Same As It Ever Was
DOVER, DE. (September 26)- - In what has become a recurring theme for Jeff Gordon in 2005, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time at Dover International Speedway. Gordon battled handling problems for the balance of the day. He started 25th and fell as low as 33rd on lap 95 with a tight handling condition. A pit stop on lap 108 allowed the crew an opportunity to loose the car up with a track bar adjustment. Gordon complained of a loose handling car, but began making some progress as he moved up to 21st on lap 153. A pit road speeding penalty under caution dropped him to 24th on lap 180, but he rallied to make into the top-20 after the halfway point. Though he said the car was loose in the corners, he moved up to 17th on lap 277. Gordon felt the car was slowly coming to him. However, after a restart on lap 287, Gordon had nowhere to go when Jamie McMurray and Tony Raines got together in turn three. Raines' spinning car pushed Gordon into the wall, which damaged the front end suspension on the DuPont Chevrolet. Gordon brought the car to the garage for his 7th DNF of the 2005 season. The 37th place finish was a career-high tenth time he has finished 30th or worse this season. Nevertheless, it was a strong day for Hendrick Motorsports as Jimmie Johnson held off Kyle Busch to claim the victory at Dover. Johnson took the lead in the series standings with the victory. It was his third win of the season and 17th of his career. "We were making gains," Gordon said. "We were making progress. The car felt the best it did all day. I was in the outside lane and McMurray flat out turned left into Raines. He Wrecked himself and bunch of other as as well." It was a common theme for Gordon-- simply not running well enough throughout the day to avoid mid-pack problems.
Teaming Up For A Good Cause
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (September 24)- - Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, and Kevin Harvick raised $86,577 in a 16 day online auction. The auction consisted of a mixture of authentic race-used items, uniforms that had been donated by the driver or teams, plus diecast collectibles, some of which had been donated by GoMotorBids.com. Gordon's bids totaled nearly half the net amount at $43,400 with Stewart coming in second at $22,400, Harvick at $10,850 and Kahne bringing in $9,900. The highest bid went to an autographed and framed Monopoly Board from Hendrick Racing - signed by Jeff Gordon, Richard Petty, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, and others which brought in $3,501. The 275 high bid winners and their guest each received a ticket to meet the drivers and have them personally autograph their winning item at a private meet-and-greet event at the GoMotorBids.com facility in Grandview, Missouri. All proceeds of the auction went to each of the driver's charitable foundations - The Jeff Gordon Foundation, The Tony Stewart Foundation, The Kasey Kahne Foundation, and for Kevin Harvick, Victory Junction Gang Camp.
DOVER, DE. (September 24)- - Jeff Gordon appeared on QVC's "For Race Fans Only" show on the shopping channel on September 23. Gordon participated in an hour of banter with host Dan Hughes. He discussed the 2005 season, his hopes for 2006, and pitched a bevy of newly licensed merchandise, including color chrome diecast cars and assorted garish outerwear (aka Logan's prophecy).
Debut Had Its Ups and Downs
LOUDON, N.H. (September 18)- - Steve Letarte's debut as crew chief for Jeff Gordon was hardly a flawless day at New Hampshire International Speedway. By the same token, the crew chief and driver gained invaluable experience working together for the first time. A pit road mistake cost Gordon several spots early in the race, but he rebounded to run in the top-10 for much of the race. Gordon spent the balance of the day learning the communication style of Letarte. Letarte was joined on the pit box by Ken Howes, competition director at HMS. Howes has served as a crew chief for several drivers over the years. "It's hard to call it a new relationship," Gordon said. "I've known Steve for over nine years. He's been with this team and worked side-by-side with Robbie Loomis over the last several years. It's a little bit different when he's got his head in the window and he's asking me questions about what the car is doing. But it's been fun. I think the guy has a lot of talent and we're very excited about what the future has in store for us." As was the case with all of his previous crew chiefs, Gordon has publically supported the team's efforts. "The guy you put there in that position, you've got to support him," Gordon said. "There will be times when they work out and times when they don't work out. I'm going to be behind him 100 percent. I'm looking forward to the challenges it puts on me and on Steve. I really believe in the long run that it's going to pay off for us. Some of it is youth. If I didn't think that Steve was as sharp as he is, I wouldn't want that guy making those kinds of calls. That's just risky. He's going to make them with a certain thought process. I believe that."
