Shadows And Light
SMYRNA, DE. (September 24) – - Jeff Gordon accomplished what he needed to do at Dover Speedway-- he came away with the points lead. However, the road to that accomplishment was a path of thorns. Gordon merely survived the day at Dover, which was significantly better than the majority of championship contenders. Gordon started 27th and came in for an early pit stop on lap 18. On fresh tires, Gordon advanced up to 7th place by lap 80. He battled handling problems for the rest of the day as the car alternated between tight and loose handling. He ran between 10th and 15th during the mid-stages of the race. He fell off the lead lap on lap 315 while running 16th. The final 40 laps saw dramatic changes for the front-running cars. Matt Kenseth blew an engine with 28 laps to go and a major wreck with 12 laps to go was triggered when Kurt Busch cut a tire. He slammed the wall and the melee eliminated Martin Truex, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, and Jeff Green. The points leader going into the race was Jimmie Johnson. He cut a tire and lost two laps on lap 187 and was involved in the wreck with 12 laps to go. Gordon restarted in 13th and moved up to 11th at the checkered flag. He holds a razor thin 2 point lead over Tony Stewart. "We just got real loose and we just fought it," Gordon said. "It wasn't pretty, but it was effective because we survived. So to me, that's what this race is all about is survival and putting up a great team effort. We certainly didn't have the car that we were hoping for today. I'm thankful we squeezed through this one today in the Chase and have come out of here with a decent finish and we can move on and go to some tracks that are much better for us."
RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) – - Jimmie Johnson served notice that the reigning champion is primed and ready to defend his title. Johnson started on the pole and won the Chevy 400 at Richmond International Raceway -- his second consecutive victory. While Johnson's summer was inconsistent, he appears to be hitting his stride at the right point of the season. At Richmond, he took the lead on lap 296 and led the rest of the way en route to his 6th victory of the season. Johnson will start the 10-race championship battle with 5,060 points -- 20 points ahead of teammate Jeff Gordon, who finished 4th after leading 126 of the first 166 laps. Gordon was strong early in the event, while Johnson outperformed the field when it counted. From the outset, the Hendrick teammates battled for the lead with Gordon assuming the lead on the opening lap. Johnson eventually ran down his teammate and passed for position on lap 179. Gordon's tight handling car worsened as the night progressed. He gained a spot on pit road and restarted behind Johsnon with 65 laps to go. However, he lost touch with the leader and was eventually overtaken by Dale Earnhardt Jr in a spirited battled where Gordon used up his tires. He faded back to 5th with 15 laps to go before gaining a spot after Earnhardt Jr's engine blew. "We got off just a little bit there," Gordon said. "We were making some adjustments trying to free the car there in the middle. Jimmie and those guys made the right adjustments. We were the car to beat, the first part of the race. If you're not the car to beat at the end, it doesn't matter."
FONTANA, CA. (September 3) – - Jeff Gordon's late-summer slump continued at California Speedway as Jimmie Johnson served notice that the defending champion is ready for the 10-race chase for the championship. Johnson pulled away from the field to win the Sharp 500 at California Speedway for his fifth victory of the season. The victory positioned him with a 10-point lead over Jeff Gordon when the 'chase' begins after the next race. A victory by Gordon at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night would nullify Johnson's 10-point advantage. Gordon had an unsettling 22nd place finish at California after igniting a multi-car wreck in the late stages. He pitted to adjust the handling on his car and was trying to make his way through a pack of cars on lap 179 when he got loose coming off turn four and slammed into the side of Jeremy Mayfield's car. Mayfield then clipped David Reutimann with Ricky Rudd getting slammed into the wall. Gordon wound up in the infield grass. "None of these races really mean a whole lot," Gordon said. "We'd like to be running better and be out there getting bonus points but this team is going to come with a whole different focus and attitude when we get to New Hampshire. I'll be honest. It's kind of hard to be in this position because you're in a position where it really doesn't matter; and yet you're a competitor and you go out there and you run hard and try to lead laps and win races. But you know in the back of your mind that it really doesn't mean anything. So I'm a little disappointed in some of the things we've had happen to us. But at the same time, I'd rather have them happen to us now than in those final 10 races."
LOS ANGELES, CA. (September 1) – - Hollywood night clubs are usually reserved for the "see and be seen" crowd headed by Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and stars of The Hills. But NASCAR took center stage (albeit briefly) with an event on Wednesday night at Avalon in Hollywood. California Speedway's "Running Wide Open" promotional event was created by track president Gillian Zucker to drum up awareness for the Labor Day weekend race. R&B singer Rihanna belted out an hourlong set of her hits - after she and Jeff Gordon kicked off the party with a scaled-down burnout in a Corvette. Event organizers wanted to block Hollywood streets to create a scaled-down racetrack and offer rides to partygoers willing to pay extra for a lap around the mock circuit in stock cars driven by Gordon and other top-level NASCAR stars. But Los Angeles transportation authorities require those applying to temporarily shut down a public street to obtain written permission from all commercial property owners or managers in the proposed closure area. And users of one Hollywood site refused to sign off on the plan. Gordon and his wife, Ingrid Vandebosch, left their new baby at home and snuggled front-and-center in the plush VIP pits overlooking the stage. Paris and Nicky Hilton, Brandon Davis, Aaron Eckhart, and plenty of other drivers - Juan Pablo Montoya, Carl Edwards, Reed Sorenson, Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin and David Stremme - jammed the velour-carpeted pits. The event-- with tickets priced at $2,500 each-- benefited various charities (DailyBulletin.com).
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