May 2007 Random News

Green Flash At Sunset
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 27) - The first 60 laps of the Coca-Cola 600 seemed to going exactly as Jeff Gordon hoped for. He moved from his 32nd starting spot into the top-5. But situations in racing change in the blink of an eye. Tony Raines lost the back end of his car and began spinning in front of Gordon on the frontstretch. Gordon dove low but was clipped by Raines' car on the right side, sending the DuPont Chevrolet through the grass and then head-on into the wall. A.J. Allmendinger then t-boned the right side of Gordon's car sending the back end aloft as Gordon spun down the frontstretch. The result was a 41st place finish and Gordon's first DNF of the 2007 season-- the first time he finished lower than 12th this year. While the wreck may have looked like a devastating hit, Gordon downplayed the contact. "It wasn't really that hard," Gordon said. "The car got up in the air really good. Raines got loose, clipped me, and I went in the infield grass. Spectacular wreck unforutnately. But what an awesome race car we had. When we bring race cars to the track like that it makes me have a lot of fun." While Gordon heads to Dover next weekend with the points lead, he incurred his 5th consecutive DNF at Lowes Motor Speedway and didn't hold back placing blame squarely on Raines. "If you've got a brain, you know that you don't race (early)," Gordon said. "You run your own race. There are just too many guys out there who aren't doing that. It's a 600-mile race. It's hot and slick during the day and with these tires, it just makes it very hairy. I see guys driving way over their heads early in a 600-mile race -- too early for any race."

Gamble Pays Off For Mears
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 27) - Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Casey Mears gambled on fuel and won the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway. "We were a third-place car, a fourth-place car at best, and that was the only way to win it," Mears said. The top five finishers all stayed on the track while the front-runners pitted for splashes of fuel in the final 10 laps. Mears and crew chief Darian Grubb believed they could finish the race without coming to pit road. After he crossed the finish line, his engine began to sputter on the cool-down lap. J.J. Yeley, Kyle Petty, Reed Sorenson, and Brian Vickers made up the seemingly improbable top-five finishers. It was Mears' first career win and the 9th victory in the last 10 races for Hendrick Motorsports. Mears became the 13th different driver to score a Cup series victory for HMS, and the 8th driver to win their first career race with the organization.

The Substitute
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 24) - Mark Martin may drive Jeff Gordon's car should the birth of his daughter interfere with Gordon's racing schedule in late June. Martin, who will fly out during the Sonoma weekend to assist Regan Smith, will also play a standby role for Gordon. Ingrid Vandebosch is expected to deliver a baby girl the week of June 24. The Cup series will be at the road course of the Infineon Raceway that weekend. Should the baby arrive a week early, Martin will hop into Gordon's car at Michigan, while a week later would mean Martin would drive the #24 car at Loudon. "Hopefully it won't come to that, but I do admire Jeff for his commitment to be there when his daughter is born," Martin said. "I think that is awesome. He's in a great position and it is an honor, a real big honor to me, that they though enough of me to really pursue me."

Flat Tire Dooms All-Star Hopes
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 20) - A flat tire during the final segment of the All-Star Challenge at Lowes Motor Speedway dashed Jeff Gordon's hopes for a 4th victory in the annual exhibition event. The event was broken into four segments of 20 laps each. Gordon started 7th in segment one and steadily worked through the field within the first 10 laps. He eventually passed Jimmie Johnson for 2nd but was unable to catch Matt Kenseth in the 20-lap segment. Gordon then came to pit road for four tires and restarted 7th for segment two. Once again he was able to work through the field and finished 2nd in the segment to Kyle Busch. In segment three, Gordon started on the outside of the front row but dropped to 5th after a three-wide battle ensued. However, as was the case in previous segments, the car eventually hooked up and Gordon made his way to the front. He passed Harvick for 2nd on lap 17 but couldn't catch Kenseth by the end of the 20-lap segment. Gordon started the final 20-lap segment for the $1 million prize from the pole position after Kenseth received a penalty for speeding on pit road. Gordon slipped to 5th on the restart and stayed low on lap 3 while Kyle Busch spun out and put his brother Kurt into the wall. Gordon then restarted second but slipped high in turn three with a flat tire. A caution for Casey Mears' wreck allowed Gordon to come to pit road and change tires while remaining on the lead lap. However, a hole in the front valence hindered Gordon's aerodynamics. He moved from 18th to 11th over the final 16 green flag laps, but finished distantly to the leaders. Harvick captured the All-Star Challenge by holding off a last lap attempt from Johnson.

