April 2010 News

Boiling Over
April 25 - - Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson did their best to throw ice water on what many viewed as a simmering fued after the race at Texas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, that ice water quickly heated back to a boil as the drivers found each other on the track at an inopportune time at Talladega Superspeedway. Gordon was forced onto the apron with 7 laps to go by Johnson, and was then swept up in a wreck. Gordon finished the event in 22nd place. "The 48 is testing my patience," said Gordon, in reference to his teammate. "It takes a lot to make me mad and I am pissed right now." At the front of the field, Kevin Harvick passed Jamie McMurray in the tri-oval on the final lap to win his 12th career race.

Gordon started 5th and stayed on the inside line at the outset. He fell back to 27th place by lap 5 and ran in a second draft behind the leaders. On lap 7, he radioed that the lead pack was beginning to get strung out, and he would try and re-join the fray. Two laps later he climbed to the 19th position in the lead draft. He climbed into the top-10 on lap 15 behind a draft from Jimmie Johnson. Gordon slipped back to 14th before the competition caution on lap 20. Gordon restarted 13th after taking four tires. On lap 26, he hooked up in a tight draft with Jeff Burton and moved to 8th place. He stayed behind Burton and moved up to 5th on lap 27, before the outside line powered past. Gordon dropped to 22nd on lap 33 after choosing the wrong drafting line. He remained in the second draft for the next 15 laps.

On lap 48, Gordon worked with Tony Stewart in the second draft back in 24th position. The pair worked out a drafting arrangement to move up in the running order. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 65. After the stops cycled through, he ran in 20th place on the low line before drafting back into the top-10. The caution waved on lap 76 when Michael Waltrip hit the wall off turn four. Denny Hamlin spun toward the infield grass in the chain reaction incident. Pit stops followed with Gordon opting for left side tires and exited pit road in 3rd place. He took the lead of the race on lap 80 and ran in a tight draft with Elliott Sadler. Two laps later, Sadler was pushed into the lead by Kurt Busch. The caution waved on lap 84 after Johnny Sauter was turned sideways in the tri-oval. He bounced off Busch and Waltrip, while collecting Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard in the melee.

On the restart, Gordon pushed David Reutimann to the top spot. On lap 90, Gordon jumped to the high side to take the lead. However, his time at the front was short lived as the middle line powered past and pushed him out of the top-10 within seconds. Ten laps later he was in danger of losing the draft after he fell to 30th. Regan Smith's blown engine on lap 100 brought the caution and allowed Gordon to make up the distance. Gordon spent the next 25 laps running in 24th with Mark Martin. With 60 to go, he hooked up with Martin and moved to 15th. Three laps later, he got a drafting push from Johnson to move into the top-5. However, he was hung in the middle line and lost positions. He fell back to 30th and ran there until green flag pit stops with 42 laps to go. Gordon changed two tires and ran 15th after the stops. With 30 laps to go, he moved to the front of the field for a single lap, before dropping back in the draft. With 12 laps to go, Bobby Labonte spun on the backstretch to bring out the caution. Gordon opted for two tires on pit road and restarted in 17th place.

On the restart, Gordon worked with Mark Martin to move into the top-10. However, with 7 laps to go, Gordon moved low on the backstretch and was forced onto the apron by Jimmie Johnson's late move. Gordon slipped back after cracking the throttle and was collected in a wreck on the frontstretch after Jeff Burton hit the wall and spun into Gordon's path. The DuPont crew made repairs and Gordon received the free pass to get back on the lead lap due to a wreck involving Johnson. Gordon was distantly behind the final battle for the lead as Harvick won in a photo finish. Gordon dropped to 10th in the series points standings, and trails Johnson by 193.

JG post-race comments

"I got collected, I don't know what happened. I'm just excited we finished on the lead lap because it's been awhile. We got a huge push down the back straightaway (from Ryan Newman). I was coming 10 miles per hour faster than anybody. The 48 is testing my patience I can tell you that. It takes a lot to make me mad, and I am pissed right now. When the car is going that much faster, I don't know what it is with me and him right now, but whatever. The guys did a great job fixing it after it got wrecked. The 31 came across in front of me and we got collected. We did everything we could to finish at that point, and finished on the lead lap. I will say this: I thought it was a heck of a race. All day the racing was amazing. We knew it was going to get wild at the end, but I applaud that rear spoiler."

