Take Me Out To The Ballgame...
CHICAGO, IL. (May 24)- - Since the passing of Harry Caray, the Chicago Cubs have had a number of celebrity guests to lead the crowd in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch. Actors, musicians, politicians-- you name it-- they've all been to Wrigley Field for the seventh inning tradition. On Tuesday, May 24, Jeff Gordon visited the historic ballpark in Chicago to throw out the first pitch before the game. He donned the pinstriped Cubs home jersey to make his trek out to the mound for the ceremonial pitch. Gordon then headed up to the broadcast booth for the 7th inning, where WGN broadcaster Bob Brenly asked him for a ride home after the game. "What is the speed limit on Lake Shore Drive anyway?" Brenly joked. Gordon talked about the July race at Chicagoland Speedway and the NASCAR season. In the middle of the 7th inning, Gordon led the crowd in a rendition of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame," which definitely didn't go as smoothly as a lap around a NASCAR track (the words simply escaped him). Though Gordon's "Let's get some runs" proclamation at the conclusion turned out to be a boon for the home team as the Cubs rallied from a 2-0 deficit with 4 runs in the eighth inning to win the game.
Martin Captures All-Star Crown
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 22)- - Mark Martin passed Elliott Sadler for the lead with 18 laps to go in the final segment of the Nextel All-Star Challenge and held off Sadler to win the event for the second time in his career. The victory was a popular one as 2005 is Martin's final full-time season in Cup racing. After exiting his car at the start-finish line, Martin looked up to the stands and said "This one's for the fans, this one's for you." As is the custom, all-star night had its share of spectacular moments. Brian Vickers bumping his way into the field on the final lap of the Nextel Open merely set the tone for the evening. The first 40-lap segment of the main event started like any other race. Jeff Gordon came from 14th up to 7th by lap 34. However, two laps later chaos ensued when Tony Stewart tapped Joe Nemechek coming off turn four. Nemechek turned sideways into Kevin Harvick in a melee that collected nine cars, including Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne. After a red flag, racing resumed for 2 laps until the end of the segment with Martin taking first place and Gordon back in eighth. The random lottery for field inversion was only for the top six cars. In the second 30-lap segment, Ryan Newman took control at the front of the field. Gordon struggled on the longer run and was running 8th at the end of the segment. He gambled on two tires and restarted second in the final 20-lap segment. Gordon got off to a poor restart and slipped to fourth after just one lap. Heading into turn one on the second lap, Newman got loose on the inside of Gordon and spun up the track, collecting Rusty Wallace. Gordon made multiple pit stops to work on the handling of the Performance Alliance car. He restarted 11th and quickly moved up to 7th after just two green flag laps. With 16 laps to go, Gordon passed Matt Kenseth coming off turn four. The pair made contact at the start-finish line with Gordon advancing onward. Gordon passed Kurt Busch to move into the top-five with 8 laps remaining. On the final lap, Gordon got a run off turn four and pulled to the inside of Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates staged a drag race to the finish line with Gordon edging Johnson to claim the fourth position. "I'm glad we came home with a top-five, but we really were way off," Gordon said. "There were times where I thought we were really going to be good. The second run that we had was awesome. We just could never get back. When we were in traffic it was really tight and we just couldn't do much with them. I spun the tires off on that one restart when we took two tires (third segment). So, thank goodness there was a caution. I don't know what happened with Ryan, if he just got loose or somebody got into him. You know, it's a typical All-Star race with bumping and banging and super hard. Really excited for Mark Martin. He's an awesome race car driver and he deserves it. I think our car is a little bit better for next week. I think we learned some really good things for next week. We've got to catch up. Those guys were definitely better than us, especially Sadler and Martin. So, we'll go to work."
Race Of Champions Redux
SOUTH FLORIDA. (May 18)- - The Race of Champions and Nations Cup is slated to return to the Stade de France for a second successive year. The star studded event will return to Paris on December 3 with the first big names already unveiled. French duo Sebastien Loeb and Jean Alesi have both confirmed that they will return to defend their Nations Cup crown. Jeff Gordon, who was part of the American team that captured the Nation's Cup in 2002, was forced to drop out of the 2004 event after falling ill just before the race. However, Gordon has confirmed that he will travel to Paris to lead the American team in to the Nations Cup. "It was disappointing to miss the Race of Champions last year, but I'm looking forward to participating this year's event," he said. "This event gives us the chance to compete for our country, but it also gives us the opportunity to talk to other drivers and learn about their experiences in different forms of racing."
