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August 2010 News


Off Kilter In The Valley
August 22 - - After Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked Jimmie Johnson at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch was hardly challenged en route to his third win of the season and 19th of his career. Jeff Gordon was never a factor for the lead and battled handling issues for most of the night before finishing 11th.

Gordon started 26th and gained three spots by lap 5. His progress slowed while battling a loose handling condition. On lap 42, he took over 21st from Greg Biffle. The first caution waved on lap 56 after David Gilliland made contact with the wall. Pit stops followed with Gordon opting for a chassis adjustment. He restarted in 21st on lap 63 and made his way up to 17th within seven laps. By the 100 lap mark, Gordon advanced to 15th place. The second caution came on lap 126 when David Ragan spun and backed into the wall. After a pit stop, Gordon moved into the top-10 on lap 134 with a pass on Biffle. Two laps later, the caution waved for Regan Smith's wall contact. Gordon took 8th from Matt Kenseth on lap 160 before a loose handling condition pushed him back to 9th on lap 180. The next caution came on lap 193 when Scott Speed cut a tire.

Gordon gained three spots shortly after the restart and ran 6th on lap 208. However, handling issues returned and Gordon ran 10th when Bobby Labonte hit the wall to bring out the caution on lap 254. He came to pit road for chassis adjustments and restarted in 15th place. The complexion of the race changed on the restart when Juan Pablo Montoya turned Jimmie Johnson on the straightaway. Johnson, who led more than 150 laps, spun and sustained damage to the front and left side of the car. Johnson went to the garage for repairs. Gordon moved back into the top-10 on lap 283, and took 8th from Dale Earnhardt Jr on lap 349. On lap 392, Gordon moved into the top-5 for the first time with a pass on Montoya. Gordon stayed out to lead a lap during a sequence of green flag pit stops. He came to pit road on lap 403 for tires. A caution flag on lap 408 resulted in just 11 cars remaining on the lead lap. Gordon came to the restart in 6th on lap 414. However, he slipped back on the low line and ran 11th on lap 428. He briefly entered the top-10 before fading back to 11th at the finish. It was the fifth consecutive race where Gordon failed to post a top-5 finish. However, the finish allowed him to officially clinch a spot in the Chase for the Championship.

JG post-race comments

"We drove up through there, got up to the top-five or six but couldn't maintain it. Got really, really loose on the long runs. We fought it. We had a lot of long runs tonight that didnít do us any favors tonight. We finally started to get it there at the end. That last pit stop cycle kind of pinned us in and we got shuffled back. We didn't expect to come here to win. We've really struggled here at Bristol the last several runs. I felt like we were better tonight. I am really looking forward to going to Atlanta, I think we have a great shot to win there."

YOU CLINCHED FOR THE CHASE TONIGHT:
"It is always good. We've had a heck of a season. Very consistent runs and strong runs. We haven't won yet, I still think we have a heck of a shot at the championship. I am really happy to be in the Chase again. Right now we are focused on wins and bonus points and I am a little disappointed with an 11th place finish tonight but it wasn't from a lack of effort, that is for sure. I hope these fans here had a lot of fun because it was a lot of fun to race. There were a lot of great battles. They have so many amazing fans here in Bristol so thanks for that."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TEAMíS MOMENTUM WITH TWO RACES UNTIL THE START OF THE CHASE?
"We didn't expect to come here and win. This has been a real struggle for us. This new car, the long greens here at Bristol. We just haven't been the same with our car. There is a lot of work and effort we are putting in, it is a process. We keep trying and I felt like we were better tonight. Hopefully we will be better next time we come back. I think we have tracks coming up that are really good for us."


Cuts In The Armor
August 16 - - For the first 300 miles of the Carfax 400 at Michigan Speedway, Jeff Gordon put himself in a perfect position to contend for a victory. However, a cut tire with 47 laps to tire ultimately sealed his fate on a day where he posted a 27th place finish. It marked the first time this season that Gordon has gone four consecutive races without posting a top-5 finish.

