Straddling The Fence
BLAKESLEE, PA. (July 25)- - As time ticks away on Jeff Gordon's chances to qualify for the 'chase for the championship.' his summer malaise seemed to continue in the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. While Gordon showed glimpses of racing within the top-10, the end result was a 13th place finish-- one where Gordon feels that points were surely left on the table. Gordon started 21st and used a two-tire pit stop to move up to 7th on lap 17. He slipped back to 10th by lap 44, but two tires was a worthwhile gamble for track position. Gordon caught a bad break on lap 50 when the caution flag waved while he was on pit road for a green flag pit stop. He restarted in 26th place on the tail end of the lead lap. A caution for debris on lap 70 put Gordon back in touch with the race leaders. He steadily worked through race traffic and was running 18th at the halfway point of the event. He moved into the top-15 on lap 133, and was running 10th on lap 139 when Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman made contact. Gordon took 8th before the caution waved. A two-tire change followed and he restarted in 11th on lap 143. The high water mark would be 7th place on lap 154. He dropped to 10th on lap 160 before a caution period. With 32 laps to go, he restarted in 15th and moved to 12th just four laps later. He briefly entered the top-10 with 18 to go, but began losing position while battling a loose handling car. Gordon slipped to 14th with 16 to go before he got into Mike Wallace on the backstretch to bring out the caution. Gordon came onto pit road for four tires, which turned into an extended pit stop. He restarted 23rd with 8 laps remaining and was able to work his way up to 13th at the finish.
NEW YORK, N.Y. (July 22)- - Jeff Gordon walked north up Broadway, briskly, wearing a Yankees cap, sunglasses, blue jeans, a white t-shirt and sandals. No one in the greatest city in the world recognized him, not a single double-take, which is exactly what he wanted. On Wednesday afternoon, Gordon was pounding the pavement in New York City's Columbus Circle near the Time Warner Center, alone with his thoughts and carrying a shopping bag, trying to get as far away as possible from NASCAR for a few days. "I'm just spending a couple of days in the city," Gordon said. "I'll be doing better when we get things turned around." (CNN)
Deja Vu All Over Again
LOUDON, N.H. (July 18)- - And the hits just keep on comin'. On a day when it looked like Jeff Gordon would make some headway in the series points standings with a top-10 finish, disaster struck in the closing laps of the New England 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire. Gordon lost the brakes in the DuPont Chevrolet with just 12 laps remaining, which relegated him to a 25th place finish. Gordon started the day from 21st position but said during the weekend the car was better in race trim-- and he was right. He worked his way through race traffic on the single groove track and moved up to 15th by lap 25. He came onto pit road in 12th on lap 58 and departed in 10th. He remained in the top-ten for the balance of the race until the final few laps. On the restart, he passed Elliott Sadler and Rusty Wallace and was up to 5th by lap 80. The high-water mark came on lap 122 when he passed Greg Biffle for third place. However, that was short-lived as Biffle got around Gordon a few laps later. The final pit stop of the race came with 72 laps to go. Gordon lost four positions after the air gun jammed on the left rear tire. Gordon steadily made his way around lapped traffic and began regaining the positions. He moved up to 7th on lap 248 with a pass on Brian Vickers, and passed Jimmie Johnson for 6th place on l ap 255. In the closing laps he closed in on Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle as a top-five finish seemed possible. However, on lap 288 Gordon reported that his brake pedal went straight to the floor as he entered turn one. He slipped from 6th to 12th by lap 290. Six laps later, race leader Tony Stewart went by to put him a lap down. He finished 25th and remains 15th in the series point standings. With just seven races remaining before the championship cutoff, Gordon is 538 points behind. More importantly, he's 120 points out of 10th position in the standings-- the final transfer spot for the 'chase.' "We had a great car and great pit stops up until that last one, but the brakes are what really got us," Gordon said. "I was pumping them all day long so we overheated them a little bit earlier in the race. But I wasn't expecting to have a problem with the brakes. Right there when the opportunity presented itself [with Busch and Biffle], I thought we were going to get both of them. All of a sudden the pedal just went to the floor. We were done." It was the seventh time in the last nine races where Gordon has finished 25th or lower. At the front of the field, Tony Stewart led 230 of the 300 laps en route to his third victory in the last four races.
Vote Of Confidence
LOUDON, N.H. (July 16)- - In the midst of one of the worst stretches of his professional racing career, Jeff Gordon is not panicking about his plight. Though he's 15th in the standings and more than 100 points out of a spot in the "chase for the championship," Gordon said speculation about crew chief Robbie Loomis' future is just that-- speculation. "There is not going to be any other crew chief with me than Robbie Loomis," Gordon said. "He's the guy. As long as he wants to be the crew chief, he's going to be the crew chief." Gordon's recent struggles have raised questions about Loomis' job stability. Gordon maintains the problem isn't Loomis or his team. He cites lack of testing preparation as the primary culprit. The DuPont team has scheduled test sessions for next week in Indianapolis and early August in Michigan. "We brought (Loomis) here for a reason, and there has never been one time when I've doubted Robbie," Gordon said. "There's been times I've doubted myself, but I know we've got the right people in place, the right resources we need. It really is disappointing to me that so much pressure is put on the crew chief, because they usually are the first to go. They usually are the first to get blame, but not within our team. It's usually the media and the fans that will focus on that. The problem is not any one person and there won't be any changes made."
