July 2006 Random News

In Stride For Summer
EQUINUNK, PA. (July 24)- - Jeff Gordon rebounded from a disasterous visit to Pocono Raceway in June with a solid third place effort in the Pennsylvania 500. The race was essentially for second place as Denny Hamlin once again dominated on the 2.5-mile track to capture his second victory of the season. Gordon started fifth but slipped back to eighth on the outside line by the end of the lap 2. He rebounded to move up to fourth by the time the competition caution came on lap 20. However, a lug nut problem on the right rear sent Gordon back to 14th. He regained the track position by staying on the track during a caution on lap 31. He immediately dropped back on the restart and settled into 6th place. After a green flag pit stop on lap 61, Gordon stayed on the track when the caution waved on lap 65. That allowed him to lead the only 3 laps he would pace the field all day. He lost the lead right after the green flag waved as Ryan Newman, Hamlin, Jeff Burton, and Kevin Harvick all passed Gordon. In the mid-stages of the race he battled for 7th with Jimmie Johnson before a strong pit stop under green on lap 125 allowed him to cycle up to 4th. A caution on lap 149 put Gordon back into the same pit stop sequence as the leaders. He came off pit road in 5th, and another strong pit stop under green on lap 174 put him in 2nd place when the field cycled through. The final restart on lap 184 saw Hamlin pull away from Gordon. Two laps later, Gordon lost the runner-up spot to Kurt Busch. He easily held off Brian Vickers for 3rd place, and his best finish at Pocono since June 2001. "We didn't need that last caution," Gordon said. "Kurt was a little better than me and I knew Denny was as well. I tried to hold Kurt off but his car was a little better than mine. We were really a 3rd place car for a good part of the day. Steve Letarte did a fantastic job with the strategy of the pit stops. We had some trouble with a lug nut hanging up early in the race. We came from behind a little bit and to come up to 3rd I couldn't be happier. I still don't think we've reached our full potential. I felt like we were going to hit on things during the summer, and we have." Gordon has an opportunity at Indianapolis to erase an inconsistent past by putting together back-to-back top-5 finishes for the first time since March.

Cold Day In July
LOUDON, N.H. (July 16)- - Jeff Gordon's recent inconsistent history held up in the Lenox 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway with a 15th place finish. In Gordon's last 10 races at the one-mile track, he's posted just two finishes higher than 14th. He is tied for 9th in the series standings, though he is far from comfortably in the 'chase for the championship.' Gordon started 7th at Loudon and moved into the top-five by lap 45. He remained there until a restart on lap 96. After Ryan Newman spun up the track, Kasey Kahne was forced to slam the brakes resulting in a chain reaction with Gordon making contact with the rear of Kahne's car. Gordon pitted for repairs and restarted in 28th position. He steadily worked his way through race traffic and entered the top-15 on lap 129. At the halfway point, Gordon had moved back into the top-10. However, after pitting under the green flag on lap 181, the caution flag waved a few laps later which trapped Gordon on the tail end of the lead lap. Though he eventually regained the lap on an ensuing caution on lap 199, he restarted from deep in the field. On lap 215, Gordon stayed on the track while nearly all the cars on the lead lap pitted under caution. He moved up to 5th on lap 218, but came in for four tires on lap 234. He restarted in 19th on lap 238 and made his way back to 14th with 40 laps to go. Contact with Robby Gordon sent him to pit road under caution with 32 laps remaining. He came across the line in 15th to end a disappointing afternoon in New England. "We didn't have the best car today," Gordon said. "We had track position and that was maintaining a decent run there early in the race. And then we missed a couple of wrecks and had to come in and make a few adjustments and lost track position. We surprisingly fought our way back up to the top-10 there at one time. But we just didn't have it for them to keep going forward there at the end. We'll go to Pocono and hope for better results than we had there last time."