Gordon qualified 36th, which was his worst career qualifying effort at Michigan. However, he posted the 3rd fastest lap in Saturday's final practice and started off the race with forward momentum. Gordon gained 8 positions in the first two laps to move up to 28th. By lap 5 he moved into 23rd as he was able to run the low line in the corner to gain spots. On lap 9, he passed David Ragan to move into the top-20. His forward march continued as he took 16th from Kyle Busch on lap 18. He took 14th from Kurt Busch on lap 20 by driving hard off turn 4. The first caution waved on lap 32 for Kurt Busch's blown engine. Gordon came to pit road for fuel and tires. A slow pit stop sent him back out in 16th place. He dropped to 19th within 3 laps of the restart on lap 42 while complaining of loose handling. Light rain brought the caution on lap 60 with Gordon entrenched in 19th place. He lost a spot on pit road and restarted in 20th on lap 65.

Gordon began moving through traffic on the restart and ran 14th on lap 70. Four laps later he passed Matt Kenseth to take over the 11th position. He entered the top-10 on lap 72 with a pass on Jeff Burton. Gordon took 8th from Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 80. At the halfway point, Gordon passed Jimmie Johnson for the 6th position. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 103. He cycled through the pit stop sequence in 7th place. On lap 109, Gordon took 6th from Kyle Busch. Five laps later he took 4th from Kasey Kahne. Gordon passed Tony Stewart for 3rd on lap 121. The handling tightened up later in the run which hindered his forward storm through the field. Gordon came to pit road on lap 140 and had a 13.5 second stop. He held 3rd through the pit stop sequence. A caution flag on lap 148 for Ryan Newman's spin brought the field to pit road. Gordon opted for a two tire change and departed in 3rd place.

Gordon dropped to 7th within a lap of the restart, but drifted up the track in turn 3 with 47 laps to go after cutting a tire. Gordon dropped to the apron with a flat left front tire and damage on the right side of his car. Gordon limped around to pit road for a tire change and sledgehammer repairs to the right front. Gordon restarted 27th with 42 laps to go realizing that fuel mileage was his chance for a solid finish. He topped off the tank just before the green flag to ensure he could make it the rest of the way. Gordon advanced to 25th before a debris caution with 33 laps to go. Gordon came to pit road for two tires and restarted in 16th with 28 to go. He fell back in traffic and ran 21st on lap 180. Gordon soon fell to 27th -- the last car on the lead lap. He remained second in the series standings but lacks bonus points for the Chase For The Championship, which begins on September 19 in Loudon, New Hampshire.

JG post-race comments

"We had a great run going and I was really excited about how good the car was to be able to drive up from 36th and I really thought we were going to give those guys a run for the win there. But, everything that could have of happened did happen. We cut the front tire and got damage to the right rear (tire) the vacuum system we had a problem with that. I don't know if we caused that or if the system failed or what. We've never had a problem with it. Everything just went wrong there at the end. I just went in the corner; actually it was about halfway down the straightaway when I felt it go. I tried to pull to the inside but I couldn't steer it and yeah, I hated that. Jeff Burton and I were having a great race all day and that ruined both of our days, probably. But that caused damage to our right rear and the car was just never the same after that. But then we started having the electrical problem or vacuum problem."

PEOPLE SAY IT'S HARD TO PASS HERE AND YET YOU GAINED SO MUCH WITHOUT THE HELP OF A CAUTION:
"I don't think it's tough to pass here. I think this probably is the best place to pass on of all the tracks we go to because it's so wide and there are so many options of lanes. So, you've got to have a good car and we had an awesome car. We really did. But we also found out how important aerodynamics are here. All you have to do is look at that race car and the slight damage to the right rear made it so loose that I couldn't drive it. Mark Martin got in the wall early and I want to see what kind of characteristics the car had after that. But you know, it's a big, fast race track. Who knows what would have happened had we not had that cut tire. But the other vacuum brake system might have failed us anyway. So, who knows what would have happened."

ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RCR CARS:
"They're strong. They showed it all day. All three of their cars are pretty strong; especially Kevin (Harvick, race winner). This is the time to get momentum going into the Chase and leading the points. They've shown strength. They haven't gotten the victories on these types of race tracks and these are very important race tracks to win on right now. I think that was a huge win for them and I'm obviously disappointed for us."

DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY FOR THE REST OF THE RACES?
"Oh, yes; on finding a golden horseshoe out there somewhere. I don't know. We've just got to work hard and keep putting good race cars out there and you just hope that things turn around and come your way. That's the thing about the Chase. Your momentum can shift at any time. And it doesnít matter what you do. If you show that your cars are fast and you've got a good team, even if you don't win races, you can get one or two wins and all of a sudden the momentum is on your side and confidence and everything is there."

KNOWING YOUR CARS HAVE BEEN STRONG, DO YOU STILL HAVE A LOT OF CONFIDENCE IN THE SEASON?
"Definitely. Oh, yeah. I think we're one of the best teams out there, honestly; especially on the 1.5-miles this year. But we're already 50 points down here and we'd be starting 8th or something like that if the Chase were to start tomorrow. We've got to get those bonus points and cut into those 50 that (Denny) Hamlin and Jimmie (Johnson) have and hope we can battle them to keep them from even getting more as well as the NO. 29 (Kevin Harvick). And now there are a lot of important battles going on to really get yourself seeded correctly in the Chase, but heads up, I think we can beat anybody in 10 races; especially the 10 tracks that are coming up in the Chase."

WERE YOU ABLE TO LEARN A LOT TODAY?
"You always learn from things that go wrong. But our car was fast. So, I know there were some guys that struggled but that was not our issue today."


Along The Winding Road
August 9 - - Juan Pablo Montoya dominated on the Watkins Glen road course en route to his second career victory. Montoya won by more than 5 seconds over Kurt Busch and Marcos Ambrose. Jeff Gordon was never a factor for the lead, but ran his best laps late in the race to salvage a 10th place finish.

Gordon started 14th and dropped a spot on the opening lap to Robby Gordon. On lap 15, he followed Robby Gordon past Jimmie Johnson to take 13th place. Two laps later he took 12th from Robby. The handling became looser as the green flag run continued and Gordon came to pit road for tires on lap 27. A caution for P.J. Jones slowed the field on lap 28. Gordon ran 12th at the caution flag. The second caution waved on lap 40 after Bobby Labonte stopped in the inner loop area of the track. Crew chief Steve Letarte elected to take track position and kept Gordon on the track during the caution period. The green flag waved at the halfway point -- lap 45 -- with Gordon losing a spot on track to Clint Bowyer. He ran in 15th on lap 48, nearly 2 miles per hour slower per lap than race leader Juan Pablo Montoya.

Gordon re-assumed the 14th spot from Bowyer on lap 57 and ran more than 20 seconds behind the leaders. He came to pit road for his final stop on lap 60. A slower stop due to the insertion of a spring rubber sent him back to 25th in the running order before a debris caution on lap 62 slowed the field. The next caution waved with 26 laps to go when Tony Stewart clipped the rear of Boris Said's car sending the Red Bull Toyota into the turn two guardrail. Gordon moved up to 14th due to drivers pitting and the wreck in front of him. With 20 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson spun in turn 11 and collected Denny Hamlin in the melee. Gordon gained a spot and restarted in 13th with 16 laps to go. A lap after the restart, Gordon took 12th from Sam Hornish. With 10 laps go, Gordon took 11th from Ryan Newman. On the final lap, Gordon got around the slowing car of Kevin Harvick to take 10th on an otherwise forgettable afternoon in upstate New York.

Post-race comments

"I thought we had a top-10 car. I think there at the end, we were a little bit better than that. The restarts, we struggled a little bit trying to stay out of trouble too because everybody was getting knocked around. I think we had a really solid day and came home in the top-10 when our weekend started out pretty rough on Friday. All in all, a good day, no baby and get home and see what kind of week we have."

