Good News, Bad News
KANSAS CITY, KS. (September 29) - - On the surface, Jeff Gordon's 4th place finish at Kansas Speedway is a tremendous success based on how he has raced on the 1.5-mile tracks in 2008. Clearly, multiple testing sessions at Kentucky Speedway paid dividends in Kansas. He battled a weekend illness and gutted out the full 400 miles. However, he was distantly behind race winner Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards throughout the day. Gordon fell 143 points behind the leader in the championship standings. Gordon started 13th at Kansas and used the high line to move into the top-10 by lap 6. By lap 30, he closed in and passed Mark Martin for the 7th position. Gordon came in for a green flag stop on lap 52. A quick pit stop returned him to the race in 5th place. The first caution period on lap 75 brought the field to pit road. Gordon gained two spot and departed in 3rd. Jimmie Johnson took the position on lap 86, but Gordon re-assumed 3rd with a pass on Martin Truex one lap later. Kyle Petty's spin on lap 94 brought the field to pit road for the third time. Gordon restarted in 7th after taking four tires. Gordon briefly entered the top-5 on lap 109 before Elliott Sadler took the spot. Matt Kenseth's spin on lap 123 brought out another caution. Gordon restarted in 5th position and quickly took 4th from Clint Bowyer. However, he lost a spot on lap 141 as Carl Edwards went by. A long green flag run followed and Gordon came in for a green flag pit stop with 90 laps to go. Ten laps later he moved into 4th, but remained distantly behind Edwards and Johnson at the front of the field. The sixth caution waved with 50 laps to go and Gordon exited pit road in 3rd place. With 12 laps to go, Greg Biffle passed Gordon to take the 3rd spot. "I guess I need to be sick more often," Gordon joked after the race. "That was a good run and a good car, and I know I could have gotten more out of it if I'd been healthy. I'm just aching all over. The best I felt all weekend was driving this car."
Information Gathering Sessions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (September 24) - - Jeff Gordon concluded a two-day test session at Lowes Motor Speedway on Wednesday. For one lap on Wednesday night, Gordon turned the fastest lap of any driver during the session. Gordon's lap of 187.23 mph was the fastest of the two-day test. Wednesday night proved to be the fastest during the open test with the top six speeds besting the top times of the previous three sessions. He joined nearly 50 other Cup series teams for the test session in preparation for the Bank of America 500. Gordon is the defending champion of the event -- which was also the last time he visited victory lane. "I can say personally I've worked harder this year testing, working with the team at the racetrack, away from the racetrack, than I have in any other season that I've run in the Cup series," Gordon said. "The only way we're going to see the results is to continue to work hard and hope that we find something that really clicks."
SMYRNA, DE. (September 21) - - On one hand, Jeff Gordon ran in the top-10 nearly all day at Dover Speedway and posted a solid 7th place finish. But once again he was unable to compete with the leaders and dropped into dangerous territory in the Chase for the Championship. Gordon led from the pole, but battled a loose handling condition from the outset. He was eventually reeled in and passed by Jamie McMurray on lap 31. Gordon held the runner-up spot through a round of pit stops under caution on lap 64 as Matt Kenseth moved to the lead. McMurray sent Gordon back to the 3rd position on lap 84. Two laps later he dropped to 5th as Mark Martin and Carl Edwards went by in turn one. Gordon dropped to 6th on lap 140 before a caution two laps later for Dale Earnhardt Jr's cut tire. Gordon left pit road in 4th due to the first stall. A caution shortly after the restart brought Gordon to pit road for chassis adjustments. During the caution, Kyle Busch pulled behind the wall with engine problems as his championship hopes all but evaporated in the last two weeks. Gordon restarted in 18th since he was one of the only lead lap cars to make a stop. Gordon got a break as Sam Hornish's spin on lap 187 brought the leaders to the pits. Gordon stayed on the track and moved up to 6th for the restart. He moved up to 4th by the halfway point on lap 200. He then passed Dave Blaney for 3rd, but complained about handling problems. Edwards took 3rd on lap 235, but Gordon made up the spot when Ryan Newman pitted under the green flag and took 2nd place when Jimmie Johnson pitted. However, he dropped to 4th on lap 248 as Kenseth and Greg Biffle went by. Gordon came in for a green flag pit stop on lap 264. After the pit stop sequence, Gordon was running in 6th. A caution with 109 laps to go brought the field to pit road, but a slow pit stop cost Gordon a position and he restarted in 7th. He took 6th on the restart, but dropped the position to Kevin Harvick with 84 laps to go. Gordon slipped to 7th with 60 to go when Clint Bowyer passed. Caution with 50 to go brought the lead lap cars onto pit road. He took a position from Newman but could make no further gains and finished a distant 7th. He dropped to 118 points behind Carl Edwards, but moved to 8th in the series standings.
