April News

In Memory Of Ellen
I was saddened to hear about the passing of Ellen Siska in mid-April. Her professionalism and journalistic integrity will be sorely missed. Shortly after I started the website in 1998, I received an email from Ellen. I had mentioned the untimely passing of a Jeff Gordon fan who had died in a car accident. Ellen had read the account of the crash where the victim was thrown from the vehicle. The professional journalist in her quickly realized the victim was not wearing a seat belt. After an email exchange, I changed the focus of the story to a lesson about seat belts. That was just the first of many email messages we sent to each other over the years. When you ask a racing journalist for a list of drivers they're fans of, you should get a blank response. But if you ask about their favorite drivers, they're likely to engage you for hours. Jeff Gordon was definitely one of Ellen's favorites. She joined his championship celebration at the Waldorf Astoria in 1997 after a personal invitation from the superstar driver. If I could sum up Ellen's impact, it would be one word: Honest. She kept me honest and on my toes at all times. The last thing I wanted was an email from Ellen to admonish me about something on the site. But the last thing I expected was an email from her a year or so ago to tell me about her battle with leukemia. She lost the battle last week but her determination inspired so many. In Ellen's honor, I made a donation to The Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation. Condolences to Ellen's family, friends, and supporters. There are many.

Cuts In The Armor
CAPITAL CITY 400 - Richmond Intl Raceway. Finish: 23rd

Once again it was the wrong place at the wrong time for Jeff Gordon as an early race cut tire sealed his fate before the race was an hour old. Contact from Aric Almirola sent Gordon into Greg Biffle's car in turn 1 resulting in a cut tire. Gordon was unable to make up the two lost laps and finished 23rd -- his 6th finish of 21st or worse in the last 11 races.

Gordon started 6th and fell to 10th in the opening 10 laps while battling a tight handling condition. He dropped four more spots by lap 30 and ran half a lap behind the leader. A competition caution brought the lead lap cars to pit road on lap 50. On the restart, Aric Almirola pushed up the track into Gordon's line. The #24 car sustained damage after hitting Greg Biffle in turn one. Gordon limped around the track and came to pit road with a flat tire. Gordon lost two laps after the green flag pit stop and ran in 35th place. A caution on lap 117 for Kurt Busch's spin kept Gordon from going a third lap down as race leader Carl Edwards was closing on the #24 car. Gordon moved up to 31st place by lap 130, but remained two laps down.

He pitted under green on lap 205 during a cycle of pit stops and remained two laps down on the track. During a debris caution period on lap 230, Gordon stayed on the track for the wave-around and restarted 1 lap down in 29th place. However, he fell 2 laps down when race leader Kyle Busch went by on lap 301. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 304. As the laps wound down, he moved up to 25th place, but remained two laps down.

At the front of the field, Kyle Busch beat the field off pit road on a late race caution and pulled away from Dale Earnhardt Jr to win his first race of the season and 24th of his career.

Turning point
Contact from Aric Almirola's car on a restart on lap 53 sent Gordon into Greg Biffle's quarterpanel resulting in a cut tire.

Power Down
STP 400 - Kansas Speedway. Finish: 21st

Another dose of bad luck bit Jeff Gordon at Kansas Speedway. For the second consecutive race at Kansas, Gordon experienced late-race engine issues resulting in a sub-par finish. Gordon started 20th and gained four spots in the opening 10 laps. He ran 12th on lap 35 before coming to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 46. Over the next 80 laps, Gordon ran 12th-13th while battling handling issues. A caution flag on lap 142 brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon failed to move foward and was mired in 15th. A caution on lap 187 for Juan Pablo Montoya's wall contact brought pit stops. Gordon restarted 17th and moved to 12th with 70 laps to go. He entered the top-10 with 60 to go and took 9th from Kevin Harvick four laps later. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop with 44 to go. While running 9th with 35 to go, Gordon dropped a cylinder. He struggled to maintain minimum speed and came to pit road. He finished the race in 21st place, three laps down. Gordon dropped from 17th to 18th in the series standings. It was his 5th finish of 21st or worse in the last 10 races.