HOW DO YOU POSITION THIS RACE IN POINTS WITH IT NOT BEING A WIN?
"The only thing that is relevant for us is to learn how we can come back here and have a more competitive car next year. If we had started the weekend closer or more like we were in the race then I think we would have had something to compete with for the weekend."

HOW CRAZY WAS THE DRIVING TODAY, ESPECIALLY THE RESTARTS WITH THE ROAD RACERS?
"It goes both ways because in Sonoma, it seems like we use those guys up pretty hard and those restarts are wild and crazy here. You only have a couple corners that you have an opportunity to take advantage of another car and try to get those positions. The road racers, where theyíre good is getting aggressive into the braking zones. I really, I wasn't around a whole lot of it. I saw Greg Biffle get shot off there one time and a little bit of what happened with Boris Said. I was pretty happy the way things went for us, other than there were times I didnít have the right position and I lost some positions on the restarts. Other than that, I didnít get knocked around a whole lot."

IS YOUR REACTION TO GREG BIFFLE AND BORIS SAID'S INCIDENT BECAUSE YOU WEREN'T INVOLVED IN IT?
"Definitely. I didnít know who got into him really. I just saw he got shot off there. I really couldn't tell you."

WAS THIS RACE TAME FOR WATKINS GLEN?
"Ever since we started going double-file restarts none of them are tame. It's just that I wasn't involved in a whole lot of the may lay. I avoided it, I saw it in front of me and around me, but it never really got to me. When that's the case, you come out of here feeling okay about things. When you get caught up in it, then you're not too happy, you say it's crazy and guys are bumping and banging and thatís just how it goes."

ON HENDRICK TEAMMATES
"Usually during the week I'll pay attention somewhere online or through some of our debriefs and stuff. We want to see all four of our guys in the Chase. We're always pulling for everybody. Mark Martin is just one of those guys who is just solid at so many places that you have confidence that he's going to find his way in there."


Strategy Break
August 2 - - For a period of time during the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway it looked as if Jeff Gordon was on the verge of snapping his 50-race winless drought. Gordon led the late stages of the event, but opted for four tires during a pit stop with 30 laps to go. Several drivers took two tires and used the track position to their advantage. Gordon moved from 11th to 6th in the closing laps, but was unable to seriously challenge for the win when it mattered.

Gordon raced in the top-5 for the entire race -- except the ending. He started 4th and took the lead on lap 3. Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson led the balance of the first half of the race, before Denny Hamlin took the lead after the halfway point. With 45 laps to go, Gordon took the lead off of a restart from Juan Pablo Montoya. Nine laps later, Kurt Busch and Elliott Sadler crashed on the backstretch to bring out a 25-minute red flag. The field came to pit road with Gordon opting for four tires. He came off pit road in 10th place after several drivers opted for fuel only or two tires. Gordon was in 11th due to Sam Hornish staying out with 30 laps to go. Light rain began falling and the field came to pit road for a red flag delay. After nearly 20 minutes, the engines re-fired and the cars came back on the track. The green flag waved with 21 laps to go.

Gordon lost a spot on the restart before a bump draft from Jimmie Johnson gave him forward momentum. With 17 laps to go, he moved into the 9th position. He passed Ryan Newman with 16 to go, but was passed on the outside by Denny Hamlin. Gordon took 8th from Martin Truex with 9 laps to go as Greg Biffle pulled away at the front of the field. With 5 laps to go, he passed Sam Hornish for 7th. One lap later he took 6th from Mark Martin. Biffle pulled away at the front of the field and snapped a 65-race winless streak. Gordon remained second in the series standings and is now 361 points clear of the Chase cutoff.

