August 2009 News

The Search For Consistency
August 23 - - Jeff Gordon's 23rd place finish in the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway closed out an inconsistent summer stretch in which he has posted just two top-5 finishes in the last 7 races. At Bristol, Gordon worked his way up to 8th from his 33rd place starting position, but battled a loose handling -- and damaged -- car in the second half of the race. He went two laps down before gaining one back late in the event. At the front of the field, Kyle Busch held off Mark Martin for his fourth win of the season.

Gordon started 33rd and fell back to 35th within three laps. The first caution came on lap 11 for Joey Logano's cut tire. Gordon came onto pit road for a four-tire change. He restarted in 32nd place on lap 16, and followed Michael Waltrip in traffic on the outside line to move to 28th place on lap 25. He eventually got around Waltrip and moved to 25th on lap 30. Gordon held the outside line but couldn't move forward due to race traffic. The second caution waved on lap 64 when Denny Hamlin cut a tire. Gordon had advanced up to 24th position by running an extremely high line in the corners. Pit stops ensued with Gordon exiting in the 24th spot. On the restart, he held the high line and got a strong run up to 22nd. He entered the top-20 on lap 85 with a pass on Robby Gordon.

Gordon moved to 19th by lap 100, but began losing grip off the corners. He fell to 21st over the next 30 laps and needed a caution flag for more adjustments. He got the caution he needed on lap 135 after A.J. Allmendinger broke a brake rotor. Gordon came to pit road and had the benefit of an opening in front due to Regan Smith having been lapped. He restarted in 20th place on lap 141 and quickly gained three spots. He moved to 16th on lap 151. A caution for Bobby Labonte's spin on lap 163 brought the caution. Gordon came to pit road for a tire change in an effort to fix a tight handling condition. He moved to 17th on lap 173, and took 14th on lap 177 due to the fresher tires. The high line was again preferred as Gordon moved to 12th on lap 187. Three laps later he passed Greg Biffle to move into the top-10. At the 200 lap mark, Gordon was up to 8th position.

Martin Truex took the 8th position from Gordon on lap 220. The caution waved on lap 255 for debris from John Andretti's car. Gordon came to pit road in 9th place and departed in 12th. He briefly moved into the top-10 before dropping back to 13th on lap 280. Five laps later, he fell to 15th while he continued to battle loose handling issues. Dale Earnhardt Jr passed on lap 293 to put Gordon back in 17th. By lap 310, he fell to 21st, and was back in 25th on lap 319 as the leaders approached to put him a lap down. Jimmie Johnson passed on lap 330 to put Gordon one lap down. His problems were exacerbated as Brian Vickers was lapped, meaning that Gordon was not the first car one lap down. The caution waved on lap 356 after David Gilliland hit the wall. Vickers received the free pass to get back on the lead lap. Gordon restarted in 24th and battled to be the first car one lap down. However, he fell to 26th as the laps wound down. With 100 laps to go, he was mired in traffic in 26th place and had no chance for the free pass. Gordon went two laps down on lap 406. He got one of the laps back by staying out under a brief caution for a passing rain cloud.

Martin Truex's cut tire brought the caution with 20 laps to go. Jeff Burton received the free pass just ahead of Gordon. The restart with 15 laps remaining saw Kyle Busch pull ahead of Mark Martin. With 9 laps left, Michael Waltrip's wreck brought the caution, but David Stremme was ahead of Gordon to get the free pass. At that point, Gordon's fate for the night was sealed with a 23rd place effort.

JG post-race comments

"We were making ground and moving forward. Maybe one too many adjustments I don't know. We just had one pit stop where we made some adjustments and the car got extremely loose. We lost a couple of laps and fought from there to get back where we ended up. We weren't the best car but we were going forward and got inside the top-10. I don't know one adjustment maybe too many. We just got real, real loose. It wasn't a big adjustment. It was just ridiculously loose and we just hung on until the caution came out. Fought back from that point on, and after that we were okay. We were never great. I don't know it felt like something was wrong with the car after that. It just never was the same. It was really good the first third of the race."

High Praise In D.C.
August 19 - - Before heading to Bristol Motor Speedway for the weekend's race, Jeff Gordon attended a NASCAR event hosted by President Obama at The White House in Washington, D.C. Gordon was cited during the President's speech on the south lawn for his charity work. "Jeff Gordon put it best when he said, 'Any person out there should do something some way to give back to their community,'" said President Obama during his remarks.

Ready For Prime Time
August 17 - - After several shaky races over the summer, Jeff Gordon re-asserted himself with a strong 2nd place finish in the Carfax 400 at Michigan Speedway. Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte used the race as a preview for several Chase races -- including the October race at California Speedway. If the performance at Michigan is any indication, Gordon will be a contender for the victory. However, there is still work to do to challenge reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who dominated the Michigan race only to come up short on a fuel gamble for the second time this season at the 2-mile track. Brian Vickers and Gordon both ran the final 51 laps on a tank of fuel. Vickers took the checkered flag more than a second ahead of Gordon after Johnson pitted with 3 laps to go.

