Master Of The House
SONOMA, CA. (June 28)- - From the time Jeff Gordon hit the road course in Sonoma, California for practice on Friday, he was the driver to beat. He captured the pole position and was fastest in both practice sessions on Saturday. The trend continued on Sunday as Gordon led 92 of 110 laps en route to his third victory of the season. Gordon's cooling system had failed earlier in the race, but he remained focused throughout and conserved enough gas toward the end to easily hold off Jamie McMurray. He lost the lead briefly at the start, and during pit stop cycles. At the outset of the race, he bumped with Rusty Wallace heading into the first corner and allowed Kurt Busch to pass. Gordon made his way around Wallace and passed Busch for the lead on lap two. During the first round of green flag pit stops on lap 35, Gordon lost the race lead to Scott Pruett. However, Gordon passed Pruett off turn seven just two laps later and retook the lead after the cycle of pit stops was completed. Gordon's second and final pit stop came under caution on lap 67. Pruett, who seemed to be the only one capable of running close to Gordon, was boxed in his pit stall and fell to fifth. Gordon beat his competitors off pit road and took the race lead from Casey Mears on lap 73. During the final laps, Gordon drove to keep the lead and to conserve fuel. He shut the engine off on downhill parts of the course during caution flags and stayed in fourth gear at times to avoid burning more fuel than necessary. With under five laps remaining, McMurray closed to within two seconds of the lead but was kept at bay as the laps wound down. "I had to run hard every lap," Gordon said. "Toward the end, not only was the car nearly out of gas, but I was out of gas too. I was conserving a little bit when I got a gap. I'm so beat right now that it's hard for it to sink in. I'm looking to get back to myself and really celebrate this win and realize how special today was." It was his 8th career road course win and fourth win in Sonoma.
The F1 Question Revisited
SOUTH FLORIDA. (June 24)- - Jeff Gordon has made no secret that he enjoys watching Formula One racing and, after a publicity-type practice session in 2003, would love to drive one of those cars again. BMW team owner Frank Williams has said that an American in the international series would spark huge amounts of interest in F1 racing. But can it happen? "We were very impressed with Jeff Gordon-- and don't read anything into this at all-- what he did in just 25 laps around here," Williams said in reference to the 2003 exhibition. "They were on Lap 4, and, of course, he had never driven a single-seater, he's totally unfamiliar with grand prix cars and his biggest problem was holding his head up right under braking. He was just very quick straight away. And that's special." I recognize him as a great, great star. I once watched a race he won, and I had to have my son tell me who won, because it all happened so quick in the last lap I couldn't keep up with it. How do they manage that? He's obviously quite a driver." Though serious discussions to bring Gordon to F1 have never materialized. Williams said Gordon's name is not on the short list of candidates he has compiled to replace Montoya and Ralf Schumacher beginning in 2005. "We've never had a serious discussion," Williams said, adding most of his chats with Gordon about F1 -- including Saturday at Indy -- have been backgrounders. "That's as far as it went. Serious talks at all? Of course not." But what if Williams' three USA-based sponsors-- Hewlett-Packard, Budweiser and FedEx-- prevailed upon him to accelerate the search for a red-blooded American driver? More importantly, what if Gordon asked for a full-fledged Formula One test? "Oh, if he wanted a proper test, a guy of that caliber, we would certainly consider him very seriously," Williams said. "Because to be very blunt, it'd be fantastic publicity for the team. It'd be amazing for us."