JG post-race comments

"I was hoping for more rain when I was sitting out there. Right now, we'll take one any way we can get one. I am real proud of this team and how we performed on pit road. The calls that Steve Letarte made. The adjustments. I mean, the car was really, really good. You are a sitting duck when you are first and you look at the guys you are racing. If you know if nine guys are going to take two tires, then it is an easy call to take two. But, when you don't know and the guys around you are going to take four, then you take four. We just weren't really good to drive up through there like Tony Stewart was. We were still decent and finished sixth. So, all-in-all a solid day, just a little bit of a bummer that we didn't get the win."

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO DRIVE YOUR WAY UP THROUGH THERE WITH JUST A HANDFUL OF LAPS LEFT IN THE RACE?
"It was wild and crazy as it always is here in the closing laps at Pocono with a double-file restart. The cars were jumping all over the place. You know when you go into the tunnel turn two and three wide that it is a hairy moment and you just hold on tight and try to pick the right lanes. The first lap was not really good for us. We got jumbled up with some guys trying to make some positions and it cost us a couple. Then we started making our way up through there pretty good. After that we just came home sixth."

HOW WAS IT WITH A NEW SPOTTER TODAY?
I thought he (Jeff Dickerson) did a great job. He gave me all the right information that I needed on the restarts. I mean, we had a solid day as a team. Overall, I thought we had a really, really solid day."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW WELL EQUIPPED THIS TRACK IS TO DEAL WITH A CRASH LIKE ELLIOTT SADLER WENT THROUGH TODAY?
"I think the incidents speak for themselves. I think that there is times where weíve got to step-up the technology and safety and certain facilities. We've seen two incidents here this year. I think it is going to be a wake-up call for some improvements. It is a great track here at Pocono, we love coming here, but, there are definitely some areas where it could be improved."

DID YOU SEE THE ENGINE FROM ELLIOTTíS CAR SITTING THERE?
No, they stopped us in turn one and I didn't see anything and there is no screed where I could see a video or anything."

STEVE SAID HE THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT BEFORE THAT LAST RESTART, WHAT DID YOU THINK?
"I wasnít very optimistic that we could win the race. But, certainly we were going to give it our best shot. Our car was good. It was good in clean air, it was good up front. But to pass the No. 14 (Tony Stewart) and then get passed by the No. 29 (Kevin Harvick). I got battling with the No. 29 and the No. 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson). All it takes is two laps of battling with other guys on four tires and it lets everybody spread out. It pretty much took our chances away. Tony got a really good start and made some good moves. He had the best shot and he still didn't win. Obviously the right call was two, but you donít know that when you are sitting there. I mean, all the guys around us took four. So, I think we did the right call for the position that we were in. I'm bummed out that we just can't catch a break. It just seems like when we get ourselves in position to win the race, it just seems like we can't catch that break. You make those breaks by working hard, team work, good fast race cars and putting yourself in the right place. The way the weather was today, it didn't work out for us and that has kind of been the story for us as far as victories are concerned."

HOW AGGRESSIVE WAS IT OUT THERE? IT SEEMED LIKE GOOD RACING?
"Turn one and turn three are pretty wide so you can get two and three wide through there. These long straightaways, those restarts get pretty wild and crazy. Especially with double-file. Yes, I would say you have restarts with 10 (laps) Ė 20 laps to go, it is about as wild as it gets anywhere we go."

THE TEMPERATURE EXTREMES CHANGED QUITE A BIT DURING THE RACE, DID THA HAVE AN AFFECT?
"Yes, when it cooled down, my car got really loose. It looked like other guys kind of had some similar issues. I thought we did a great job of keeping up with the race track with the adjustments. I felt like as the day was going on, progressing like a normal race does before it started raining, I felt like we were doing all the right things to do the race."

TALK ABOUT THE SCRAMBLE AFTER THE LAST RESTART.
"Those first couple laps are so crucial and even just getting down into turn one, I didn't make up the positions that I had hoped I was going to. I tried to follow Tony Stewart through there. When we came off of turn three, he had made those two or three passes that were crucial that I didn't get and we played catch-up from that point on. Our car went away a little bit too on that run, but we still finished sixth so it wasn't bad."


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