Turning point
Gordon was running 9th when he dropped a cylinder with 35 laps to go. Although Gordon was not in contention to win the race, he seemed primed to pick up career top-10 #399 before the engine issues.

JG's comments "We lucked out in some ways, I feel like, by finishing 21st. It could have been a lot worse. We struggled today. We missed the setup. And we were still going to finish 7th or 8th. So I think that says a lot about our race team. But yeah, we obviously had a valve spring I believe, something in the valve train that broke. They gave us more gear here this time and I think that took a toll on not only us, but on a lot of guys out there. I felt like it was turning a lot of rpm, even though we have a rev limiter to keep it from going over what we think it needs to and it never did; but still, it caused a problem."

"It's a handful. There's no doubt about. There's not much grip out there and you're slipping and sliding around. It was a lot harder to pass today than I expected. I don't know if that was the cooler temperatures that caused that. But yeah, things didn't go quite as we expected today but we'll see what this new surface is going to be like. Until we get on it with the tire and do some testing and run some laps, all we can do is be helpful right now and be excited about what they have coming here."

"I think if you look at Martinsville, it was so meant to be there. And it just didn't happen. We're going to get it. It's just very competitive right now. And we, on the #24 team, need to qualify better. We're working toward that. I think some of it's me and not getting the most out of it. But as a group, we know it's coming. It's just when you have a target, it always makes it more challenging. When you're relaxed and not focused on it, it just comes naturally and sometimes easier. So we're trying not to put too much pressure on us with that and just trying to go out and do our thing and do our job. This year we've had great race cars. Today wasn't our best but Jimmie (Johnson) was up there and Junior. Everybody is running good; we've just got to run a little bit better."

Four Score
Samsung 500 - Texas Motor Speedway. Finish: 4th

Jeff Gordon didn't win the Samsung 500, but he scored a much-needed 4th place finish -- his first top-5 of the 2012 season. Gordon started 34th and moved to 26th by the end of lap 3. However, his forward progress became more arduous as he gained just three more spots in the next 25 laps. Gordon entered the top-20 with a pass on Kurt Busch on lap 36. Gordon came to pit road under green on lap 45 and cycled through in 16th place. He gained two spots over the next 20 laps and ran 14th on lap 65. The first caution waved for debris on lap 67, which brought the lead lap cars to pit road. After the restart, Gordon took 12th from Tony Stewart on lap 76, and entered the top-10 on lap 85 with a pass on Kevin Harvick. He moved up to 9th before the second caution flag on lap 95 for Trevor Bayne's wall contact.

Gordon ran in the lower half of the top-10 over the next 50 laps before a cycle of green flag pit stops on lap 145. He moved to 7th on lap 157 and took 6th from Dale Earnhardt Jr on lap 175. Following a cycle of pit stops, Gordon ran in 8th place on lap 200. He quickly moved to 6th by passing Earnhardt Jr and Harvick. Gordon entered the top-5 and then took 4th from Matt Kenseth on lap 264. Following a round of green flag stops with 50 to go, Gordon ran in 5th place. He re-took 4th from Kenseth with 37 laps to go. He crossed the line in 4th, distantly behind race winner Greg Biffle. Gordon scored his first top-5 finish of the season and his best finish in the last 11 races dating back to October 2011.

*Gordon has led at least 1 lap in each of the first 7 races of the season for the first time since 1995.
*He moved up 4 spots in the series standings to 17th.

Turning point
Gordon's car was hooked up from the outset as he drove the final 200+ laps without a caution. The turning point, ultimately, came on Friday afternoon during his qualifying run. By starting 34th, his chances of a victory were essentially eliminated due to the long green flag run nature of the race.

JG's comments
"I don't feel like I've had bad luck. A couple of things were self-induced, a couple of things were out of our control, but we've been running so well. It's nice to have everything come together tonight. Starting 34th, we had our work cut out for us, but this team did an amazing job. I'm so proud of everyone on this team. What a race car we had. I mean to drive up through there with only two cautions in the top five. I could almost get to Mark (Martin) there at the end but we had a great night, a great car and we had this many times this year. We just haven't been able to get it all the way to the finish. So, tonight we finally did. This is something we can build on. I'm so proud of this team and I can't wait to go to Kansas."