Learning Curve At Loudon
LOUDON, N.H. (September 18)- - Jeff Gordon's efforts at New Hampshire International Speedway in 2005 surely do not match his results. A certain top-five in July was ruined by a late-race brake problem. In September, pit sequences and strategy cost him a top-ten in the debut of new crew chief Steve Letarte. Gordon started on the outside pole and ran in the top-five until the first round of pit stops on lap 74. A dropped rear lug nut slowed his stop and he rejoined the race in 14th position. chassis adjustment dropped him to 14th. He gained a few spots on the track, but changed two tires on the following caution flag pit stops on lap 103 to move up to 5th. He moved up to 3rd position before the caution waved on lap 137. A four-tire pit stop followed and Gordon restarted in 8th. He fought back on the track and used a two-tire pit stop to get back into the top-five on lap 110. Gordon moved up to third place before a caution at the halfway point brought the field to pit road. He restarted in 8th and followed Tony Stewart around several drivers who changed two tires. By lap 160 he had worked his way up to 4th place. The DuPont Chevrolet made strides toward leader Tony Stewart as Gordon passed Mark Martin and Jeff Burton to move up to the runner-up spot on lap 175. However, after pitting under caution while 12 others stayed out, Gordon restarted in 17th. He dodged a series of wrecks which brought some of the cars ahead of him to pit road. Gordon restarted from 11th on lap 201 after a red flag delay following a wreck involving Robby Gordon. He re-entered the top-10 shortly after the restart and moved into eighth spot by lap 225. Stewart moved back into the lead on lap 235 when Ryan Newman pitted, which allowed Gordon to gain 7th spot. The final round of pit stops came under the green flag. Gordon inherited the lead briefly during the pit stop sequence before coming to pit road with 31 laps to go for a two-tire change. He dropped to 18th following the stops and used the front bumper to take 17th from Mike Wallace. The final caution flag came out with 21 laps to go. Gordon came onto pit road for four tires after battling a loose handling condition. However, few of the leaders joined Gordon on pit road. He restarted in 18th with 16 laps to go, as Newman led Stewart to the green flag. Stewart took the lead with 8 laps remaining before Newman made the winning move with 2 laps to go en route to his 12th career victory. Meanwhile, mired in race traffic, Gordon made steady gains in the final laps and moved up to 14th at the finish. Gordon moved within 1 point of Jamie McMurray for 11th place in the standings-- the highest Gordon can finish in 2005.
NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 11)- - After a disappointing finish at Richmond International Raceway, Jeff Gordon headed to New York City to take in the U.S. Open tennis finals at the National Tennis Center in Queens. Gordon has been a regular at the U.S. Open over the years and participated in a recent publicity campaign for the United States Tennis Association. The men's final went as expected as Roger Federer captured the championship with a four set victory over Andre Agassi. At 35, Agassi was the feel-good story of the tennis fortnight. In what could have been his final appearance at the annual tournament, Agassi captured three consecutive five-set matches to make it to the finals before the current #1 player in the world took control.
Title Hopes Over And Out
RICHMOND, VA. (September 11)- - Jeff Gordon failed to qualify for the 'chase for the championship' after battling handling difficulties throughout the Chevy 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Gordon was running 28th when he made contact with the backstretch wall. He wound up finishing two laps down in 30th place. While Gordon had a chance to salvage his season by making the 'chase,' his chances were a longshot. Gordon's season has been in a downward spiral since early May. In the past 16 races, Gordon has no top-fives and has 9 finishes of 20th or worse. Despite a test session at Richmond in late August, the DuPont Chevrolet was tight from the outset. Gordon started 6th and dropped to 10th by lap 55. A lugnut problem on lap 119 dropped him to 27th. He moved up to 23rd on lap 156, but that would be his high water mark for the remainder of the night. Contact with the wall on lap 211 damaged the right side of the car. He drove around for the second half of the race in a car with the toe-end knocked out. "It was going to be a long night no matter what," Gordon said. "I didn't think we had the car to get in it. It's a disappointing night and a disappointing season. Now we can just put this behind us and figure out what's wrong with the race team." The final 10 races will be an exercise in preparation for 2006. "I don't really care where we end up in points now," Gordon said. "It's all about getting ourselves in position to get things turned around so we can go into next season and we want to challenge for the championship. We certainly don't want to be in the position we're in right now. I've had some far more disappointing seasons than this one. Life is still pretty darn good for me right now. Racing is not everything. I've put my heart and soul into it like this team does and we want to win. But we also know at the end of the day, that it's not the number one thing in our lives and you got to take the good seasons with the bad seasons, and we've had a lot of good ones." At the front of the field, Roush Racing cars captured the top three spots as Kurt Busch won his 14th career race.