"Yeah, that's kind of how it goes here. I mean it doesn't matter until two or three (laps) to go. And that's what I was so excited about is I kind of got shuffled back there and I got a shove from somebody. I've still got to find out who it was. I know it was a black car; that's all I could tell. But I got a huge hit. And the momentum and I was just gone. We were going to drive by some cars and the No. 48 decided to change three lanes and keep me from going by him. And that's just not cool when you've got cars going that much faster than you. So maybe he just didn't know it but we'll just take what we can get out of here and go onto the next one."

"Well it's now a lot of fun from a driver's standpoint to know that. You're just kind of holding on tight. Even when we didn't have any wrecks for the majority of the race, you just know that in those green-white-checkereds and closing laps that you've got to start pushing and shoving and getting so aggressive it's the only way you can make a pass and win the race, that you just know it's going to happen. You just hope that you don't get caught up in it. But we've been caught up in it I don't know how many times now; a lot lately."

"I think that the driver attitudes, how we approach the race and just trying to mix it up but use our heads and you can credit the spoiler or whatever you want to credit, but it was great. There were a lot of strategies going on out there. There were guys who wanted to get up there and do the two-car draft thing and try to take the lead. We wanted to lead a lap or two so we got some bonus points but didn't feel like it was worth the risk to get the most laps led. So there were times when I could stay up front there. When I could, I stayed there. When I got shuffled out of line, I just went in the back and rode. There were a lot of different strategies that played out. It's a totally different restrictor plate race these days. It's something we all have to embrace and get used to because this two-car draft thing is what's going to win these races these days."

"I think it's the dumbest thing you can do. For 90 percent of the races, it just makes no sense to me to sit there and just pound on a guy's bumper. They dropped the green and they were doing it. I don't think that's smart. That doesn't make any sense to me. I don't know how you expect to get to the end of the race or what you're really accomplishing by doing that. I've always expected it toward the end of the race. And there is no getting around it. It is what it is."

"Yeah, it's disappointing. I don't think it was a very smart move. These cars sometimes get such a shove and sometimes you get so much momentum it's just more of a coincidence that it was him. But I mean, you turn the wheel left like that when a car is coming and somebody's going to have a problem. I did everything I could to keep from wrecking him. I did. I saw what he was doing and I know I couldn't go underneath the yellow line to pass him so I did everything I could to check up but somebody was still pushing me and turned me and I actually got into him. But he's been testing my patience and it's about reached its boiling point."

"I didn't know what kind of right front damage I had after I hit him. But I thought the car felt like it was still fine and a lot can happen here in two or three or four laps. So I didn't think we were out of it by any means at that point. And I knew green-white-checkers would be coming into play as well. And then I saw a car out of the corner of my eye get sideways and then go across my hood and then the No. 31 (Jeff Burton) came across there and I couldnít miss him."

"It was a lot of fun for the majority of the race. It was crazy at the end like it always is. But the thing I think we're all trying to embrace here is that we're competitors and we all want to win the race and want to get ourselves to the end of the race. We can't forget the dedication of these fans to travel as far as they travel to go out there and pitch tents in the infield when tornados are coming and just sit there and ride single file to get to the end of the race. And that's what I think was cool about today. There was a very short period of time that that happened. Most guys when they got single file said ah, let's take a shot at it. And this two-car thing allows you to do that. But I think it's driver attitude and I think our attitudes are just going out there and putting on a good show and keeping it entertaining and then go racing. Let's be honest. This race only needs to be 10 laps (laughter). So you've got to figure out how to entertain yourself and the fans and try not to wreck for the rest of the race."

Victim Of Circumstance
April 19 - - There are few moral victories in racing, and rarely would a 31st place finish qualify in that category, but Jeff Gordon made a loud statement in the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Gordon led 124 laps, took no prisoners while racing a teammate, and looked to be in sound position for his first victory in more than a year. However, a late race wreck coming off turn four destroyed the National Guard Special Forces Chevrolet and left Gordon with his first DNF of the season.

