Hardly On Terra Firma
BRISTOL, TN. (August 28)- - While Jeff Gordon moved up to 10th in the series standings after Saturday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway, he still has two more races to get through before officially qualifying for a shot at the championship. "I'm still concerned," Gordon said. "The way our season has gone, no matter how good we're running or how bad, you never know what's going to happen. This was a night we wanted and needed to put together." A sixth-place finish at Bristol pushed Gordon into the top-10 in the standings for the first time since mid-June. "All in all a great night," Gordon said after the race. "Good points night, so I'm real happy with that. We just fought through a typical Bristol night where sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don't. I made some bad calls, asked for some adjustments in the pits thinking it would free it up some in the middle and all it did was make us real loose off. But, man, we were coming there at the end."
Window Of Opportunity
BRISTOL, TN. (August 28)- - Jeff Gordon's best finish in nearly four months helped thrust him up to 10th in the points standings and into a position to qualify for the season-ending 'chase for the championship,' but just barely. Gordon's 6th place finish in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway came after a night of battling handling and traffic issues on the tight half-mile. He started on the outside of the front row and took the lead on pit road on lap 68. However, polesitter Matt Kenseth passed on lap 97. Kenseth would go on to lead 415 of the 500 laps en route to the victory. Gordon ran in the top-five for the first 200 laps. He dodged trouble on the track, which is a hallmark of racing at Bristol. Gordon was caught on the outside line and dropped from seventh to ninth within two laps. He asked for a chassis adjustment under caution resulted in Gordon slipping to 16th just after the halfway point. The call proved to be disasterous as he lost grip and fell to 23rd by lap 275. A well-timed caution on lap 301 allowed the DuPont team to adjust the handling. Gordon restarted in 19th and made his way forward, in the process engaging in a paint-swapping duel with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Brian Vickers. He made his way to 15th on lap 365, and to 12th on lap 390. With 50 laps remaining and Kenseth securely in front of the field, Gordon quietly entered the top-10. He passed Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler in the closing stages to move up to 6th. Combined with Jamie McMurray's late pit stop for a flat tire, Gordon is in position to qualify for the 'chase.'
Small Gains At Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI. (August 22)- - The uphill struggle continues for Jeff Gordon in his quest to qualify for the ten-race 'chase for the championship.' Gordon battled handling problems throughout the GFS 400 at Michigan International Speedway. His 15th place finish was due in large part to fuel strategy. Gordon started on the outside pole and dropped to fourth on the second lap. He dropped out of the top-five on lap 49, and fell out of the top-ten on lap 58 battling a tight handling condition. A spring rubber adjustment on lap 74 didn't seem to help as Gordon ran between 13th and 17th over the next 40 laps. A caution on lap 128 allowed the team to work on the car and Gordon restarted in 23rd place. A caution on lap 140 allowed Gordon to come in and top off on fuel just before the green flag waved on lap 149. He fell as far back as 29th, but moved up to 15th at the finish as drivers ahead of him came to pit road for fuel. Gordon moved to 12th in the points standings. He trails Jamie McMurray in 10th place by 58 points with just three races remaining before the cutoff. "It wasn't pretty, but it was a good points day for us," Gordon said. "It was not a good day for us, performance-wise. We've got a lot of work to do before we go to California, because we can't run like that. We were so, so tight the whole time -- even in practice on Friday we were really tight. We kept freeing it up (in the race) and freeing it up and then there at the end, we were so loose that I couldn't even drive it. I think we had a 30th place car, so I'm actually pretty happy right now. I'm not happy with the way we ran all day, but I'm pretty happy with the way we finished because it seems like it's the first time in a long time that something's actually gone our way. It's embarrassing. And I don't know what we've got to do. We've got to find something because we've tried everything. And it's not working." At the front of the field, Jeremy Mayfield inherited the lead when the leaders pitted late in the race at Michigan. He held off Scott Riggs to win his first race of 2004 and the fifth of his career.
