Mastery At Work
SONOMA, CA. (June 26)- - There are times in sport when you have the opportunity to watch mastery at work. A week that began with Dwyane Wade leading the Miami Heat to the NBA championship ended with Jeff Gordon in victory lane on a road course for the ninth time in his career. Both athletes stepped up their performance and showed why they're simply unbeatable when they're on their game. Gordon's first win of the year and 74th of his career came after he passed Terry Labonte for the lead with 22 laps to go. The victory snapped a 20-race winless stretch for Gordon. He started 11th, but slipped to 12th after dodging Jamie McMurray's spin on the first lap. Gordon began his arduous trip forward by passing Matt Kenseth and Joe Nemechek on lap 4. Two laps later he got around Greg Biffle, and took 8th place from Kasey Kahne on lap 7. Gordon's rate of passing cars slowed, but he eventually moved up to 6th following green flag pit stops on lap 31. He entered the top-five by passing Mark Martin on lap 38 before the first full-course caution on lap 39. On the restart, Gordon took off and passed Biffle, Kurt Busch, and Kevin Harvick within two laps to take the runner-up spot. He took the lead from Ryan Newman on lap 48 and held the top spot until he pitted on lap 69. He wound up second to Labonte following pit stops, but reeled in the veteran and took the lead on lap 88. He held off Labonte over the final stages and easily finished ahead of Newman to claim the win. "I didn't know if we were ever going to win another one," Gordon said. "It's a very special weekend for me and this raceteam to get back to victory lane. I knew this team was something special but we haven't had a chance to really show it. They gave me such an awesome race car that I had to get them this win. If we didn't win with this car then we can't ever win. We weren't the best all day, but we got that track position and it was great." With the win, Gordon re-entered the top-10 in the series standings by moving up to 8th in points.
Gordon also announced that he is engaged to be married to his longtime girlfriend Ingrid Vandebosch. A wedding date has not been set.
Ingrained In Cement
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (June 23)- - Jeff Gordon will be among the drivers who will be inducted into the new Daytona 500 Champion's Walk of Fame on the grounds of Daytona USA. Winning drivers of the Daytona 500 since 1996, the first year of operation for Daytona USA, will have their hands, right foot and signature immortalized in cement in a special ceremony inside the 60,000-square foot attraction on Friday, June 30 at 11am. Gordon will join Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Dale Jarrett, Ward Burton and Michael Waltrip for the ceremony. There will be a plaque in the Walk of Fame honoring the late Dale Earnhardt and his 1998 Daytona 500 victory. Following the Pepsi 400 Weekend, race fans will be able to mill around the outside of Daytona USA gazing down at the 3x3 cement blocks that showcase the Daytona 500 champions in the cement.
Just A Local Hero
SONOMA, CA. (June 26)- - Jeff Gordon was inducted into the Wall of Fame at Infineon Raceway on Friday. Gordon, a native of nearby Vallejo, has mastered the road course during his career. He holds the record for career NASCAR Cup wins at Infineon Raceway with five, including three consecutive from 1998-2000. He holds the record at Infineon Raceway for career earnings, laps led, qualifying speed, pole positions, and most laps led by a race winner. Suffice to say, he's done it all in Northern California. Track owner Bruton Smith was also inducted, providing a monument to his own self-importance. The pair joined inaugural inductees Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, who were honored in 2005.
Marked Improvement In Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI. (June 19)- - If the 3M 400 at Michigan International Speedway could be used as a measuring stick on Jeff Gordon's progress, the results seem promising for the road ahead-- and that road is littered with downforce track similar to Michigan. Gordon led the most laps and ran in the top-10 for the balance of the rain-shortened race, which was won by Kasey Kahne after a downpour on lap 128 forced the early ending. Gordon started on the outside of the front row and took the lead from Kahne on the second lap. He held the top spot until pit stops on lap 25 when several drivers elected to stay on the track. Gordon moved from 12th to 8th by lap 30 and cycled up to the runner-up position when several drivers ahead of him pitted under caution on lap 36. On the restart, he once again passed Kahne for the lead. He swapped the top spot briefly with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 60, but fell to 8th when the team elected to change four tires under caution on lap 68. From there, Gordon was unable to repeat his earlier progress and held 8th spot until lap 88 when he passed Reed Sorensen. At the halfway mark he got around Brian Vickers to take 6th, but a debris caution on lap 110 brought the field to pit road. With the threat of heavy rain in the area, Gordon's team elected to change four tires and sent him off pit road in 8th place. He held the same position when the race was red flagged and eventually called a few laps later. "This is definitely a step up," Gordon said. "I feel the things that we've been working on that this would be a track that we would really be able to see if it's paying off for us. Obviously it has been paying off. We still have some more to learn. I feel like Kahne was the best car. He came back and ended up winning the race but I feel like we were a top-five car. Unfortunately we weren't in the top five but we were close to it. Obviously we fell back there to eighth and some guys did some different pit strategies. We stayed on four tires all day and that did get us a little bit on the short-term race and short distances in the rain." With the 8th place finish, Gordon remained 11th in the series standings.