From Bad To Worse
RICHMOND, VA. (May 15)- - It was a forgettable weekend for Jeff Gordon at Richmond International Raceway. He qualified 20th-- his lowest start at the track since 1993-- and was unable to make significant progress in the race. He moved up to 12th by lap 60, but dropped to 17th after the first round of pit stops. Gordon was running in 16th on lap 166 when Bobby Labonte spun Rusty Wallace coming out of turn four. In a cloud of smoke, Gordon went to the high side and hit the wall. The suspension on the car was damaged and Gordon was forced to bring the car to the garage for repairs. He returned to the race more than 50 laps down in 39th place but returned to the garage for good with 90 laps remaining. "I know exactly what happened, it was one of the stupidest things I've ever done in my life," Gordon said. "A car spun in front of me, I saw smoke and slowed down, decided to take it a little high, just ran straight into the wall by myself. I hit it harder than I thought." Gordon had an opportunity to significantly close the points gap on Jimmie Johnson after his Hendrick Motorsports teammate wrecked on lap 82. However, after battling handling problems for the balance of the race, the damage to the suspension sealed Gordon's 39th place fate. At the front of the field. Kasey Kahne capped off a perfect weekend with his first career Nextel Cup victory.
Working The Late Shift
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 7)- - As the laps wound down in the Dodge 500 at Darlington Raceway, Jeff Gordon seemed destined to finish in third place. Both Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle were beyond his reach in the closing stages. However, Mark Martin's spin with 5 to go changed the complexion of the race. Newman and Ken Schrader were the only lead lap cars to stay on the track. Under a green/white/checkers finish, Gordon restarted in fifth position. As the cars stacked up on the restart, Gordon quickly moved around Schrader and tapped Carl Edwards on the backstretch to take third. He got around Newman at the start-finish line as the cars took the white flag. But he was unable to catch Biffle who sprinted out to his third victory of the season. Gordon ran in the top-five for the bulk of the night after moving up from his 14th starting spot. He avoided potential trouble on the opening lap when Kurt Busch spun out in front of him. He entered the top-five on lap 65, and took the lead for the first time from Biffle on lap 101. Gordon would lose the lead a few laps later, but remained competitive on longer runs despite dealing with a loose handling car. "That was a crazy restart," Gordon said. "I don't know if Newman spun the tires, but that stacked us all up. We were lucky to get to the start-finish line. I knew Biffle was the guy to get by because he was the first car on four tires. I got Edwards loose, I hit him, and I have no idea how he saved that car. I'm sorry that I got into him. That wasn't our best effort at Darlington but we fought through it, had great pit stops, and pulled off a second place finish."
Honoring Mother's Day
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 7)- - Jeff Gordon's mother, Carol Bickford, was one of the driver's mothers who gave the command to start engines before the Dodge 500 at Darlington Raceway. Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty, Brian Vickers, and Scott Riggs also had their mothers on hand to say the most famous words in motorsports. Gordon might trace his racing interest to his stepfather John Bickford, but it was his mother's support that propelled him into racing. "One of the reasons I got into Quarter Midget racing was because of her," Gordon said. "I was racing BMX bikes and she told my dad it was too dangerous. He brought home the Quarter Midget and I don't know if she thought that was the right thing, but she was very supportive. She was a big part of the racing. She traveled with us every weekend and got involved with the scoring of the cars. As we started getting into the Sprint Cars and Midgets and traveling around the country and things like that, somebody had to run their business and operate thing at home, so she did a lot of that while we were on the road until they sold their business and she could come back to the Midwest." Over the years Gordon's relationship with his mother has become more meaningful. "She's probably more of a mother today than she ever has been," Gordon said. "As I get older I continue to recognize the importance of how I was brought up and who really means the most to me in my life. She's an amazing person and I see our relationship grow all the time where I can go to her and talk to her about things that you didn't even think of as a kid. As you get older, you realize that your parents are a lot smarter than you thought they were."
Plate Boss Romps At Talladega
TALLADEGA, AL. (May 2)- - Jeff Gordon scored his fourth restrictor plate victory in the past five races by dominating the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Gordon broke to the lead on the first lap and served notice to the field that the Pepsi Chevrolet would be the ultimate force to be reckoned with. Gordon slipped back several times during the race, but remained near or at the front for the balance of the day by leading 139 of the 193 laps. By staying out front, Gordon avoided the wreck on lap 139 which eliminated more than 20 contenders. Gordon held the lead in the late stages, but was passed by Michael Waltrip with 5 laps to go. With drafting help from Jamie McMurray, Gordon rallied back to re-take the top spot with 4 to go. A wreck on the backstetch involving Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr assured a green/white/checkers finish. Gordon pulled away on the restart and held off Tony Stewart to capture his third victory of the season, 10th career restrictor plate win, and 72nd triumph of his career. "What an incredible race car," Gordon said. "The Chevrolet was just amazing today... I could just drive by guys. I don't know if I've ever had a race car like that. My hat is off to the team and to Hendrick Motorsports." Randy Dorton, who was among the Hendrick employees killed in last October's plane crash, would have celebrated a birthday on May 1. "I had him on my mind a lot today," Gordon said. "When we were out there, and that motor was just singing, I couldn't help but think that Randy was just really smiling somewhere. Really impressed with that and proud, because that's his legacy-what's there and what's been left behind and all the hard work and effort in people he trained. They're just continuing it on. I said after the race was over that I felt like he was in there cranking that engine himself. The thing was running so good that I had him on my mind all day. This one really was for him. That was an awesome win. He would have been the guy that would have been there with the biggest smile when that thing was over."
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