April 2009 Random News

Pepsi Challenger's Last Stand
April 26 - - It should have stayed in mothballs. In the first race for the Pepsi Challenger in 1983, Darrell Waltrip drilled a dirt bank at Daytona International Speedway, careened back on the track and hit the retaining wall. Twenty-six years later, Jeff Gordon's day in the Pepsi Challenger was hindered by the same effect -- a major wreck on the track.

Gordon started 14th and moved to the center line where he dropped a few positions in the opening two laps. However, he hooked up in a draft with Matt Kenseth and moved into the top-10 on lap 3. On lap 7, Kenseth moved up the track and clipped the left front of Gordon's car sending him into the wall. Gordon sustained heavy damage to the front of the Pepsi Chevrolet. More than 10 cars were collected in the melee. "We're done, we're completely junk," Gordon radioed to his crew. "Kenseth came up on me." Gordon climbed out of the car and waited for his crew to make repairs. "I was working well with Matt," Gordon said in the garage area. "I was crusing along in the middle. There wasn't enough room when (Juan Montoya) got underneath Matt." Repairs were made with black nose and tail pieces. Gordon rejoined the race near the halfway point in an effort to pick up a few extra positions. Gordon finished the race in 37th position, one lap ahead of Kevin Harvick in 38th for three extra points in the standings.

The race came to a dramatic conclusion with Carl Edwards attempting to block Brad Keselowski in the trioval coming to the checkered flag. Edwards spun backwards and flew into the catchfence upside down. The victory was Keselowski's first in the Cup series -- while driving a limited schedule in a Hendrick Motorsports satellite car owned by James Finch.

JG Comments
"I think this is the same way this Pepsi Challenger ended up in 1983. So it sure didn't look good. It was driving good. We were having a good time there. I was actually working well with Matt (Kenseth) getting up to the front through the middle. I am not really sure what happened. I was just kinda cruising along there in the middle. Matt got up there, I think behind, maybe the No. 11 and he went low and so I was just cruising on up the middle. Matt went down with the No. 1 car and I guess what it was, whoever that was on the inside, I don't think, there just wasn't enough room. He got underneath Matt, Matt came up and I was already there.

There are so many different grooves to race out there. Matt went low so I was just going to go up the middle, it had been working so well for us up to that point. Somebody got to the inside him and closed the door. Things were going well, we were having a good time. Just cruising up the middle. Matt got hooked up with the No. 1 car. They started to go low and I think somebody got inside of them just as I was getting to the outside or up the middle of Matt. I don't if he knew I was there, didn't know I was there or what happened. But, I just got squeezed and started a big wreck.

I didn't see anything out of line. There was nothing. I don't think that wreck was caused by over aggressive driving. I mean, every race and every wreck I look to see what I could have done different. Looking back on it, I wish I would have just stayed behind Matt. But that is always hindsight. We're sitting here. It is unfortunate. It is not obviously going to be the day we were looking for."

Garden Party
April 22 - - Before heading to Talladega Superspeedway for the weekend's racing action, Jeff Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch went to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to watch the New York Rangers beat the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a playoff game. The pair sat near actor Kevin Spacey, producer Nancy Juvonen and comedian Jimmy Fallon in the stands.

Lost In The Desert
April 19 - - Jeff Gordon battled handling issues during the Subway 500k at Phoenix International Raceway, but it was ultimately a mistake by his pit crew that cost him a top-10 finish.

Gordon started 4th and moved up to 3rd with a pass on Kyle Busch on lap 17. He dropped back to 4th when Tony Stewart passed on lap 41. The first pit stops occurred under caution on lap 56. Gordon dropped a spot on pit road and restarted in 5th. He took 4th from Denny Hamlin shortly after the restart as the sun began giving way to dusk in the desert. The second round of pit stops came under caution on lap 103. Gordon lost two spots and restarted in 6th.

Stewart took a position from Gordon shortly after the restart. A caution for David Stremme's spin on lap 138 slowed the field. A round of pit stops ensued with Gordon dropped another two spots and restarted in 9th. However, he battled handling difficulties and dropped to 11th within five laps of the restart. A caution on lap 151 brought Gordon back to pit road for minor repairs to the left front to fix a tire rub due to on-track contact with Hamlin. The extended stop put Gordon at the end of the line-- 32nd place-- for the restart.

Gordon gained three spots and narrowly avoided a wreck directly in front of him when Michael Waltrip's talent level evaporated in turn three. He stayed on the track during the caution flag and moved up to 3rd position for the restart on lap 172. He slipped to 5th by lap 190 as drivers with fresher tires passed. By lap 215, he fell to 8th battling a tight handling car. Gordon pitted under green for a scheduled stop with 79 laps to go. However, a mistake by the pit crew cost Gordon a solid finish. A missing lug nut forced Gordon to return to pit road, thus eliminating his hopes of a decent finish. He returned to the race in 34th position, nearly two laps off the pace. He moved up to 30th position with 50 laps to go, and finished the event in 25th-- his worst finish since his last visit to Phoenix.

Post-Race comments:
"There were a lot of things that were unfortunate tonight. It just wasn't our night. We struggled. I haven't been feeling good this weekend. My back is hurting. When you're feeling like that, you can't really give good information and feedback to the team. We had some issues in the pits and it was just all around a tough night. But I'm really excited about Mark Martin winning tonight. I think that's so cool. We're so excited about having him at Hendrick Motorsports. I know how bad he wanted to win. He's got a car and a team that can do it and he's one driving fool."

DID IT COME TO A HEAD FOR YOU ON THE LUGNUT ISSUE IN THE PITS? "Yeah, pretty much. We couldn't afford to have any mistakes anymore, really. Steve Letarte made a great call to keep us out there, but I don't know. I was just struggling with the car. We had some damage. Me and Denny Hamlin got together. It was just one of those nights. The No. 55 and the No. 7 spun out in front of me. The No. 34, I was trying to pass him and he didn't know it. It was just one of those crazy nights."

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FOR MARK MARTIN TO WIN TONIGHT? "Oh, you know Mark is such a talented driver. I was so excited to hear that there was an opportunity to have him. And I knew that with Alan's (Gustafson) crew chiefing abilities and that team and Hendrick Motorsports resources, it was just a matter of time before they'd win. It's fantastic that they did."

High Fashion
April 12 - - Jeff Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch attended the opening of the famed French boutique Zadig & Voltaire in New York City on April 9. The pioneer of the concept 'affordable luxury' in Paris, Zadig & Voltaire is one of the hippest French fashion brand. Its concept stores located throughout Europe, China and the Middle East and have now added New York City to their reign have exported modern French chic to the intellectual rock & roll crowd.

Oh Canada!
April 11 - - Jeff Gordon has been linked to an investment group interested in building a 65,000-seat race track complex on the Canadian side of the U.S./Canada border near Niagara Falls. The track would be ready for action in 2011 based on land-use permits.
Full story

Testing Granite
April 9 - - Jeff Gordon participated in a two-day test session for Goodyear on April 7-8 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Gordon was joined by three of his peers representing other manufacturers. Scattered rain showers on Tuesday were followed by a brisk, cold wind on Wednesday.

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