Testing For The Road Ahead
BROOKLYN, MI. (June 16)- - Jeff Gordon recently tested at the Virginia International Raceway road course in preparation for the race in Sonoma, California next weekend. Gordon is the all-time NASCAR leader with 8 career road course victories. With NASCAR limiting testing at tracks on the schedule, Gordon's team has been resourceful in finding alternate venues. Following the Sonoma race, he'll make a stop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a test session at the famed Milwaukee Mile. Gordon will be joined by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates at the two-day test session on June 27-28. The flat one-mile track has similar characteristics to Pocono Raceway, Martinsville Raceway, and New Hampshire International Speedway. Fans with ticket stubs from the track's Truck or Busch race the previous weekend will be admitted for free to the test session. The session is expected to include Chip Ganassi Racing, Evernham Motorsports and Penske Racing South.
From Bad To Worse
EQUINUNK, PA. (June 12)- - With 10 laps to go in the Pocono 500, Jeff Gordon appeared on his way to an unsatisfying 17th place finish. Gordon battled handling issues in race traffic, as well as a miscue on pit road that left him mired in the middle of the pack for the balance of the race at Pocono Raceway. However, as the laps wound down, Gordon's day would day a dramatic turn when a brake rotor broke as he entered the fastest part of the track. Hitting 200 miles per hour entering turn one without brakes, Gordon turned hard left and tried to spin his car through the infield grass. However, the momentum of the spin thrust him back onto the racetrack and into the turn one wall. The angle of the hit put the brunt of the force on the driver's side of the car. Gordon emerged from the wreckage unscathed with the exception of a headache that had probably been building throughout the day. "I've either got a really hard head or those guys at Hendrick Motorsports just build an awesome race car because that was one of the hardest hits I've ever taken," Gordon said. "I think we broke a right front brake rotor. That's probably the worst thing you could ever ask for in a race car is to have the brakes go out going into turn 1 at Pocono. Between the soft walls and the seat and every safety device we had in there, I never got knocked out. I was surprisingly feeling pretty good other than just a bit of a headache. It's unfortunate. We lost track position. I had a pretty good car at the beginning but lost track position and couldn't get it back." He was credited with a 34th place finish and his second DNF in the last 3 races.
Just A Local Hero
SONOMA, CA. (June 8)- - Jeff Gordon will be inducted into the Wall of Fame at Infineon Raceway when the series head to the winding road course in late June. Gordon, a native of nearby Vallejo, has mastered the road course during his career. He holds the record for career NASCAR Cup wins at Infineon Raceway with four, including three consecutive from 1998-2000. "I love racing on road courses and we've had a lot of success there," Gordon said. "It's an honor to be inducted into the Wall of Fame, especially at a track where we have a tremendous amount of support from fans, friends and family." Gordon holds the record at Infineon Raceway for career earnings, laps led, qualifying speed, pole positions, and most laps led by a race winner. Suffice to say, he's done it all in Northern California. Track owner Bruton Smith will also be inducted, providing a monument to his own self-importance. The pair will join inaugural inductees Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, who were honored in 2005. The ceremony will take place on Friday, June 23, at 11am in the Winner's Circle, which is adjacent to the main grandstand in the paddock. Race fans are invited to the ceremony honoring both men. The Wall of Fame is located behind the main grandstand and will be open to the public during race weekend.
Upholding The Status Quo
DOVER, DE. (June 4)- - Jeff Gordon had hoped for a bounce-back performance at Dover International Speedway after posting a disappointing 36th place finish one week ago. What he got was a mixed bag: a strong early race performance followed by a complete drop off the table. Gordon started 3rd and took the lead on pit road during caution flag stops on lap 37. He held the top spot through another round of pit stops, but chassis changes to the car hindered his efforts. Gordon dropped the lead to eventual winner Matt Kenseth on a restart on lap 122. From there it became a freefall as he slipped to 7th within 15 laps. The car did respond on longer runs, as evidenced by Gordon moving up to 5th on lap 210 following green flag pit stops. But Gordon again faded to 7th before a caution flag on lap 262. He held the position for most of the next 100 laps. On a restart with 73 laps to go, he fell from 8th to 10th. He came to pit road during the next caution flag and restarted in 13th with 52 laps to go. He fell as low as 14th, but rallied back in the closing stages to finish 12th. "We were very frustrated with that finish," Gordon said. "I really thought the way we took off at the beginning of the race that we were going to be good all day long. I don't really have an explanation for it. We lost the handle on it, got loose there one time and went backwards and lost track position and never could get it back. I was just way too loose on the short runs. It got a little bit tight over the long runs. It was more the short runs where we were in trouble." It was the kind of day where Gordon could take positive signs, such as leading more than 80 laps. But, in racing, the end result is what counts. And one top-10 finish in the last five races doesn't count for much as Gordon fell to 9th in the points standings.
Return On Investment
WILMINGTON, DE. (June 2)- - Jeff Gordon made his annual visit to DuPont Co. in Wilmington, Delaware on June 1. Gordon's visit to the headquarters of his corporate sponsor has become an annual tradition in the First State. He signed autographs and posed for pictures with more than 300 DuPont employees during the afternoon at Barley Mill Plaza. Dealing with sponsor obligations is nothing new for Gordon, whose partnership with DuPont goes back to 1992. "It's something you can't plan for and something you don't know how to prepare for," Gordon said of sponsor committments. "Really, the first two, three years, I was overwhelmed with it. There's more pressure on you, more media attention and more criticism. You're making more money and there are just a lot of things you have to get used to."
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