Windy City Indeed
Law Of Diminishing Returns
JOLIET, IL. (July 11)- - Jeff Gordon's season is officially on life support after a 33rd place finish in the USG 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Gordon started 15th but was unable to handle the DuPont Chevrolet to his liking during the race. At the midpoint of the race he dropped to 20th place. He made up some ground during pit stops but quickly lost those positions on the track. Crew chief Robbie Loomis gambled with two tires during a pit stop on lap 192. However, the gamble failed as Gordon dropped like a rock in Lake Michigan. He fell to 12th on lap 194 and slid to 28th on lap 210. He gained a few spots on a late race pit stop with 27 laps to go and was running 21st in the closing stages. With 17 laps to go, Mike Bliss pushed up the track in turn one and collected Gordon. The four-time champion spun backwards and made hard contact on the driver's side with the outside wall. He exited the car knowing he would be saddled with his sixth finish of 30th or worse in the past eight races. He dropped to 15th in the points standings, 502 points behind Jimmie Johnson-- and 102 out of a position in the "chase for the championship" which begins sooner rather than later after the Richmond race in mid-September. "There was nowhere I could go," Gordon said. "I don't know what's going on. We've been struggling really bad. It's very frustrating. When we get up to the front, hopefully that kind of stuff won't happen."
JOLIET, IL. (July 10)- - In his six races since the infamous "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" episode during the seventh-inning stretch of a Chicago Cubs game in mid-May, Jeff Gordon has dropped from third to 13th in the point standings. His best finish is seventh, and four times, he has placed 30th or worse. "I don't know if that's exactly why he's had bad luck, but the black cloud found him at 'Wrigley Stadium' as he called it," said teammate Jimmie Johnson. Actually, the cloud found Gordon the previous week, when he placed 39th at Richmond. "We feel like we've got that behind us," Gordon said. "We've had a lot of fun laughing about it. I expected to come back here and hear some more comments about it but if it got some attention that helped promote the race, that's a good things, that's what we're there to do." Those additional comments came from Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, who served as the Grand Marshal for Sunday's race at Chicagoland Speedway. Sandberg made the "Gentleman, start your engines" call and lead the pace car around the track. Sandberg joked with Gordon about the driver's meltdown at Wrigley Field two months ago. "I told him he's about as welcome back there as [Steve] Bartman," Sandberg said. "Actually, maybe less so. At least a lot of people feel bad for Bartman. In seriousness, it probably could have happened to anyone. Jeff's able to laugh about it, which is good."
Windy City Indeed
The Battle For Everything
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 3)- - While Tony Stewart thoroughly dominated the Pepsi 400 by leading 151 of 160 laps en route to the win, Jeff Gordon was locked in a fierce battle all night to turn his season around. After finishing 30th or worse in five of the last six races, Gordon needed a solid finish at Daytona International Speedway to regain some of the lost ground in the series points standings. After almost a three-hour rain delay, Gordon started 15th and moved up to 5th in the first 35 laps. However, a loose handling condition hindered his efforts on longer runs. As Gordon came onto pit road on lap 36 with Jamie McMurray right behind him, Scott Riggs missed the hand signals and ignited a multi-car wreck that eliminated Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch. Gordon dropped to 19th by lap 60 struggling with the handling, though he made up ground after restarts as the Pepsi Chevrolet was solid on short runs. During the night Gordon was shuffled out of the draft several times and dropped as far back as 29th with 50 laps to go. Gordon made up some ground, but was running 19th with 35 laps to go. A melee involving Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go allowed Gordon to restart in 12th place. On the final restart he gained some positions on the high line and caught a draft from Jimmie Johnson to move up to 7th at the finish. It is Gordon's highest finish since a runner-up finish at Darlington in early May. Gordon moved up to 13th in the points standings, though he's now within the 400-point window to make the "chase for the championship" as he trails by 396. "Short runs were our friends tonight," Gordon said. "We had such a fast race car and didn't have the rear grip we needed. Everything we did to the car in corners killed it down the straightaways. But we didn't go down without a fight." Despite moving into safe territory of the 400-point cutoff, Gordon feels points position will ultimately matter. "The 400 [point gap] doesn't mean anything," Gordon said. "It's that top-10 that means something because I don't think the top-10 will be within 400 points."
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