May 2004 Random News

A Night To Forget
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 31)- - From the start of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, it was clear that Jimmie Johnson was on his game and Jeff Gordon was not. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates ran first and second for the first 10 laps, but Gordon battled a loose handling car almost immediately after the race began. He dropped to 8th by lap 24, and fell to 20th on lap 45. He went one lap down on lap 58 and continued to loose ground on the track. Gordon was running 31st, three laps down on lap 145. After slowing and missing pit road on lap 157, he dropped five laps down and was back in 37th place. As the night progressed he lost an additional two laps and finished in 30th place, seven laps down. In comparison, Johnson led 334 of the 400 laps en route to a dominating victory. Gordon dropped to fourth in the series standings and will look to regroup next weekend in Dover. "The 48 car was good all day," Gordon said of his teammate. "We're going to go back and look. If he won with (my) setup, man, he gets the gold star, purple medal or something. We don't normally have the same setups, but I want to compare and just see if we can figure out where we were off, and where they were on." The lack of cautions in the race, with the first one coming on lap 160, hindered Gordon's efforts even further. "It figures it'd be 600 miles and hot as can be, and no cautions," Gordon said. "It was frustrating, but more than frustrating it was just a handful. I was just holding on, trying to keep control. You know the sun's going to go down and that you're going to be able to make adjustments. We just needed a caution really, really bad and didn't get it. We needed big, big adjustments and didn't get the chance. Once the track temperature cooled down we were better, but that was not a lot of fun. We lost so many laps that we were lucky to bring the car back in one piece. It was just very frustrating." Crew chief Robbie Loomis missed part of the race weekend tending to his mother, Sally, who is battling a pancreatic illness at a Daytona Beach hospital, and after the race said his priorities were a determining factor in the uncharacteristic finish. "What's one man's trash is another man's gold," Loomis said. "It was a good night with Jimmie winning, but it was a horrible night for our team. We really missed the setup and I take full responsibility because I haven't had my head in the game here lately. It's easy to get behind. My mom just called and she's had a real good day. She actually told my sister to leave the hospital, so I like the sound of that."

Charlotte Salvage Yard
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 23)- - The statistics might have shown that Jeff Gordon finished sixth in the Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but it was definitely not a run of the mill sixth place finish. Driving the familiar rainbow paint scheme under the lights, Gordon started 17th but worked his way up to 11th place by the eighth lap. On lap 11, Kurt Busch tried to push Greg Biffle down the frontstretch, but wound up spinning out his Roush Racing teammate. With both drivers running in the top five at the time, the field stacked up behind them. Jimmie Johnson dove low and was sideswiped by Busch. Jeff Gordon downshifted and went hard on the brakes. Behind him, Robby Gordon and Kevin Harvick were unable to slow down in time. Sterling Marlin went high and was collected by Robby Gordon's wrecked car. Harvick drilled Gordon from behind destroying the front end of his car. Gordon spun backwards and sustained front end damage in the melee. Since the teams were allowed to work on their cars during the red flag delay, Gordon's team made significant repairs without having to worry about losing a lap. With duct tape seemingly holding his car together, Gordon restarted in 15th place. He was able to hold his own with the damaged car and finished the first 40-lap segment in 13th place. The segment break allowed the DuPont team to continue working on the car. While it might seem like the driver is out there by himself in the car, racing is still all about teamwork. The crew adjusted on the car and Gordon started the second 30-lap segment by moving up to 11th place on lap 10. He moved into the top-ten a lap later and passed Johnson for 9th on lap 55, just moments before Johnson spun exiting turn four. He finished the second segment in 9th place as Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, and Matt Kenseth led at the front of the field. In the final 20-lap segment, Gordon made a daring three-wide pass on Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip on lap 2. Waltrip eventually re-took 8th place, but it showed that even with damage, Gordon's car could contend. He passed Rusty Wallace for 7th on lap 7 and took 6th place from Elliott Sadler on lap 10. Gordon closed in on Dale Earnhardt Jr for fifth place, but ran out of laps. At the head of the pack, Kenseth pulled behind Newman to get the #12 Dodge loose coming off turn four with four laps remaining. The reigning Nextel Cup champion took the lead and won his first Nextel All-Star Challenge race.

Go West
SOUTH FLORIDA. (May 18)- - Due to a settlement of a Speedway Motorsports shareholder lawsuit against NASCAR, the 2005 schedule has several alterations. North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham was sold to Speedway Motorsports and its race date moved to Texas Motor Speedway. In essence, ending racing activity at the one-mile oval in the North Carolina sandhills. The late February date will be filled by a race at California Speedway. In addition, Martinsville Speedway was sold entirely to International Speedway Corporation. Darlington Raceway has lost the Southern 500 event and will host a single Nexel Cup race in 2005-- coming on Saturday night of Mother's Day weekend. Poor attendance will likely spell the end of the historic track for coming seasons. Second race dates have been added at Texas and Phoenix. The focus of the sport has clearly shifted from the southeast to the west. "I haven't analyzed it a lot," said Jeff Gordon. "I kind of had some ideas it was coming. For the most part it seems to look pretty good. There's some areas there that are going to make our team and truck drivers work exceptionally hard. We're probably going to have to transport cars and meet up with the truck in certain areas since they won't be able to travel to back to the race shop and have enough time to travel back. If you have one type of car you are running at one track and you have to be on the west coast, if it's not the same car, you have to go back and pick up the right car. That's going to change things a little bit. The Mother's Day off weekend would have been nice to maintain that. I like having an off-week later in the season like in July." One change that interests Gordon is the addition of a second race at Phoenix. "I like that," he said. "It's giving me an extra opportunity. I think going there twice will definitely help me out. Some of it is sitting in the car but a lot of it is how you drive that track. I always liked the track but there's some things we can learn to step it up and get it on victory lane."

