May 2003 Random News

The Rainmaker
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 26)- - Jimmie Johnson capped off a dominant fortnight at Lowe's Motor Speedway with a victory in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. He became only the fifth driver to win both The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600 during the May raceweeks in Charlotte. Johnson started last on the grid due to an engine problem during qualifying. He made his way into the top-20 in the first 50 miles of the race. He steadily worked his way through race traffic but his pit crew turned out to be the deciding factor. During a caution flag pit stop on lap 241, Johnson came onto pit road in fourth but left with the lead after a 13.2 four tire pit stop. He held onto the lead during the next 35 laps of racing before rain halted the proceedings on lap 276. The race was called after 414 of the 600 miles completed. "I'm very proud of this race team," Johnson said. "To do it with two different race cars, I think it says a lot for this race team. One car was built one way, for sprint races in The Winston. It did it's job. This car did it's job for the 600. The credit goes to Chad Knaus, Brian Whitesell, Robbie Loomis and those guys at the shop for thinking this through. It was a tough call for NASCAR (with the rain). We lost the Daytona 500 on the same thing and now we have a win for it." It was Johnson's first win of the season and fourth of his career.
Jeff Gordon ran in the top-5 for most of the night but never led the event. He spent an extended time on pit road under caution on lap 266 as the crew removed a spring rubber to help the handling of the car. Gordon dropped back to eighth-- the last car on the lead lap. The rain intensified after the pit stop and the race was called before track action could resume. Gordon lost 38 more points to leader Matt Kenseth who posted a solid runner-up finish after leading 75 laps in the Coca-Cola 600. "We were up to fourth, but had slipped back to eighth there," crew chief Robbie Loomis said. "It (the rain) might have helped us and it might have hurt us at the same time. At least we kept the winner's share of the money in the organization."

Hendrick Motorsports joined forces with the U.S. Navy for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, where all four of the team's Winston Cup cars displayed decals from fighter squadrons of the U.S.S. Nimitz (CVN 68), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier currently deployed in the Arabian Gulf. Drivers were teamed up with the following units:
Jimmie Johnson: VS-29 "Dragonfires" (San Diego, Ca.) and HS-6 "Indians" (San Diego, Ca.)
Jeff Gordon: VFA-97 "Warhawks" (Lemoore, Ca.) and VFA-94 "Mighty Shrikes" (Lemoore, Ca.)
Joe Nemechek: VAQ-135 "Black Ravens" (Whidbey Island, Wa.) and VAW-117 "Wallbangers" (Point Mugu, Ca.)
Terry Labonte: VFA-41 "The Black Aces" (Lemoore, Ca.) and VFA-14 "Tophatters" (Lemoore, Ca.)

South Florida Banking Project
CUTLER RIDGE, FLA. (May 23)- - Stock car racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway has typically produced an afternoon of follow the leader racing where passing was often a tedious endeavor. A drive down Card Sound Road to Alabama Jack's often produced more excitement than 400 miles at Homestead. On Wednesday, May 21, the track announced a reconfiguration program to increase the banking of the turns at the 1.5-mile track to be completed in time for November's season-ending race. The degree of banking will increase progressively from the bottom to the top of each turn. There will be 18 degrees banking at the bottom, 19 degrees in the middle, and 20 degrees at the top. The variable banking system is designed to create three competitive racing grooves around the track. Though with only a two degree difference from the bottom to the top, one has to wonder just how much side by side racing will be seen. Not to mention the single groove issue common to any new racetrack. Nevertheless, the construction of additional banking guarantees that overall lap times will increase. Thus far it has received rave reviews from Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, and Jeff Gordon. "The added banking is exactly what we've been waiting for," Gordon said. "This has always been one of the finest facilities in the country, and now with the added banking in the turns, the track and the racing should be more exciting than ever."