Season Of Change
RICHMOND, VA. (September 9)- - Following comments by Jeff Gordon earlier in the week that hinted at possible changes in the crew chief position, Robbie Loomis admitted on Friday that his role might change at the end of the season. Loomis, crew chief on Gordon's car for the past six years, did not say whether he would remain with Hendrick Motorsports or seek employment elsewhere. Though questions had arisen, Gordon had deflected them for the balance of the season saying that Loomis would have the job as long as he wanted it. However, Gordon's comments on Tuesday brought the situation to the forefront-- for better or worse-- and earlier than Loomis wanted. "It would have made a little less pressure for me this weekend if we didn't have this distraction," Loomis said on Friday. Nevertheless, the crew chief looked ahead. "I know that I am getting ready for a change," Loomis said. "We have been preparing for that for a year, and it could be within Hendrick Motorsports and it might be something completely different. I'm ready for like a change of season, like winter, fall, spring and summer. That's been brought on more by the emotions I went through last year with my mom." Loomis' priorities shifted following his mother's serious illness in 2004. Loomis stepped in following the departure of Ray Evernham in 1999. In nearly six full seasons together, Gordon and Loomis have won 23 races and a Cup championship. "The future is what it is and it's based on a lot around what his desires are and his life," Gordon said of Loomis.
Time Slips Away
THE OC. (September 3)- - Jeff Gordon's season took another downward turn with an unsatisfying 21st place finish. He started sixth in the Sony 500 at California Speedway and moved up to fourth on lap 8. From there, it was a tedious exercise in poor handling and a lack of track position. He battled a loose handling car early in the race, and a tight handling car as the sun went down. Gordon dropped out of the top-ten on lap 20 and dropped back to 34th by lap 42. He regrouped during a caution period and ran between 20th-30th during the midstages of the race. A solid pit stop on lap 199 thrust him from 14th to 8th. However, Gordon slipped back on the restart. Gordon chose not to pit on lap 210, which left him a sitting duck on the restart. He dropped to 29th before rallying in the closing stages for a 21st place finish. He dropped to 12th in the series standings. "We just havent performed this year," Gordon said. "We sucked tonight, that was pathetic. Everywhere we go we either stink or we're good. Certainly what we've done in the past doesn't mean anything now. Itís just one of those nights. Youíll have those good nights when things will happen. We thought we had it at one time. I donít know if we just got a bad set of tires, over adjusted or what. We were really looking good and then things just went backwards. We struggled back and forth all night. Weíve got to attack really hard [at Richmond]. I donít see how we can do anything more than what weíre doing. Weíre already attacking as hard as we can and that hasnít been working. Thereís nothing more we can do than what we are doing now." To even have a chance to qualify, he'll likely need to do something he hasn't done in four months-- finish in the top-five. And even that might not be enough. Welcome to reality. Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Busch captured his first career win at California. Busch became the youngest winner in the history of NASCAR's top series.
Doing His Part
BURBANK, CA. (September 3)- - Jeff Gordon taped an interview with Ellen DeGeneres for the comedienne's talk show that aired in syndication on Monday, September 5. DeGeneres' 82-year-old aunt was directly affected by the hurricane that obliterated the Gulf Coast region as her home was destroyed by the storm. As part of the show's relief effort, Warner Bros. Entertainment is donating $500,000 and will match public contributions up to $500,000. Gordon announced that he will donate one of his racing uniforms to the Ellen DeGeneres Hurricane Relief Fund.
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