Michigan Power Outage
BROOKLYN, MI. (June 21)- - Jeff Gordon came into the DHL 400 at Michigan Speedway looking to close the points gap on Dale Earnhardt Jr after two sub-par finishes in the past three weeks. However, after dominating the race, his hopes were dashed on lap 88 when his engine expired just after a round of green flag pit stops. Gordon started from the pole and pulled out to a comfortable lead before a caution flag for debris on lap 34. After a 14-second pit stop, he remained as the leader. On the restart, he pulled away from the pack and had a comfortable two-second lead. He came to pit road for a pit stop on lap 79 and regained the lead after pit stops cycled through the field. However, he dropped positions on lap 86 before a cloud of smoke trailed his car two laps later. He pulled to the garage with his third DNF of the season. He was credited with a 38th place finish-- the worst Michigan finish of his career. "We blew up, which is a rare occasion for Hendrick Motorsports," Gordon said. "We're making such great power these days, but we have the reliability as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't the case today. You never blow up when you're running 30th with no problems at Charlotte," Gordon said with a small smile. It's always when you're leading or running up front with a shot at the lead. We certainly had a great effort going today. You can't control those things." It was his third finish of 30th or worse in the last four races. "I'm definitely not happy with the inconsistency," Gordon said. "And it's not necessarily inconsistency in the team. It's just inconsistency in the finishes. All we can do is keep fighting and keep doing what we're doing and hope that things come around for us. When you've got a car and performance like we had today, it certainly makes my job a whole lot easier. We'll just do all we can to bounce back next week. We've got great tracks coming up. We know this is going to be a disappointing day, and something we're going to have to bounce back with and get some consistency going. Next week at Sonoma is a perfect opportunity for us to do that."
ALTON, VA. (June 18)- - Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers visited Virginia International Raceway on Tuesday, June 15 for a day of testing in preparation for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 in Sonoma, California on June 27. The 3-mile road course circuit in Alton contains elements of both Sonoma and Watkins Glen and allows the Nextel Cup teams to test without burning an official test session. Gordon is the winningest road course driver in NASCAR history having scored seven wins at Sonoma and Watkins Glen-- though his most recent victory at Sonoma came in June 2000. Last year Gordon finished a close second after a spirited late race battle with eventual winner Robby Gordon.
Crazy Daze At Pocono
BLAKESLEE, PA. (June 12)- - "A crazy day" was how Jeff Gordon described it. For the second consecutive week, a NASCAR scoring error led to chaos and an extended caution period. On lap 154 of the Pocono 500, pit road was mistakenly opened which allowed the field to pit behind race leader Jimmie Johnson. Johnson had to pit later in the caution period and fell out of the top-ten. After leading the most laps, the Lowe's Chevrolet driver would not be denied. He worked his way through race traffic and passed Jeremy Mayfield for the lead on lap 173. He held off Mayfield on a series of late race restarts to win his third race of the season and ninth of his career. Bobby Labonte, who had earlier brought out a caution for a loose oil line, finished third while Jeff Gordon made a late race charge to finish fourth. After back-to-back sub-30th place finishes, Gordon rebounded with a solid top-five finish at Pocono Raceway after an eventful day. Gordon started sixth and worked his way up to second place before the first round of pit stops on lap 35. Gordon ran out of gas coming onto pit road, and wound up third on the track. As the laps progressed, he worked his way up to the lead on lap 72. A missed lug nut during a pit stop on lap 88 forced Gordon to make an unscheduled stop that dropped him to 18th position. The DuPont Chevrolet got stronger as the fuel burned off and Gordon moved into the top-ten on lap 106. After passing Terry Labonte and Greg Biffle, he gained entry into the top-five on lap 119. Under caution on lap 124, Gordon came onto pit road to top off on fuel and slipped to 23rd. On the restart, the car was clearly hooked up as Gordon moved up to 15th within three laps. Four laps later he was back in the top-ten. Due to others stopping to top off on fuel during the chaotic caution period on lap 155, Gordon restarted in second place. With 38 laps to go, he took the race lead from Kasey Kahne. The caution waved when Rusty Wallace and Michael Waltrip wrecked in turn two. Gordon came onto pit road and restarted 17th with 28 laps to go. Gordon drove the car where he needed and picked up ten spots in the following 15 laps. He restarted in 8th with 8 laps to go after a brief caution period. He passed Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Kurt Busch to move up to fifth spot. He moved up to fourth when Dale Jarrett's engine blew. The final caution came out for Jeff Burton's engine with four laps to go. The race ended under caution as the fans voiced their displeasure with a caution flag finish. "I'm frustrated with a couple of things that happened to us," Gordon said. "We caused a few issues that we went to the back. We had such an awesome race car. I want to congratulate Jimmie Johnson. He probably had one of the best race cars and deserved to win this thing. I want to apologize to the fans. That was absolutely uncalled for today to run that many laps under caution and all the disputes on pit road. I'm embarrassed. I want to apologize to them for that."
