gordon's success in NASCAR, which led to a recent Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears, certainly helped in a once-neglected market. And the suprising bestseller success of rival Dale Earnhardt Jr's book, "Driver #8," has publishers thinking there may be repeat book buyers out there in auto racing land. The PB Press imprint of Simon & Schuster, headed by Judith Curr, is handling the hardcover, while Pocketbooks will do the paperback side.

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