Gordon started 12th and entered the top-10 on lap 21 with a pass on eventual winner Denny Hamlin. He steadily worked through traffic by passing Kurt Busch for 9th place on lap 40, and took 8th place from Kasey Kahne two laps later. He entered the top-5 for the first time on lap 48 by getting around Kyle Busch, and took 4th from Clint Bowyer on lap 55. An adjustment during a pit stop under caution on lap 77 moved Gordon up to 3rd in the running order. He dropped to 12th on lap 115 after pitting while others stayed on the track. On the restart, Gordon worked his way back toward the front of the field and gained six spots by lap 120. He re-entered the top-5 on lap 126 with a pass on Kurt Busch, and took the runner-up spot five laps later. He tracked down and passed Dale Earnhardt Jr for the race lead on lap 137. By lap 150, Gordon had extended to a 3-second lead. Gordon lost the lead during a pit stop sequence, but regained it from Earnhardt Jr on lap 182.

Gordon swapped the lead briefly with Jimmie Johnson with 100 laps to go. Gordon pulled up to the rear of Johnson's car in turn four which loosened Johnson's car to the point where he climbed the hill in the corner to save the car. As Gordon pulled low on the fronstretch, Johnson turned into the right side of Gordon's car. The contact eventually resulted in a flat tire for Johnson and stirred ill-will by both drivers over the in-car radio. Gordon moved into the lead and maintained a comfortable distance as the laps wound down. However, David Reuitimann's blown engine with 24 laps remaining slowed the field. Gordon opted for four tires and restarted in 8th place. He made his way to 7th on the inside of Tony Stewart coming off turn four with 17 laps to go. Stewart got loose and tried to save his car. He touched the right side of Gordon's car, which further sent his car out of shape. Stewart then clipped the right rear of Gordon's car sending him into the frontstretch wall. More than six other drivers were collected in the melee. Gordon exited his car and immediately went to Stewart's wrecked car for an explanation. Stewart assumed blame for the wreck after viewing the replay. "It was my fault, I feel bad about doing something stupid like that," Stewart said. "I didn't plan on getting loose, but it is 100 percent my fault. It wasn't (Jeff's) fault, obviously. I got a chance to see it in the infield care center, it is definitely my fault. I apologize to all the teams and drivers that got caught up and their fans for it. We had a really good car there and just a shame that it happened let alone to some of your teammates like that."

Jeff Gordon post-race comments

When you get a late caution like that, you are going to have guys take two and guys take four. We chose to take four. Every second, every position counts on those restarts with that few of laps to go. I saw Tony backing up and then he got loose. I was trying not to get in to him. I ended up getting underneath him and we were three wide. Then I saw the 48 out on my left corner sneak in there as well. Just saw a lot of guys racing hard and we ran out of room. I got clipped in the right rear and turned me in the wall. Just glad I am ok. Man, what a race car. Gosh what a race car we had. That is what I am bummer out the most about. right now is that we just had such an awesome race car. I want to thank DuPont and National Guard and Special Forces, it was really cool. And all these fans for coming out, they are seeing a heck of a show."

"I don't know. He was real loose and I got to him and he got real loose. I got underneath me and he raced me hard. I slid up in front of him a little bit, maybe that was it. He ran in to the back of me for no reason. Then later he got out ahead of me after a pit stop or on a restart. He was just too loose. He wasn't fast enough and my car was just so good I could just get right to his bumper and he got loose. I guess he thought I was being too aggressive. I don't know, he just drove into my door. It ended up costing him. When you have a race car like that, you don't teammates and friends out there and race hard. That is what Jimmie has had. And I am just excited that we have something to race with all of these guys out here right now."

"I am disappointed. But, I'll get over it and so will he. We'll talk about it. We are good enough friends, good enough teammates. It is more just the competitors in us coming out there and the aggressiveness of wanting to win. Not anything against one another."

Steve Letarte post-race comments

"The car was a good car all day long. We didn't have a lot of practice so it says a lot about our team. This is kind of an outside the box setup, something we wanted to try and I think it was working out. That is just a product of 15 guys really wanting to win a race. That is what we all get paid to do and they were trying to make it happen. You have to get them early because they once they get strung out, there isn't a lot you can do. We were trying to make it happen."