UYRS Motorsports Challenge
PHILADELPHIA, PA. (June 10)- - Jeff Gordon served as the Grand Marshal and Master of Ceremonies at the Urban Youth Racing School "Race That Counts" motorsports challenge on June 10. The UYRS, located in Philadelphia, is a nonprofit educational organization committed to making diversity, educational and youth issues a national priority. UYRS provides boys and girls ages 8-18 the opportunity to experience racing firsthand. The program is funded entirely through sponsorship and in-kind donations and has been instrumental in educating millions of young people through their motorsports programs and youth initiatives. The June 10 motorsports challenge took place at Arnold's Go-Kart Center in Oaks, Pennsylvania. Entertainers and professional drivers paired off into teams for the ultimate go-kart challenge.
TV Commercial Debuts
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (June 9)- - Get ready for a regular dose of the new Nextel television commercials featuring NASCAR drivers over the summer. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth will be featured in separate Nextel commercials which debuted during the Coca-Cola 600 on FOX. The Gordon commercial, titled "Highway Star," puts him in a situation that most anyone identify with-- running out of fuel on the highway. Stranded, Gordon has to use the walkie-talkie service on his phone to instantly contact 'Rooster,' the gas man for Gordon's #24 team. The Kenseth commercial, titled "Robot," illustrates that the driver and his crew work together like a well-oiled machine. This is demonstrated by their quick response to an "emergency" during a Victory Lane celebration. The champagne spray begins to make Kenseth short-circuit. The crew then uses the walkie-talkie service to communicate with other team members who pull another 'Kenseth' out of a truck full of 'Kenseths' and return him to the Victory Lane festivities. Filming for both commercials took place in the Los Angeles area during a one-week period in April. Gordon and Kenseth did their own stunts using no doubles or stand-ins. Gordon's "Highway Star" spot was shot on location on Highway 210, which producers closed on one side for the shoot.
SMYRNA, DE. (June 7)- - After finishing a disappointing 30th at Charlotte, Jeff Gordon came to Dover International Speedway for the MBNA 400 looking for a strong rebound. His hopes were temporarily answered as the DuPont Chevrolet was strong from the outset. However, his day deteroriated rapidly just after the halfway point of the race. While running a respectable fifth, he cut a right front tire and slammed the turn two wall. He brought the car behind the wall with heavy damage on the right front. Repairs were forsaken and Gordon was credited with a 36th place finish, his second DNF of the season. "I'm disappointed, we didn't need this," Gordon said. "We needed a good finish and we certainly had a top-five ahead of us. But I was so tight and was running hard trying to find a line where I could get the car to turn. I was doing everything I could-- using the brake, using the high line, the bottom line. It doesn't surprise me that it blew." Gordon started 13th and made his way up to 7th by lap 30. Following a pit stop, he restarted in 12th due to a number of cars staying on the track. He patiently made his way through traffic and back into the top-ten on lap 47 with a pass on Ryan Newman. Ten laps later he passed Michael Waltrip for fourth, and took third position from Matt Kenseth on lap 60. However, Newman passed Gordon on lap 95 to take third before caution flag pit stops on lap 108. Gordon restarted in fourth and took third from Newman just after racing resumed. Though on the long green flag run, he experienced a tight handling condition and slipped to fourth after Kasey Kahne passed on lap 147. During pit stops on lap 160 after Joe Nemechek wrecked on the frontstretch, Gordon exited pit road in eighth position. He steadily gained positions and was running sixth at the halfway point of the event. He moved into the top-five a few laps later, though he was again hampered by understeer in the corners. The handling condition proved to be his downfall as he blew a right front tire in turn two and slammed the wall. With heavy damage on the right front, Gordon pulled the car into the garage area. It was Gordon's second consecutive sub-30th place finish as he fell to fifth in the series points standings, trailing leader Dale Earnhardt Jr by 254 points. Despite the rush for energy-absorbing walls at NASCAR tracks, Dover International Speedway has not installed the technology. "I'm not sure why they don't have soft walls here," Gordon said. "I'm definitely in favor of them right now."
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