Gordon started 21st and dropped back to 25th in the opening laps while running the low line. As the tire pressures came up, Gordon moved forward. By lap 6, he was back up to 21st position. The caution flag waved for rain showers on lap 7, which resulted in a red flag. After a half hour delay, the cars returned to the track. Gordon pitted for fuel only under the caution flag and restarted in 16th place. He moved to 13th on lap 18 and set his sights on the top-10 as the field began stringing out. Gordon claimed 11th on lap 23 and moved into the top-10 on lap 26. Gordon took 9th from Martin Truex on lap 29 as his forward march continued. The leaders began pitting on lap 41, thus allowing Gordon to move up in the running order. Because he pitted earlier in the race, Gordon could stay on the track for additional laps, and inherited the lead on lap 44.

Gordon's lead was short-lived as he pitted for tires and fuel on lap 45. After the pit stop sequence, Gordon ran in the 7th position. Robby Gordon's cut tire on lap 54 brought out the second caution flag. Gordon opted for a two tire change and exited in 2nd place behind Matt Kenseth. He restarted in 3rd because Paul Menard did not pit. On the restart, Gordon moved up to 2nd behind Kenseth. Jimmie Johnson took the runner-up position on lap 62, and Mark Martin pushed Gordon back to 4th on lap 70 as four tires played out its advantage. By lap 88, Gordon dropped to 7th place due to the older tires on the left side of the car. Gordon came to pit road on lap 97 for a four-tire change complete with a track bar adjustment.

Gordon cycled through the pit stop sequence and held onto the 7th spot. He moved up to 5th at the halfway point as the handling improved on the car. On lap 107, he took 4th from Clint Bowyer. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 115 and brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon, who took four tires, departed in 7th place due to several drivers taking two tires. On the restart, David Ragan got loose coming off turn two just behind Gordon. Ragan spun sideways and collected Kurt Busch who impacted the retaining wall on the backstretch. On lap 132, Gordon pulled low in turn one to take 6th from Tony Stewart. The caution waved one lap later for Ragan's spin on the frontstretch. The restart on lap 140 saw Gordon take off from the outset. He moved to 4th within one lap, and took 3rd from Martin on lap 143. Two laps later he passed Kenseth for the runner-up spot. A passing shower brought the caution flag out on lap 146.

Pit stops ensued and Gordon lost 9 spots after taking four tires. He restarted in 16th due to six cars staying on the track. Gordon moved up to 15th on lap 154, but was distantly behind the leaders due to the field stringing out. David Stremme's talent evaporation for the second consecutive weekend brought out the caution flag on lap 157. Gordon stayed on the track to gain track position -- at the expense of having plenty of fuel to make it to the end if the race went green. Gordon restarted in 8th place and used a strong run on the outside line to take 6th on lap 161. He took 5th from Kenseth with 35 laps to go. Two laps later, Gordon moved around Kevin Harvick to take 4th place. With 30 to go, he passed Martin and moved up to 3rd. Johnson ran out of fuel with 3 laps to go and handed the lead to Brian Vickers. Gordon moved up to 2nd but distantly trailed Vickers at the white flag. Vickers took the checkered flag for the first time since his last lap victory at Talladega in 2006. Both Vickers and Gordon ran the last 51 laps on a tank of fuel. Gordon moved up to 2nd in the points standings due to Johnson's 33rd place finish after the late stop for fuel. "I knew I saved a lot leaving pit road," Gordon said. "I feel like that got us a lap. When the caution came out, I shut the engine off and got another one. We wanted to conserve a little, but then Dale Jr started coming really hard."

JG post-race press conference

"It was a really good run. I mean, we started 21st. Just slowly but surely worked our way up to the front. We got in the top five there that one time. We took two tires. That got us a little bit behind. We were playing a little bit of catch up from that point on. We had a good car. We didn't have the best car. But like you saw today, the best car doesn't always win. We did everything we could to get the best finish we could. I really felt confident we were going to make it, even though Steve told me we were four short when we left pit road that last pit stop. I shut the engine off so much. I felt like I got us six laps. At least with the caution, I felt like I did. Felt pretty confident I didn't have to conserve a whole lot. Dale Jr was pressuring me a lot at the end. I was waiting, to see if the 43 and 83 ran out. One did, one didn't."