Steamin' To Victory
By The Commish
DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 14) - When you're hot, you're hot... literally. Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag in the Dodge 500 at Darlington Raceway with his engine in grave danger of overheating, which raised his concern over the final 100 laps. Gordon's third win in the last four races didn't come without a day long struggle against his competitors and the tough 1.36-mile racetrack. Gordon's car began the race too loose, which prohibited him from advancing higher than ninth for the first 125 laps. Crew chief Steve Letarte got the car more to Gordon's liking, and by lap 190, he was running 4th. On lap 247, after pit stops, Gordon warned Letarte that his water and engine temperatures had climbed dangerously high. On two successive cautions, the crew struggled to remove tape from the grille but accumulated debris sucked into the radiator was a problem the team couldn't cure on pit road. "Just because I'm complaining about this car doesn't mean I'll give up on you guys, ever," Gordon said to movitate his team. He restarted on lap 310 in second place, even though he worried that the engine was about to give way. Another caution on lap 335 allowed the team to remove the last of the tape on the grille and he restarted second, hoping to finish the race. An agonizing 10th caution flag came out on lap 350. Gordon jumped out to a fast lead on the restart. As Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, and Jimmie Johnson traded paint behind him, Gordon extended his lead. With 5 laps to go, Letarte told him, "Hit your marks and they won't catch you." Gordon rolled across the finish line comfortably ahead of Hamlin for his 78th career win and his 7th victory at Darlington. "There's no way that thing ever should have made it and we had our hands full today but that is how you win races," he said. "It wasn't pretty but what an amazing year we're having."

Wind It Up
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 8) - Jeff Gordon wrapped up a two-day test session at Lowes Motor Speedway on May 8 in preparation for the May events at the track. The test session was the final one of the year for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo race car, as future tests will involve the new-look Chevrolet Impala. The drivers will be using a 17-gallon fuel cell at Lowes Motor Speedway, an increase over the previously mandated 13-gallon fuel cell. They'll also use the same Goodyear tire that they had last year at the track. "I'm not a fan of small fuel cells," Gordon said. "I'm not saying I'm crazy about the tire. I felt like the tire was too hard the last time we were there so I wouldn't be surprised if it's still probably way too hard. At least we had some consistency in what we were going to be taking to the race track. That's kind of nice. It just blows me away when we have a tire issue and we ask Goodyear to go build a tire that can withstand the heat and some of the stress that we put on the tire and then NASCAR goes and makes a smaller fuel on top of that. I think it's 'pick one.' Do one thing or the other, don't do both. I'm glad we're going to have our regular fuel cell that we're running now."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 8) - Jeff Gordon's pit crew earned its first win of the season in the weekly Checkers Challenge by spending the least amount of time on pit road during the race in Richmond. The crew spent 201.593 seconds on pit lane. "We made a lot of changes to the crew at the beginning of 2006 and the guys have really worked hard," said pit crew coach Matt Clark. "I'm glad they've received this award and the recognition that goes along with it. We're happy with our recent performance, but we want to continue to improve through the end of the year." Checkers will award an $11,000 prize to Gordon's crew for winning the weekly competition.

Unique Design Featured
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 8) - Jeff Gordon let the gang at Unique Autosports on Long Island, N.Y. take a shot at turning one of his race cars into a street-ready hot rod for the Speed Channel's automotive lifestyle hit "Unique Whips." The episode airs on Wednesday, May 16 at 10pm/eastern as part of the network's weeklong programming lineup in support of the All-Star Challenge at Lowes Motor Speedway. Gordon is the third NASCAR star to work with customizer to the stars Will Castro and the Unique crew, as Tony Stewart's Home Depot-orange Lamborghini and head-turning 1984 Cadillac Brougham hearse and Kevin Harvick's Chevy Trailblazer also received the Unique Whips custom treatment in an earlier episode.

Signs Of Improvement
RICHMOND, VA. (May 7) - The best start to a season that Jeff Gordon has had during his NASCAR career continued with a 4th place finish at Richmond International Raceway. Gordon's microscopic average finish through 10 races is 4th place. That was put to the test at Richmond where he hadn't finished higher than 30th since 2004. He started on the pole and led the first 30 laps before eventual winner Jimmie Johnson took the lead. Gordon reassumed to top spot during pit stops on lap 40. He held the lead until Denny Hamlin passed on lap 127-- that was the final time Gordon would lead the event. He dropped back to 5th at the halfway point. He gained a position on pit road on lap 250, and took 3rd during another pit stop sequence on lap 280. Gordon passed Kyle Busch for 2nd with 97 laps to go, but gave the spot back 25 laps later. Gordon held 3rd through a series of late race caution flags, but eventually lost the spot to Hamlin with 12 laps to go. "We've got to be proud of that," Gordon said. "This has been one of our worst tracks. To come out here in the top five just tells you what kind of improvements we've made with the team. We had great track position and we were able to maintain that. That probably helped us out for the most part. At one time I thought we had the car to beat and then we made some adjustments trying to keep up with the changing conditions of the track and just lost it-- I had my hands full there at the end. I was having a lot of trouble getting in the corner. I don't know if it was in the brakes or something in the chassis but we're going to go back to work and look at them, make sure that whatever it is we make better for the next time we come back here." Johnson's victory was the 7th for Hendrick Motorsports in the past 8 races, as the organization has also won all 4 races where the new-look Chevrolet Impala has been used.

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