Power Of Pride
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 19)- - This time Jimmie Johnson led when it really mattered in The Winston. After winning the first two segments of the all-star event last year, Johnson was sent back to 10th place for the final segment restart due to a field inversion. He ran out of laps before he could make his way back to the front. On Saturday night, behind the wheel of the Power of Pride Chevrolet, Johnson captured the victory and the $1 million bonus. He restarted the final 20 lap segment in fourth place but quickly moved up to the runner-up spot behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon. He pulled along side Gordon's DuPont/Wright Brothers Chevrolet and made the winning pass on lap 4. As Gordon faded, Johnson was easily able to hold off Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte to claim his first victory in The Winston.
Gordon, whose paint scheme commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight, seemed ready to have a crash landing at Lowe's Motor Speedway on several occasions. He drove his car on the ragged edge, perhaps over the edge, in his quest to win The Winston for the fourth time in his career. In the first 40 lap segment, Gordon started 10th and moved up to 8th after the mandatory green flag pit stops. That's where he finished the segment as Tony Stewart won the opening round. After a short segment break, the second 30 lap segment began with a bang as Gordon pulled to the inside of Sterling Marlin entering turn one. As the pair battled side by side, Gordon pushed up the track and hit the left rear of Marlin sending the Coors Light Dodge into a spin. Gordon's car sustained minor damage to the right front corner. He pitted for tires and minor repairs before restarting in 18th place. He worked his way up to 12th by lap 15 of the segment. Two laps later he hit Ward Burton from behind on the backstretch sending Burton into the wall and out of the race. The contact with Burton's rear bumper created a slight tire rub on the right front of the DuPont Chevrolet. Gordon restarted in 10th but dropped to 16th as he couldn't keep the car on the bottom of the track. Ryan Newman's wreck on lap 25 brought out the red flag to allow the segment to finish under green. For Gordon it was the first of two saving graces. Since only the top-14 transferred to the final segment, Gordon would have an opportunity to pit and improve upon his 18th position in the running order. The fresh tires proved valuable on the restart as Gordon moved up to 15th when the white flag waved. He still needed to gain another position to transfer to the final shootout. Entering turn one, Tony Stewart got into Terry Labonte sending both cars into a spin. Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Dale Jarrett were collected in the ensuing melee. The six drivers involved in the last lap encounter have a combined 151 Winston Cup race victories and five championships. Gordon snuck by the carnage, though he did make contact with the rear of Jarrett's car as he dove low on the track. Kurt Busch won the second segment but suffered the same fate that Johnson did in 2002. The field inversion pushed Busch back to 10th to begin the last segment. Since Gordon finished ninth in the second segment, he started the final shootout on the outside of the front row. He got a strong jump when the green flag waved and took the lead from Marlin. However, Johnson closed in on Gordon and was able to stay low coming off turn two. That proved to be the difference as Johnson swept pass his boss to take the million dollar payoff. It was the fifth time that Hendrick Motorsports has won The Winston, and for the ninth time in the past 15 years, LMS track president Humpy Wheeler accurately predicted the winner of the event.

Making The Wish
SELLERSBURG, IN. (May 19)- - This time, Jeff Gordon was not the chosen one. When fifteen-year-old Matthew Evanoff from Indiana was granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Indiana, he considered several possibilities. A trip to Hawaii, a home entertainment center, or a meeting with his favorite race car driver. As one enters Matthew's room, there is a collection of NASCAR model cars and several pictures of Jeff Gordon. However, after three years of pondering the choice, he made his decision. "He decided that once he met Jeff Gordon, when he got home it would all be over," his mother Susan said. "Then he even briefly thought about going to Hawaii before finally coming up with his wish, one that would last and the whole family could enjoy." He made his decision for a big screen television and DVD player. He received a 55" big screen Mitsubushi television, Toshiba DVD player, Lilo & Stitch and Shrek on DVD from the Best Buy in Louisville. He also received a $200 gift certificate from Circuit City for more DVDs while Best Buy threw in a cozy black leather recliner and ottoman. He split the gift certificate evenly three ways with his sisters and his mother. Matthew is confined to a wheelchair due to the effects of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The life-threatening illness effects Matthew's ability to make muscle cells and he has a loss of muscle strength. Matthew was diagnosed with the disease when he was only five years old. "As parents, Danny and I have to concentrate on what Matthew needs medically. Itís always the parents heart's desire to give their kids what they want and with Make-A-Wish, Matthew got what he wanted, not what he needed," his mom said. For more information about the Make-A-Wish Foundation, visit (Green Banner)