Faster Pace In Michigan
April 6 - - Jeff Gordon was among a handful of drivers who tested at the repaved Michigan Speedway on April 3-4. Speeds on the straightaways exceeded 215 miles per hour, and average lap times were well above last year's pole speeds. "I am not a big fan of repaves so the fact that I am talking positive about it and still enjoying the racetrack as much as I always have I think that is a sign where I rank it," Gordon said. "I rank it very high. Whatever it is about this track, it has just always had a great feel to it. Instead of having to go in and recreate some of that like some track have had to do, they were basically able to pave over the top of what they had, fix whatever they could to keep it lasting as long as possible, which you would typically do on a repave. The track drives so similar to the way it did before and it is going to have multiple groves."

Empty Dominance
Goody's 500 - Martinsville Speedway. Finish: 14th

"That's just the way our year has been going, it can't go like this forever," Jeff Gordon said after exiting his car following the Goody's 500. Gordon led 329 laps, but sustained damage following a late race restart and then ran out of fuel under the ensuing caution period.

Gordon started 9th and moved through traffic from the outset. He took the race lead on lap 22 and pulled away, thus backing up his speeds from Friday's practice where he led both sessions. The first caution waved on lap 97 for Kyle Busch's wall contact. Gordon came to pit road for tires and remained in the lead. On the restart, he pulled out to a more than 2-second lead before hitting lapped traffic on the half-mile track. After dropping to 2nd behind Dale Earnhardt Jr, Gordon came to pit road on lap 223 for a four-tire change.

Following the stops, Gordon resumed the race lead due to a faster on/off pit road time. A caution for Dave Blaney's wall contact slowed the field on lap 240. Gordon jumped out on the restart before the next caution on lap 264 for Juan Pablo Montoya's contact with the backstretch wall. A caution for Kasey Kahne on lap 315 slowed the field and brought pit stops. Gordon paced the field until lap 355 when Jimmie Johnson took the lead. Gordon led more laps than he had in any race since Dover in June 2001 (381 laps). A caution for Travis Kvapil on lap 361 brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon beat Johnson off pit road, but Denny Hamlin beat both Hendrick Motorsports cars to take the race lead. On the restart, Johnson took 2nd place from Gordon. Johnson took the race lead from Hamlin with 108 to go, as Gordon followed his teammate around the #11 Toyota.

As the laps wound down, Johnson pulled out to a comfortable lead on his teammate. With 20 to go, Gordon closed to within a half second of Johnson. With 10 to go, Gordon closed to within 3 car lengths of Johnson, but didn't seem to have the drive off the corner that his teammate did. Gordon took the race lead coming to the caution flag with 3 laps to go with David Reuitimann elected to stop on the race track. On the restart, Clint Bowyer dove into turn one after a push from Ryan Newman and shoved Gordon into Johnson who spun. Gordon sustained damage on the right side of the car. Gordon then ran out of fuel under the ensuing caution period. He finished the event in 14th place

*Gordon jumped 8 spots in the series standings and is now 17th.
*Gordon has led a lap in each of the first 6 races of the season.

Turning point
Ryan Newman shoved Clint Bowyer into turn one on the gwc restart. The move effectively ended Hendrick Motorsports' chance for their 200th Cup series victory.

JG's comments

"Clint (Bowyer) is a friend of mine. He is a great race car driver. It was not like him to do that. He said he got a hit from behind from the No. 39. I didn't get the best restart. The tires are really old. I spun the tires a slight bit. When I saw him go down to the inside of me I knew we were all in trouble. All I could do was just hold on tight. The No. 48 couldnít go anywhere, I couldn't go anywhere. He was just coming with so much speed. It won the race for the No. 39. Yeah, that's Martinsville right?"

