April 2004 Random News

LOS ANGELES, CA. (April 30)- - Jeff Gordon will start 16th in Sunday's Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. An early qualifying draw didn't exactly help Gordon on his lap where his average speed was 183.29 miles per hour. Overall, he was less than half a second slower than polesitter Kasey Kahne's fast lap. On the heels of a victory at Talladega Superspeedway, Gordon will try for his third victory at the 2-mile oval in Fontana on Sunday. He's driving the same car that he drover earlier this season at Atlanta and Texas. "You just try to get your best aero car here," Gordon said. "It's a compromise between the car being real slick and having downforce. At Atlanta we tried to take a car that had both of those qualities. It's just a good driving car. This is also the car we had at Texas. It feels great but it's just not going fast enough right now." He has two career victories at the track, but has struggled in recent years. He has not qualified higher than 17th in his past five starts at the track. In addition, he has just one top-ten finish in that span. On the bright side, his career average finish of 6.5 is the best among drivers who have started all seven Cup races. At California Speedway, Gordon is the series leader in miles completed (3498), laps led (331), and money won ($858,373). He finished a lap down in the 2002 race due to an unscheduled late race pit stop which prevented him from completing every lap of every single Cup race at the track. "We finished in the top 10 several times earlier this year, but we realized we weren't running at the level this team is capable of running," Gordon said. "This team has really stepped up their game recently and we're entering this weekend's race with a lot of confidence, especially after last week's win. We had a shot to win at Texas and Martinsville. Unfortunately, things didn't go our way and we just made the most of it. Instead of getting down, I think it fired this team up."

West Coast TV
LOS ANGELES, CA. (April 30)- -Jeff Gordon headed to the west coast a few days early for some television appearances. On Wednesday, April 28, he was a guest on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." An interview and a scooter race highlighted his appearance on the show. On Thursday, April 29, he appeared on the syndicated show "On Air with Ryan Seacrest." It was Gordon's inaugural appearances on the respective shows.

Recent Appearances
TALLADEGA, AL. (April 22)- - Jeff Gordon shared the podium with Darrell Waltrip as co-presenters for this year's induction ceremonies at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Gordon and Waltrip inducted former NASCAR president Bill France Jr into the Hall of Fame on April 22 at the Speed Channel Dome in Talladega, Alabama. In addition to the former NASCAR president, the other inductees for 2004 were Red Farmer, Shirley Muldowney, Bobby Rahal, and Bill Muncey.

QVC Appearance: Jeff Gordon was the featured guest on the QVC show "For Race Fans Only" on Friday night from Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. The new Sesame Street 35th anniversary car and the Retro Rainbow car were among the featured items.

Pageant Judge: Jeff Gordon was one of nine judges in the Miss USA competition held at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California on Monday, April 12. Each contestant from all 50 states and the District of Columbia was judged in three categories, including swimsuit, evening gown, and personality interview. Shandi Finnessey (Miss Missouri), a 25-year-old graduate student who has published a children's book, was crowned Miss USA at the end of the evening. Finnessey wrote a book called "The Furrtails," as part of her aim to integrate mentally retarded children into regular classrooms. She has a master's degree in counseling and also plays piano and violin. The winner's prize package includes a $200,000 crown, free accommodations in New York City, as well as free dental work and dermatological services.

Back In The High Life Again
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (April 19)- - Rusty Wallace snapped a career-long 105 race winless streak with a victory in the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Wallace took the lead from Jimmie Johnson on lap 455 and held off a late charge from Bobby Labonte to win at the half-mile track for the seventh time in his career. It was his 55th career victory and his first since April 2001. Despite the prolonged absence from victory lane, Wallace had shown signs in recent weeks that a victory was on the horizon. The win was his third consecutive top-five finish as the 1989 series champion vaulted up to eighth in the point standings.
The race was interrupted for more than an hour due to an issue with the concrete in turn three. Jeff Gordon started from the pole position and led the majority of the laps in the first half of the race. However, while running in second on lap 283, he ran over a chunk of concrete on the track that had been eradicated from the racing groove in turn three. "We received a lot of damage," Gordon said. "There was a huge piece of concrete in the middle of the track. They got a pretty serious problem (with the track) and unfortunately I hit it. It could have been worse. It could have gone underneath the car. Luckily it hit with the right front and it seems like it went around the right front. It's just unfortunate. What an awesome day we were having." Gordon had lobbied NASCAR to allow his team to make repairs to the fender without losing position. The request was denied by the sanctioning body. After repairs to the track surface were made, Gordon made four pit stops under the caution flag for repairs and restarted in 23rd place. Driving with a sense of urgency, he gained ten positions in the first 10 laps after the green flag. On lap 342 he made his way back into the top-ten with a pass on Kurt Busch. Working through race traffic, he passed Elliott Sadler and Sterling Marlin to gain the sixth position on lap 406. During the final round of pit stops on lap 413, Gordon lost three spots due to a wide entry into his pit box. In the last 80 laps he was able to regain the lost spots and closed in on Ryan Newman for fifth place as the laps wound down. Gordon and Newman ran side-by-side for nearly 20 laps with Newman edging out Gordon at the finish line. "I got wide on that last pit stop and cost us a bunch of spots," Gordon said. "We had worked our way back up and dropped back. If we could have had our regular pit stop there and hadn't had to fight our back through the field, we probably would have had a top-five and even might have gotten two or three. It was unfortunate that the race track came apart. I hear they are going to re-pave it. I guess we were just one race early. It definitely took away any chance we had of winning but I guess that is part of it. Our day would have had to go absolutely perfect to get back up there, the car wasn't quite the same. I think it might have knocked the tow out just a little bit. But we still had a good car, but we had to have perfect pit stops and it didn't work that way. You hate to have a race slip away from you like that. But I do want to congratulate Rusty Wallace. He is a great race car driver and a heck of a fighter. I know he wanted this one really bad."