Jeff Wins At Chicagoland
JOLIET, ILL. (July 10)- - The curse of Chicago is officially over. Jeff Gordon captured the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway for his first career win at the track. He proved on a sunny Chicago afternoon that his recent improvements on 1.5 mile tracks could continue. Gordon started 13th and was able to drive up through the field steadily and take the lead after the first round of green-flag pit stops on lap 62. A four-second gas-and-go on a lap 66 caution put Gordon back to 9th, but he moved up through the lapped traffic and cars that stayed out. As the race progressed, Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte made very small adjustments—- sometimes as little as a quarter pound of air pressure in one tire-— and the car continued to be run well, especially on long runs. The last third of the race was marked by a number of cautions, from which Gordon emerged in the top seven and was able to work his way back near the lead. When the caution came out with 67 laps to go, Letarte warned Gordon to save gas because they were two laps short, and Gordon complied, slightly slowing his pursuit of race leader Matt Kenseth to conserve fuel. A series of late cautions gave Gordon a number of chances to try to pass Kenseth, but Kenseth's restarts kept him in the lead and Gordon settled into second. With 15 laps to go, Gordon began whittling the lead down. At lap 264 he was on Kenseth's bumper, which necessitated a block. Kenseth slowed down going into turn 1 with a lapped car on the outside. Gordon, tailing him closely, got into his rear bumper and spun Kenseth out. A furious Kenseth called for a black flag on Gordon for rough driving, but NASCAR saw it as a racing incident. Gordon led the field to the restart on lap 267 and held on to win his 75th career race and his first on an intermediate track since Atlanta in 2003. There was just enough fuel left in the car for a post-race burnout punctuated by a shower of beer bottles from the stands. In Victory Lane, Gordon was unrepentant. "No doubt on the long run we had the best car," he said. "It just feels so good to get a victory on a mile and a half and this was just an awesome, awesome day for us. Nothing should take away from how good this racecar was today and how hard these guys fought and all the work they put in to get the car this good. We're hungry, and it's obvious that we want to get in that Chase and be a factor when we get in it."

Tradin' Paint... For Real
JOLIET, ILL. (July 10)- - Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya participated in a memorable swap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in June 2003. Gordon took a few laps in Montoya's Formula One car on the road course while Montoya took Gordon's stock car through a few circuits. The event was dubbed "Tradin' Paint" by the public relations staff at the speedway. Starting in 2007, Gordon and Montoya will have the opportunity to trade paint on the racetracks around the country. Montoya will take over the #42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing next year. "It's a great thing for the sport to have such a world-class driver want to compete," Gordon said. "I welcome him and respect him for accepting the challenge."

Pocket Full Of Kryptonite
By The Commish
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 2)- - It was one step forward, two steps back for Jeff Gordon on Saturday night in the Pepsi 400. Coming off an impressive victory last week and Sonoma and a productive test at the Milwaukee Mile, Gordon hoped to build on the momentum and score the 21st back-to-back victory in his career. On a hot and muggy July night, Gordon started fourth in a car sporting the colors of the movie "Superman Returns." Early in the race Gordon showed his strength, moving up to lead by lap 14 and holding the lead through an early caution for contact between Jeff Burton and Casey Mears. Tony Stewart claimed the lead from Gordon on lap 33 as Gordon's car began to tighten up, while Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson also showed strength. Green flag pit stops beginning on lap 41 shuffled the front pack somewhat, leaving Gordon at the back of the top 10, where he continued for the next thirty laps. Gordon regained the lead at lap 90 under yellow after a pit stop, exchanging it several times in the next ten laps with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Hendrick teammates before settling in again in fourth as Brian Vickers took the lead. Gordon made his last scheduled pit stop on lap 126 and had a look at the lead, but lacked the drafting help to outrun Stewart and the surprisingly strong Roush contingent of Kenseth, Mark Martin, and Greg Biffle. As the laps wound down, rough driving intensified, with Gordon complaining at one point about Earnhardt's bump-drafting into the corners. Still, Gordon kept pace with the leaders, never falling more than three seconds behind, and he was well placed for a late run. Caution came out on lap 148 when Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte got together, ending Labonte's night and seriously damaging the 48 car. Gordon's crew changed four tires and he appeared poised to make a run at Stewart for the win. However, he was squeezed into the outside wall on lap 154, when J.J. Yeley became aero-loose, collected Greg Biffle and Mark Martin, and shattered Gordon's brake rotors, ending his night. Gordon finished 40th, and recorded his 4th DNF of the season. Stewart went on to win the race for the second consecutive season. "There were so many guys out there and I want to bad-mouth every one of them, but I'm not going to," Gordon said. "If I don't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all." The finish dropped Gordon to 12th in the points, on the outside looking in at the chase for championship.

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