Q. Jeff, very early in the race, lap 27 or 30, it seems you and Mark Martin were running identical speeds. What was your setup? How is the information sharing among your teammates?
A. "The information sharing is fantastic. Felt like this weekend we came really well prepared with our notes from the last race and the run that we had and our teammates. I mean, we all have our different driving styles, likes and dislikes. You rarely ever start with the same setup. But I would say that we were pretty close to the 5 and the 48. I felt like we ran about like them. We weren't able to maintain the track position that one time we got it, because we were on two tires instead of four. I felt like we were one of the best cars on fresh tires, then we'd really get tight. Those guys were maybe just a little bit freer than us and better than us in the long run. I felt like the three of us were really close. There at the beginning I saw Dale Jr get real loose. I don't know about where they were with their setup, but I know they had to make some big adjustments. I was pretty impressed that they were saying, Hey, the 88 is the car to beat, he's coming hard and fast. Obviously they made some good adjustments. I'd say we all had really good cars, and probably not too far off on the setups."

Q. Jeff, how is the back? Second now in Sprint Cup points with three races to go before the Chase.
A. "My back is fine. I would rather be third in points right now and had that win today. That's all that really matters at this point for us. We're having a great year. We're showing that we're strong, a great team. I just would like to have a few more bonus points going into the Chase, a little bit more momentum. This certainly is going to help towards the momentum if we can go to Bristol next week and keep putting a strong finish out there and effort. That's going to mean as much to me as anything."

Ridin' In Style
August 14 - - Jeff Gordon appeared at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio on August 13 to have lunch with fans, participate in a Q&A session from the main stage, and ride the park's Millennium Force roller coaster with contest winners. Watch two videos of Gordon at the park. The first is an 8-minute Q&A, and the second is a behind the scenes look at his day at Cedar Point.

Back Against It
August 10 - - A hard crash at Watkins Glen International created more problems for Jeff Gordon's already balky lower back. Gordon has received treatment on his lower back throughout the season. "It's just not what I needed," Gordon said. "You take three or four steps forward up to this point, and you take a hit like that and you take a couple steps backwards. Michigan is pretty easy. If we were going to Bristol next week, I'd be concerned. So we've got a couple of weeks to hopefully heal. We went through this when I hit at Dover and hurt my back as well. Every time I hit something it takes a toll on my back, but it seems to recover."

Road Course Destruction
August 10 - - The rain-delayed HelluvaGood at the Glen was a day of ups and downs -- well, mostly downs -- for Jeff Gordon. Before the race, Gordon took the blame for a poor qualifying effort, yielding a 31st place start. The team's goals for the day were to have fun and play strategy to gain track position, hoping for a lucky caution.

Gordon clawed his way through heavy traffic and took advantage of an excellent first pit stop to reach 16th place by lap 22. On lap 23, the David Stremme's talent evaporation resulted in a spun in the inner loop, damaging Gordon's and Kevin Harvick's cars and forcing an extra pit stop.

Gordon once again chewed his way from 31st to 20th at lap 41 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed, but couldn't move his damaged car forward. On lap 62, Sam Hornish ricocheted off the inside barrier in turn 9 after contact with Kasey Kahne and helicoptered into Gordon's car, slamming it into the barrier in a head-on crash that ended Gordon's day. Gordon exited under his own power and was saddled with his first DNF of the season with a 37th place finish.

At the front of the field, Tony Stewart held Marcos Ambrose at bay to win his 5th career race at Watkins Glen -- the most of any driver. Stewart expanded his points lead to more than 250 points on Jimmie Johnson, and more than 340 points on Jeff Gordon. Maybe there is some silver lining in the Chase system after all.

Post-Race Comments

"It wasn't that hard of a hit, it's just my back can't stand too many hits. I really was concerned for Sam (Hornish). He took a heavy hit into the wall, a heavy hit by me and Jeff Burton. I saw him go off into the grass and I knew he was going to come out in front of me and I was just hoping to squeeze by and didn't make it. It just made a rough weekend even worse. Now we just leave here and focus on Michigan."

"I'm hurting. Everything feels good except my lower back where I've already had issues. It will just take a couple of weeks for it to heal. By then we'll go to Bristol and get through that then we'll be alright."

"The first thing I was trying to do was make it by him. Actually I sped up a little bit. I saw him slide off there and I was trying to get off the corner as fast as I could to get by before he got out there but as soon as I saw him and bounce out I knew I was going to hit him. I just braced myself and got on the brakes and waited for the impact."

"It's just not what I needed you know. You take three or four steps forward up to this point, and you take a hit like that and you take a couple steps backwards. So yeah, it was a heavy impact. I'm just glad Sam (Hornish) is all right. I saw him get wide there off the carousel and I knew he was going to hit the tire barrier and ricochet off and I was just hoping I'd get by him before he got out to me and man, I nailed him and spun him around like a top and my car just came to a halt and it really took a toll on my back again. So I hate that, but I was real proud of this DuPont Chevrolet team. We didn't have a great weekend going and the car wasn't perfect, but we were playing out the strategy and got caught up in that first incident. It's just one of those days. But we were going to ride it out and make something out of it. I think Steve Letarte had some tricks up his sleeve with the pit strategy. Just wrong place, wrong time."