Rainbow Warrior Redux
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April 19)- - There have been a few paint schemes over NASCAR's history that embody success. The familiar blue and red on Richard Petty's STP car, the black Goodwrench colors on Dale Earnhardt's car, and the white, red, and gold on David Pearson's famed Purolator-sponsored car. Another paint scheme on that prestigious list is the rainbow-colored DuPont Chevrolet that Jeff Gordon drove from 1993-2000. The car visited victory lane 52 times in points-paying races-- including 12 wins in the chassis known as "Blacker." The paint scheme was retired after the 2000 season in favor of the fire and flames scheme. With DuPont's introduction of its "Hot Hues" line of custom finishes, Gordon will return to the track in the rainbow car for the Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 22. The 1.5-mile track has been one of Gordon's best. He won his first Nextel Cup pole position at the track in 1993, won his first race there in 1994, and made a championship caliber statement in May 1995 by winning all three segments of the All-Star event. "I've got so many amazing memories with that rainbow car," said Gordon. "For a few years there, we were pulling that thing into Victory Lane for nearly a third of the races. It's really something to think back and reflect on. We're very excited to bring it back for the All-Star event. Hopefully, it will bring us some luck. Our first win in the All-Star race was in the rainbow car. Maybe it will be like starting all over again, although I wouldn't go back and change a thing about my career."

Glory Days
LIZTON, IN. (April 19)- - Jeff Gordon was among the inaugural class to enter the Tri-West High School Alumni Association hall of fame. Gordon, a 1989 graduate of the Lizton, Indiana school, joined Joe Alberts ('87), Tim Goode ('78), and Joe Burnell ('79) in entering the hall of fame. The induction ceremony was held on April 17 at The Pavilion on the grounds on West Chase Golf Course in Brownsburg, Indiana. Gordon did not attend the ceremony due to scheduling conflicts.

No Bluegrass
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (April 15)- - Jeff Gordon skipped a scheduled test session at Kentucky Speedway on April 14 due to weather. The temperature was unseasonably cool in the Bluegrass state this week and Gordon elected not to make the trip. Brian Vickers tested an HMS car at the track. Contrary to published reports, Kerry Earnhardt was not testing for Hendrick Motorsports. The oldest of the late Dale Earnhardt's four children tested a Chevrolet for DEI.

The Big Picture
FORT WORTH, TX. (April 5)- - Though Jeff Gordon was somewhat disappointed with a third place finish in the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, his first top-five of the season came at the perfect time. Gordon ran in the top-ten all day but was thrust into the lead when a caution came out during a round of green flag pit stops with 70 laps to go. After Kasey Kahne dominated the event, he was trapped a lap down as the DuPont Chevrolet restarted on the point. The caution flag waved three times over the next 30 laps as Gordon continued to hold the lead through the restarts. However, a battery problem with just 27 laps remaining forced him from the top spot. Elliott Sadler, Kahne, and Dale Earnhardt Jr all passed Gordon before the DuPont Chevrolet came back to full power. Gordon regrouped to pass Earnhardt Jr for third place with 16 laps to go but was unable to get within striking distance of Sadler and Kahne. On the final lap, Kahne made a move to the outside of Sadler coming off turn four. Sadler edged Kahne by about half a car length at the line for his second career victory. After finishing second to Matt Kenseth by about a foot at Rockingham, Kahne once again came agonizingly close to his first win. Gordon's third place finish-- his fourth straight top-five effort at Texas-- vaulted him up to ninth in the series points standings. But more than that, the top-five finish gives the team some momentum heading into the off weekend followed by Martinsville. "I'm trying not to be too bummed out right now because third is a great finish for us," Gordon said. "But it's a shame. Everything was falling into place for us. I think the alternator started to drain the battery. I hit every switch except for the battery. I finally got to the battery and it came back to life. Unfortunately we had to let those guys go when that happened. But I have to be happy. This season's been kind of crazy for us. Texas has now turned into one of our best tracks. Hopefully this is the start of a great string for us and we can go to Martinsville and kick some butt."