"There is no doubt. I have seen it since Daytona. The whole crew. The pit crew struggled a little bit in the middle but they had some good stops towards the end. I think myself and Jeff want to win. That is what we were trying to do is win races. I think four tires is going to win the race. Just didn't work out."

Jimmie Johnson comment

"Yes I definitely think so. I am pretty disappointed in how he was racing me today, but we will get to the bottom of it and sort it out. No need to play it out in the press and we'll get it taken care of at the shop and during the week and come back to the next race and do it again. I think we are both pretty frustrated with how we have been racing each other. There was some things today I wasn't real pleased with so when I had a chance to express myself, I kinda did."

Bitter Redux
April 11 - - For the second consecutive race, Jeff Gordon had victory within his sights while lining up with the lead on a final green/white/checkered flag restart. Unfortunately for Gordon, the ending at Phoenix International Raceway mirrored the disappointment of Martinsville Speedway. However, this time around, there was no contact from behind. Rather, it was the driver's error that opened the door for Ryan Newman to take the lead (and the victory) away with 2 laps to go. "I just spun my tires on the restart and Ryan got inside of me on Turn 1," Gordon said. "After that, it was just game over." Nevertheless, Gordon posted a runner-up finish and moved to 5th in the series points standings.

Gordon started 10th and moved around Carl Edwards on the opening lap to take a spot. On lap 2, he passed Martin Truex and Marcos Ambrose to take 7th place. Ten laps later he took over 6th from Dale Earnhardt Jr. The first caution waved on lap 15 after Kurt Busch got loose entering turn one and took out Kasey Kahne on the outside. Pit stops ensued with Gordon losing a spot and exiting in 7th place. A lap after the restart, Jamie McMurray spun in turn three off the front bumper of Clint Bowyer. Gordon restarted in 8th on lap 30 on the outside of Matt Kenseth. He moved to 6th on lap 31 before AJ Allmendinger took a position. On lap 39, Jimmie Johnson went by sending Gordon back to 8th before he regrouped and took 7th from Ryan Newman. The third caution came on lap 56 after Brian Vickers wrecked in turn three. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 6th place.

When racing resumed, Gordon bided his time in 7th place behind Sam Hornish and AJ Allmendinger. On lap 82, Gordon moved to the outside of Allmendinger and raced side by side with Dr. Lynne's husband for a lap before taking 6th place. Kenseth passed Gordon on lap 88 to take over 6th and send Gordon back to the 7th position. He moved back into 6th on lap 110 after getting around Hornish. On lap 133, Gordon came to pit road for a green flag pit stop just before Kurt Busch cut a tire. The caution waved three laps later as the pit sequence fully cycled through. Gordon fell to 8th due to the tight conditions on pit road and coming in slightly sideways to his stall. He gained two spots on the restart and closed in on Kenseth for 5th on lap 155. However, Gordon's car tightened up and Kyle Busch took a spot on lap 161. He moved into the top-5 on lap 188 after getting around Joey Logano. A caution for Dave Blaney's blown engine brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon lost six spots and restarted in 11th. He dropped to 12th before rallying back into the top-10 with 165 laps to go.

With 107 to go, Gordon took 8th from Logano, and then passed Kenseth for 7th with 94 to go. As the green flag run continued, he tracked down and passed Kevin Harvick for 6th. A caution flag brought the leaders to pit road with 59 laps to go. Gordon gained two positions and departed in 4th place. On the restart, Gordon used the outside line to move up to 3rd but ran distantly behind Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson for the race lead. As the laps wound down, he made some headway on catching Johnson for 2nd. With four laps to go, Scott Riggs hit the wall to bring out the caution and set up a green/white/checkered finish. The leaders came to pit road with Gordon opting for a two-tire change and departed pit road with the race lead. On the restart, Newman powered on the inside past Gordon for the race lead after the leader spun the tires.

Post-race comments

"That was a great call for two tires. Just an incredible effort by this team. I felt like Steve Letarte made the right calls here these last two races to put ourselves in position to win, I just couldnít get it done for our team. I spun the tires on the restart and Ryan Newman had a good jump on me getting in to one. It was pretty much game over at that point. We had a good car, we were the second place car, we finished second, Iím still pretty happy and proud of that effort. We made the car better throughout the whole race and that is something we didnít do as well last year so real happy with that.Ē

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