It's pretty frustrating. Such a hard fought race, we had the car to beat early on for most of the race. I knew Jimmie (Johnson) towards the end would be tough. He always is. He proved that, but we just stalked him and stalked him and stalked him. I saw him start to get a little bit loose getting in. I was loose getting off. I was able to get inside of him. I wish there hadn't of been a caution. I think we had the race right there. I still thought we had it on the restart. Like I said I didn't get the best restart, but I wasn't expecting somebody to be shoved to the inside of me and take it three-wide."

"I'm glad I talked to him before I talked to you guys (the media). I was pretty mad at him. He said he got hit from behind from the No. 39. I heard that from my team as well. I didnít get the best restart. When he first shoved his nose down there I thought 'ok, we will make it work,' but when he came through there with so much speed there was no way. I had nowhere to go; Jimmie (Johnson) had nowhere to go. It is pretty unfortunate. I didn't want to see that last caution. We had such a great battle with the No. 48. He is so tough here. To be able to get up beside of him, I had to rough him up a little bit. I felt like I had the position to get the lead. Our car was pretty good on entry, his car was better on exit. It was going to be an interesting race. That's just the way our year has been going. It can't go like this forever. We are just going to keep working, keep bringing race cars like that and we will be fine."

"That's Martinsville, green-white-checkered. There are no guarantees at this place. Anytime they stack them up like that you know it is going to get ugly in the first couple of corners. I was just hoping to get a decent start. I got a good jump, but then the tires spun. I didn't know if Clint (Bowyer) had a big run or what happened. I guess he got a run and then the No. 39 gave him a pretty big shot. It pretty much took us all out there."

"He wasn't really apologizing he was just explaining to me what happened. I like Clint (Bowyer). Who doesn't like Clint Bowyer? He is just one of those guys that everybody likes. I love racing with him. It was unlike him to do that. I was pretty mad at the time, but after understanding what happened, I wouldn't blame it on him. It's still unfortunate, it doesn't change things. We had a great race, a great race car and that is all we can do is hold our heads up high and go from here."

"It was pretty intense. You could see both of us how hard we were driving how bad we wanted that. You saw (Dale Earnhardt) Junior doing the same thing earlier in the race. I thought he was the car to beat. When he got by me, I couldn't touch him. When Jimmie (Johnson) got out there, we made an adjustment on that last pit stop that I didn't think was working that well for us. But it seemed like over the long run our car really stayed strong. Jimmie started getting loose getting in. He got into some lap traffic. He started kind of running defensive and when he did that I really was able to gain on him. I got inside of him and kind of shoved him up the race track. I didn't want to see the caution come out from that point on. I thought we had the position to get the lead right there."

"Restarts at Martinsville with old tires and a green-white-checkered is always going to be exciting and intense. Rarely does the leader win it (laughs). I was just hoping to get a good restart. I got a good jump, but then I spun the tires. I knew he was right there. I moved down a little bit but when he just shot down there I guess he got hit from behind. At that point I was just a passenger. It was unfortunate that it ended the way it did for us. It was sure a great day, something we can really hold our head up high about. He just explained his side of it. I will be honest; Clint (Bowyer) and I have had some great races over the years. I mean tight battles running sideways there is nobody I respect more from just racing hard out there than him. I feel like he has the same for me. When he explained what happened and he is already just hard to get mad at because the guy is just so funny (laughs). We weren't laughing right there, but I was glad I was able to talk to him before I talked to anybody else."

"I'm sure everybody will play the radio. When you are on the radio you donít know what happened. All you know is that you got wrecked. I saw the video a little bit up on the screen. Alan (Gustafson) was talking to me about kind of what happened. Then that backed up what Clint (Bowyer) just said there. It's unfortunate, but that is Martinsville."

"(Laughs) That is just racing. It happens sometimes like that. If it was meant to be we would be sitting in Victory Lane right now. Obviously, it wasn't meant to be."

"No. That was two cars back behind me. I could sit here and say he ran in the No. 15 and sent Clint (Bowyer) sliding down and took three of us out. There is no use in talking about it. It is just hard racing. Guys trying to get every edge they can. Sometimes they do things that win them the race, sometimes you do things that cause wrecks and sometimes you do both."

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