New York Salvage Yard
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 15)- - Make the best of a bad situation is about all you can do. And that's what Jeff Gordon did at Watkins Glen during the Sirius at the Glen. While a 14th place finish can filed under 'disappointing,' it was due to a 40-lap drive that kept his championship hopes alive. Gordon's chances to qualify for the 'chase for the championship' seemed to take a major hit during the race, only to recover at the finish. He started 14th and moved forward at the drop of the green flag. Gordon entered the top-ten on lap 4, and gained entry into the top-five on lap 15. On lap 25, he stayed on the track an extra lap during a green flag pit sequence to lead a lap. During the mid-stages of the race, Gordon ran a distant second to Stewart. On lap 46, Gordon suddenly dropped back and came onto pit road due to a deflating tire. He rejoined the race in 39th position and was helped by a caution flag with 28 laps to go. From 38th position he began the charge to save his season. He moved up to 30th with 25 laps to go and entered the top-20 with 13 to go. A caution with 2 laps remaining put the event on a green/white/checkers finish. Gordon made his way up to 15th on the restart and passed Kevin Harvick on the final lap to take 14th place. Gordon moved up to 13th in the points standings and is 67 points behind Carl Edwards for the 10th position-- the final qualifying spot for the chase. "We can't seem to get things to go our way," Gordon said. "I don't want to go into Richmond having to win the race. That is a lot to ask for. The guys I am racing in points were right in front of me [in the last laps]. I had them all right in front of me and that is extremely frustrating. We're not living up to our full potential. We should have been top-two or three today." At the front of the field, Tony Stewart dominated the road course race, losing the lead only on pit stop sequences, for his fifth victory in the last 8 weeks. Stewart swept both road course races in 2005 with a win earlier this summer in Sonoma, California. It was also his third straight victory on road courses dating back to last year.
Hometown Hero At Indy
SPEEDWAY, IN. (August 7)- - Growing up in nearby Columbus, Indiana, Tony Stewart dreamed of competing and winning at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After several tries at the Indianapolis 500, Stewart focused his attention on stock cars. In his seventh stock car start at the track, Stewart made his boyhood dream a reality. After dominating the second half of the Brickyard 400, he passed Kasey Kahne on a restart with 11 laps to go and pulled away for the 23rd victory of his career-- by far the most meaningful win of his professional racing career. Stewart's fourth win in the last 6 races vaulted him past Jimmie Johnson into the series points lead. He'll look for back-to-back wins in next weekend's race at Watkins Glen, where he is the defending race champion.
Jeff Gordon's day was a traffic jam from the outset. He started 7th and moved up to 5th by lap 16, which turned out to be his high water mark for the day. A two-tire change on lap 36 eventually cost him track position as he dropped to 14th on lap 58. An extended pit stop on lap 73 to insert a spring rubber dropped him to 27th. From there he began picking up spots and moved up to 15th on lap 92. A near-miss with Mike Bliss on lap 120 dropped him from 11th to 15th. After a pit stop to repair fender damage he fell to 27th once again. Gordon regrouped and moved up to 20th just five laps after the restart. He was running 15th and might have been the highest running driver to make it to the finish without needing to stop for gas. However, a caution for Jimmie Johnson's crash ended Gordon's hopes of stealing a win. He pitted for tires and restarted 19th with 11 laps to go. Gordon worked around race traffic and cracked the top-ten with 6 laps remaining. He moved up to 8th at the finish and gained one spot in the series standings to move up to 14th.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (August 3)- - Jeff Gordon has proven he can handle challenging race tracks, but how about the one-mile Olympic bodsled run at Lake Placid, N.Y. Gordon and other NASCAR stars are being recruited by driver Geoffrey Bodine to take turns on the track at the Verizon Sports Complex from January 5-9 to help the U.S. Bobsled program. Bodine's idea to is have ten NASCAR drivers pony up $50,000 each to take a two-man bobsled down the track. Bodine said the event is a good way to promote the Winter Olympics and bobsledding. After the event, Bodine's Bobsled Fantasy Camp will give NASCAR fans a chance to drive the same sleds driven by the stars. "Every single guy I've talked to said he'd love to do it," said Bodine, who since 1992 has helped raise money through the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project to develop American-made bobsleds for the U.S. team. "Tony Stewart's ready. He wants to do it. Jeff Burton wants to be involved, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson. They all want to do this if the time allows them."
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