"Oh, Michigan is pretty easy. If we were going to Bristol next week, I'd be concerned. So we've got a couple of weeks to hopefully heal. We went through this at Dover when I hit at Dover and hurt my back as well. Every time I hit something it takes a toll on my back, but it seems to recover. But when you're braking that hard it's already pretty tight and then you hit like that and it spasms a bit. But we'll be all right. Rough hit really for Sam. I saw him get taken wide there off the carousel and once I saw him starting to go around I knew he was going to get the outside wall and I kind of knew with what we saw with Jason Lefler in the Nationwide race. I was just trying to pick where to go. I don't know if there is any safe place to go from where I was sitting. I just nailed him. I tried to squeeze by him on the outside and there was just no way. Nailed him and spun him around like a top. It took a toll on my back. Nothing else hurts, everything else is good. It's jsut the back. Then I got into the outside wall the other side and was just sitting there in the track hoping nobody was going to hit me again."

"Sure. The only saving grace is that there are no road courses in the Chase. You want the bonus points. You want a good run. You want momentum. We just haven't been good here in quite some time. I think our car was actually decent today we just didn't qualify good enough to show for it. We moved up quite a few spots which is already tough to do on a road course. You don't see anybody passing unless they've got fresh tires out there. I got caught up in that first incident and that really messed up our strategy. We were making some ground up until that happened. I'm proud of the guys. We made improvements as the weekend went on. We'll just have to wait until the next time we come back here to show just how many improvements we really made?"

"Oh man, my left side and my back is super sore. It's going to take probably a couple of weeks for it to heal completely and then we'll be back to new. This happened at Dover when I hit the wall in Dover it was similar. This is a little bit different angle and it's hurting. Luckily we've got Michigan coming up next weekend. It's pretty easy on things."

"Well first reacation is man that hurt and then you hope you don't get hit again. I was just bracing myself. I saw cars that were still coming by pretty fast. As long as the car wasn't on fire I was good to sit in there until everybody went by. Then I just wanted to get out and see what kind of pain I was in with my back. I knew I was hurting and then was wondering is Sam (Hornish) was okay because he took a couple of heavy hits there. I saw Jeff Burton was in it too so just making sure everybody was alright and then get back here and go home."

"There's nothing you can do. You got to get out there and you've got to just hope you don't get into situations. It's not life-threatening or anything its just painful. I've had MRI's and everything else after these things and everything looks fine. It's just some spasms that go on. You've just got to calm that down but it doesn't just calm down by itself in a day. It really does take a couple of weeks."

Hamlin Takes Pocono
August 3 - - Denny Hamlin led the most laps en route to his first Cup series victory since March 2008. Hamlin claimed the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway after passing Clint Bowyer for the lead with 10 laps to go. He kept a charging Juan Pablo Montoya at bay to win for the third time at Pocono.

Jeff Gordon's day was an exercise in traffic-induced frustration. He ran in the top-10 for the balance of the race, but a late four-tire change put him back in 15th place. He battled door to door with Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Jimmie Johnson, among others, in the closing 20 laps. Gordon finished the race in 8th as the handling on his car seemed at its best in the final run.

JG Post-Race Comments

"It was a good car; definitely the best car we've had here in a while. I'm really excited about that and that we've been able to make those kinds of improvements. The strategy and the track position didn't go our way today, so we ended up eighth. But it's nice when you're passing cars; good cars even toward the end of the race."

"I can't even explain to you how insane it was out there. And when you get guys that have no tires that have stayed out, or two tires, against guys that have four tires, it just shakes it up so much because you've got such a speed difference and guys trying to hang on to position and guys fighting hard to get 'em and I mean it was just nuts. I saw so many guys rubbing, banging, smokin' sideways, three-wide, four-wide, and I was right in the middle of it at times as well. It's not the most fun, but when you make it out of it, you're like whew, and you know it's awesome racing to watch on TV and from the grandstands."

"Right there at the end I knew he was back on the lead lap and I wasn't expecting him to pass me, that's for sure. But you know, these guys, you can never count them out and that's what makes them a championship caliber team and Jimmie's a great driver. So, it's unfortunate that they had a car that was probably capable of winning, or at least battling up there for the win, that it kind of took them out of it there. But they fought back and still had a pretty decent day out of it."

"Yeah, I was being aggressive. The set-up was a little bit more aggressive for us, which paid off. Steve Letarte was real aggressive on the pit strategy. He probably is going to beat himself up a little bit over that last one, but all day long we were pitting early and taking two tires, and doing the things we needed to do to get ourselves in position to win. And there at the end, you can't always factor in guys that are going to be on pit road when the caution comes out. And that cost us probably another three or four positions."

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