Fast Times In The Lone Star State
FORT WORTH, TX. (April 3)- - Jeff Gordon will start ninth in Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway after turning a qualifying lap of 192.56 miles per hour-- his fastest qualifying lap of the season. It was his fourth consecutive top-ten qualifying effort and fifth in the past six races. A late qualifying draw seemed to help as he was 17th in the day's first practice session on Friday. "Overall that's not bad," Gordon said. "Especially where we ended up after practice. A lot of drivers picked up, we didn't. I think the late draw helped us and some of the adjustments that the team made helped. The car's been tight, so we've been freeing it up. We'll just continue to get the front end to stick and the back end to follow it." After six races in the 2004 season, Gordon finds himself in an unfamiliar position-- outside of the top-ten in the points standings and without a top-five finish. He hopes to change both with a strong showing in Sunday's race. Gordon is winless in seven career starts on the 1.5-mile oval just outside of Fort Worth. After wrecking in the first four races at Texas, Gordon has three consecutive top-five finishes at the track. "I'm excited with the way we've run there the last couple of times," Gordon said. "I used to dread going there, but now I kind of look forward to going there." Last year he staged a side by side duel with Dale Earnhardt Jr for the runner-up position on the final lap. He wound up finishing third. "It would have been a lot more fun battling for the win like that, but I enjoy racing with Junior," Gordon said. "He fights you hard. He gives you just barely enough room to make the things happen. I could have pushed the issue on him there. I was pretty content with battling for second and trying to get that second spot. But I wanted to make sure I brought the car home in third. If I would have pushed the issue a little more, it's possible neither one of us would have come back with the car in one piece. You've got to make those choices and decisions. Had that been for the win, it might have had a little bit different outcome." With qualifying speeds greater than 190 miles per hour, the new Goodyear tire is expected to be an issue on raceday. "I'll be honest, I don't know a lot about the tire in Texas," Gordon said. "Some guys tested there and they ran pretty fast. I don't know if they just did construction or if they did compound and construction. I'm in favor of it as long as Goodyear feels secure with it. I'm in favor of the softer tires everywhere as long as we don't have tire issues or problems where we're abusing them too much- especially at a place like Texas. I've hit the wall there and it hurts. They don't have softer walls there and they need to have them. Let's hope we don't have an issue with tires."

Game, Set, and Match
KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. (April 2)- - The U.S. Tennis Association received a boost from two athletes from a different realm. Jeff Gordon and boxing champion Roy Jones Jr. will appear in a USTA ad campaign to promote participation in the sport. The ads will run in newspapers and magazines starting in late April and will be unveiled at the Nasdaq-100 Open tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida on Tuesday. In the ads, Gordon is holding a racket while wearing a NASCAR uniform, Jones has a racket in hands taped up for a fight, and Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" is shown brandishing a racket like a microphone. "The purpose is to get people to be introduced to the game the right way," USTA chief executive Kurt Kamperman said. "Lots of people try tennis, but they never had lots of instruction. They tried to learn on their own." The ads will tout the website, which promotes 3,300 facilities across the country where new players can receive tennis lessons.

Raising Awareness
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 2)- - Jeff Gordon was in Washington D.C. in late March to urge Senate passage of a bill to reauthorize a five-year funding cycle for the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP), which maintains the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry and facilitates transplants from unrelated donors for patients with leukemia and other diseases. Gordon, a longtime advocate for NMDP and board member of its partner, The Marrow Foundation, visited key lawmakers to urge passage of the legislation, which was passed unanimously in the House last year but has not been voted on in the Senate. Current authorization for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry expired in September 2003. "The NMDP offers hope to the more than 30,000 people diagnosed each year with fatal blood diseases like leukemia," Gordon said. "It's critical for the Senate to continue its longstanding support of NMDP, which is on track to facilitate its 20,000th transplant later this year." His visit also highlighted NMDP's Capitol Hill donor drive held in the Hart Senate Office building, which offered the opportunity for Members of Congress and their staff to sign up and become part of the national registry. For more information about the marrow registry, call (800) MARROW-2 or visit

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