Fast Food Cook Off
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 14)- - Hendrick Motorsports will host a "Fast Food" cook off on Wednesday, May 21 at their complex in Charlotte, North Carolina. Festivities start at 11:00 am with a celebrity cook off at 1:00 pm. Admission is free with a nominal charge for the carnival events with all proceeds benefitting The Hendrick Marrow Foundation. In the cook off, the celebrity chefs include Gary and Cathy Johnson (Jimmie Johnson's parents), Carol Mears (Casey Mears' mom), Teresa Weber (Bill Weber's wife), and Kim Labonte (Terry Labonte's wife). Celebrity judges include Jim Hunter, VP of Communications for NASCAR, and Bill Amick of Amick Farms, who donated the chicken to be cooked in the event. The luminaries will be signing copies of "Fast Food." In addition to the cook off, there will be carnival games. Brian Vickers and David Green are scheduled to take turns in the "dunk tank." A Craft Fair will also be held featuring crafts made by the Winston Cup wives and Jeff Gordon's #24 racing simulator will be available for use. There will be concessions of barbeque, roasted corn, carmel corn, warm fruit pies, and candy bar pies. Copies of the "Fast Food" cookbook will be available for sale at the Hendrick Motorsports gift shop and museum. The cookbook, released in February, features more than 120 full-color racing-themed photos and more than 150 recipes from members of the NASCAR community.

Nemechek's Night At Richmond
RICHMOND, VA. (May 4)- - In the 600th Winston Cup race in the history of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Nemechek drove the #25 HMS Chevrolet to the victory in the Pontiac 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Nemechek started on the outside pole and led from the start, but a mid-race communication lapse under caution dropped him out of the top-20. He steadily worked his way back through race traffic and took the lead from Bobby Labonte with less than 80 laps remaining. Nemechek held off Labonte through a series of late race restarts after caution flags before rain halted the event with seven laps remaining. With the showers intensifying, NASCAR called the race after 393 of the 400 laps. It was Nemechek's third career victory and first with Hendrick Motorsports. He becomes the tenth different driver to win a Winston Cup race for HMS. Nemechek's victory also assures that all four HMS Winston Cup cars will be in The Winston on May 17.
Nineteen years ago, Geoff Bodine started the #5 Chevrolet in the 1984 Daytona 500 for a new racing organization called All-Star Racing. The team was owned by Rick Hendrick, a North Carolina auto dealer, and C.K. Spurlock, an entertainment entrepreneuer who had a background in motorsports public relations. Sponsorship came from City Chevrolet, Hendrick's Charlotte-based auto dealership. The team operated from a small, dusty garage outside of Charlotte which Hendrick leased from crew chief Harry Hyde. Bodine brought the underfunded team's entry home in 8th place in the team's first race. Within a year, the organization was renamed Hendrick Motorsports. Over the past 19 seasons, HMS has racked up 111 Winston Cup victories in 600 starts. A lot has changed in that time frame. The organization is no longer housed in a small garage with a handful of mechanics working on the car. There are now 400 employees working on four Winston Cup teams and a Busch series team on a sprawling 75 acre complex north of Charlotte with race shops, a motorsports museum, administrative offices, chassis, engine, and research and development buildings. The one constant through the 19-year existence of HMS has been its founder Rick Hendrick and his desire to have his race teams simply go faster than anyone else. After 600 starts, the mission continues.
Jeff Gordon's evening at Richmond was rather forgettable. The DuPont Chevrolet struggled from the outset as Gordon complained of being extremely loose in the corners. Though he did manage to lead a few laps thanks to a pair of well-timed caution flags, Gordon battled handling difficulties throughout the event. He dropped as low as 27th with 70 laps remaining before moving up to 16th at the finish due in part to a rash of caution flags in the closing stages.

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