Racing In Name Only
SPEEDWAY, IN. (July 28) - - The record books will show Jimmie Johnson scored the victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Decades from now it will be viewed as an impressive accomplishment that Johnson led the most laps, beat the field off pit road with 9 laps to go, and won at the famed track for the second time in the last three years. But for those who watched the debacle known as the Brickyard 400, it was anything but a "race." The tires wore extensively on the racing surface due to the heavier "Car of Tomorrow" race car. To combat blown tires, NASCAR waved the caution flag every 10-12 laps to allow the teams to change tires. In fact, the longest green flag run of the race was a mere 12 laps. The event became a pit road race as the teams came to the pit lane 11 times in front of perhaps the smallest Brickyard 400 crowd of NASCAR's 15-year history at the track. On the final restart, Johnson pulled ahead of Carl Edwards and easily claimed the victory.
Jeff Gordon had a survivable 5th place finish-- exactly where he started. In between caution flags, Gordon was able to move through traffic with relative ease. He took the lead on lap 25 before relinquishing the top spot on pit road. Gordon re-assumed the lead on lap 36 before eventual winner Johnson passed one lap later. Crew chief Steve Letarte opted to change four tires every time Gordon came to pit road. The decision often cost him spots on the racetrack to drivers who opted for only right side tires. He made several charges through traffic, but invariably lost spots during cautions due to the tire strategy. With 30 laps to go, Gordon came onto pit road in 4th place. A four-tire change pushed him back to 14th on the restart, thus ending his slim hopes of a victory. He did manage to work his way up to 8th at the final competition caution with 10 laps to go. Letarte then followed the pack by changing two tires. Gordon restarted 6th and passed Jamie McMurray on the final lap to score his first top-5 on an oval track since Dover in early-June.
INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (July 25) - - The Jeff Gordon Foundation held its 7th annual bowling tournament on July 24 in Indianapolis to benefit Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana's only comprehensive children's hospital with pediatric specialists in every field of medicine and surgery. The tournament featured professional bowlers such as Danny Wiseman, as well as Gordon's NASCAR peers such as Richard Petty, Juan Pablo Montoya, Reed Sorensen, and Ray Evernham, among others.
Fumbling Down The Stretch
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (July 6) - - Jeff Gordon was in the preferred position with 5 laps remaining in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. However, two errors in judgment wound up costing him a shot at his first victory of the season. While leading Kyle Busch, Gordon jumped to the high line believing that Matt Kenseth had a strong enough run to take the lead. Busch assumed the top spot for the final green/white/checkered restart. When the green flag waved, Carl Edwards dove low to pass Gordon. Glancing in his mirror, Gordon moved down the track and misjudged the block. The front of Edwards' car made contact with Gordon's left rear sending the DuPont Chevrolet into a spin, which was eerily similar to Gordon cutting off Sterling Marlin on a restart at the end of the 2002 Daytona 500. Gordon was unofficially credited with a 30th place finish on a night when his finishing position didn't equate to the effort. Gordon started 26th and moved up to 11th when the first caution waved on lap 17. He lost 8 spots on pit road due to a lug nut problem, but rebounded to gain entry into the top-10 on lap 32. Ten laps later he was in the top-5. He remained locked in the lead draft and eventually took the lead with a drafting push from Dale Earnhardt Jr. on lap 79. Gordon remained in front of the field until lap 103. After losing the lead, he stayed in the top-5 draft and re-assumed the lead with 27 laps to go when Busch gave him a drafting push around Earnhardt Jr. Gordon led Busch through a series of restarts until he made the ill-fated move to the high line on lap 155. "I should have stayed on the bottom," Gordon said. "My car was so good on the bottom. I'm probably more mad at myself than anything else." As for the last restart, that was simply late race chaos in session. "Everybody was laying back and trying to get a run on the last restart," Gordon said. "They got the jump on me. I tried to block him. Maybe I came across (Edwards') nose."
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