Chevrolet's Richmond Revolution
RICHMOND, VA. (May 16)- - Dale Earnhardt Jr played the track position game to his advantage as he outran Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte to win the Chevrolet 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Earnhardt Jr assumed the top spot when most of the leaders pitted under caution with 45 laps remaining. The Budweiser Chevrolet pulled out to a three second lead shortly after the final restart and won by a comfortable 1.4 seconds over Johnson. The victory was his second at Richmond International Raceway, third win of 2004, and the 12th in his Nextel Cup career. There were five Chevrolet drivers in the top-six finishing positions at Richmond.
Jeff Gordon scored his series leading ninth top-ten finish in 11 races this season. After battling through handling difficulties early in the race, Gordon sustained mid-race damage which required multiple pit stops. He dropped as far back as 25th place before steadily moving through race traffic. He stayed out to lead on lap 324 before making his final pit stop. He was running third in the closing laps but contact with Tony Stewart pushed him back to fifth. He dropped to sixth after Matt Kenseth passed in the closing laps. Gordon crossed the finish line in sixth place and remained third in the series standings. "We're seeing it every weekend and you think a guy getting abuse by the media and the drivers would start thinking a little bit more," Gordon said of Stewart. "He had a much faster car, fresher tires, got inside of me and the position was his and he just drove straight into me and put me in the wall and about put himself in the wall. It's unfortunate, it cost us a top five. It was a good effort. We came from way back to finish sixth, so I'm pretty happy with that. We were never right. We were always a little bit off. I'm happy that we led a lap." Repaving at the track made overall lap times quicker than the previous track record. But the racing didn't seem to suffer. "It was typical Richmond," Gordon said. "It came to a two groove race track. It was pretty hairy up there at the top groove at the beginning of the race and at the end the bottom really went away. For the most part it was a good race. You could race, you could pass, you could run side by side. You got to be happy with that. We should have finished fifth. From where I was at, it seemed like (Stewart) just body-slammed me for no reason but he came up to me in the trailer and said he was sorry he got loose. I questioned it. He was like, "Hey, I'm telling you the truth, I got loose.' I'll have to look. They say he got loose the time before that. Maybe he did. If he did, then I'll accept his apology. If he didn't, then he certainly needs to get his act together."

A Face In The Crowd
BARCELONA, SPAIN. (May 9)- - Jeff Gordon decided to make the most of a rare off-weekend in the Nextel Cup series by venturing to Barcelona, Spain for the Spanish Grand Prix Formula One race. No, he's not contemplating an offer to drive Formula One cars. He simply wanted to attend an F1 race in person and the break in the schedule allowed him to do so. Gordon test drove the Williams BMW machine last year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a made-for-TV car swap with Juan Pablo Montoya. This time around Gordon will merely be a spectator. So, will his appearance fuel speculation about his driving future? "I did the test last year with the Williams team," Gordon said. "After that test we started talking about going to the Barcelona race. Who better to call to get credentials and hospitality passes than Williams and the BMW team? If the opportunity came up to drive the car again I would love to. I haven't been presented that opportunity. I'm too old to go Formula One and start all over again. After driving that car for one day I realized what kind of dedication it would take to start from scratch to learn all new tracks, all new cars, all new people and take my whole life in the U.S. and move to Europe. At one time would I have liked to that, yes. If it was a team like Williams, then yes. But that's not the case today."

Just Another Busy Weekend
LOS ANGELES, CA. (May 4)- - While Jeff Gordon's focus during the first weekend in May was on the NASCAR race at California Speedway, it was his appreciation for Motocross that played a large part in his weekend. After the final practice session at the track on Saturday morning, Gordon debriefed with crew chief Robbie Loomis regarding his car. He then boarded a jet and flew to Las Vegas to attend the Motocross event on Saturday night. Gordon was a surprise guest in the ESPN2 booth during the event. The THQ AMA Supercross Series and THQ World Supercross GP tours ended simultaneously with Kevin Windham taking the last main event win, while Chad Reed and Heath Voss won their respective titles. Gordon then flew back to California and drove to victory in the Auto Club 500. Following the victory lane festivities and post-race media obligations, he returned to Las Vegas to attend the Motocross post-banquet party. "Definitely love the Vegas." (racer x online)

HMS 20th Anniversary Paint Scheme
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 1)- - The four Hendrick Motorsports drivers will sport special HMS 20th anniversary paint schemes in the UAW 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October. The cars for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Terry Labonte, and Brian Vickers will be based on their regular paint schemes, but the colors will be replaced with a "silver on silver" paint palette, giving them a platinum or chrome effect under the lights. Each car will also sport the HMS 20th anniversary logo.

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