SPARTA, KY. (September 18) - - Jeff Gordon visited the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as part of a lobbying effort for the National Cord Blood Inventory and the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, which are administered by the National Marrow Donor Program. Gordon met with several legislators, including the North Carolina delegation. Gordon has been a longtime advocate of adult stem cell transplants as a potential cure for blood diseases such as leukemia. "We want to encourage Congress to support that program," Gordon said. "We want to make sure we're maximizing the money that's set aside because it's not just automatic that it's there." The program is authorized to get $15 million a year to collect and store samples of blood used to make bone marrow matches, but that doesn't mean Congress actually appropriates that amount every year. Last year, the program received $12 million, and the year before, $9 million. Gordon spent the morning in meetings before lunch at the Rayburn cafeteria.
On Wednesday, Gordon got back to the NASCAR grind for a test session at Kentucky Speedway. Gordon has visited Kentucky several times this season in the hopes of getting a better handle on the 1.5-mile tracks.
LOUDON, N.H. (September 14) - - The chase for the championship might be a 'new' season, but Jeff Gordon's performance in the first 26 races wound up hurting him in the first race in the chase. Since qualifying was rained out, Gordon started 10th in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had a less than ideal pit stall which cost him positions on more than one occasion. Gordon finished 14th and dropped to 11th in the series points standings -- 99 points behind Carl Edwards. Gordon started the race in 10th and moved to 6th on lap 4 by running the outside line. At the lap 35 competition caution, Gordon was running 7th. However, he was boxed in his pit stall by Robby Gordon's entrance which put Gordon back to 14th on the restart. A caution for Kyle Busch's spin and ensuing contact with Jamie McMurray brought the field to pit road on lap 85. Gordon left in 12th place after an easier exit from his pit stall. He struggled on the restart and dropped to 15th on lap 95. On the longer run, Gordon made some headway and moved to 11th on lap 120. At the halfway point, Gordon was up to 9th. A green flag pit stop on lap 158 was held up once again by Robby Gordon's entry. The extended pit stop pushed Gordon back to 15th on the track. He moved up to 13th by lap 170, and took 11th on lap 195. A debris caution on lap 214 brought the field to pit road. Gordon departed in 9th and caught a break with a late caution with 35 laps to go, thus allowing him to save enough fuel to make it the rest of the way. However, his good fortune was short-lived. A restart with 17 laps to go saw Patrick Carpentier spin up the track in turn two right in front of Gordon, who had to jam on the brakes and turn hard left. The evasive move saved Gordon from damage -- but wound up costing him positions on the track as he pitted for tires. He gained five spots after the last restart to salvage 14th at the finish -- hardly the chase debut he wanted or needed.
NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 12) - - Following last Sunday's race in Richmond, Jeff Gordon jetted home to the big town, quickly changed clothes, and accompanied his wife, Ingrid, to a Fashion Week event. They attended the runway show at Roseland Ballroom featuring the William Rast Spring 2009 collection. The Rast label is the brainchild of Justin Timberlake - who collaborated with Johan and Marcella Lindeberg on the designs. Gordon has been a regular at Fashion Week events over the past few years. For the uninitiated, New York holds Fashion Week twice per year featuring Spring (held in September) and Fall (held in April) collections from the world's top designers. During the week he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and Good Morning America, and also participated in photo shoots around the city with the other drivers in the chase for the championship. He also kept up an active social life by attending runway events during Fashion Week and a Vogue/Chanel party on Wednesday night following a premiere for "The Dutchess."
Deja Vu All Over Again
RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) - - No driver has mastered the 'chase for the championship' concept any better than Jimmie Johnson. He's claimed two consecutive Cup championships and has qualified for the chase every year since its inception. One year ago, Johnson went into the chase on the heels of back-to-back victories at California and Richmond. Although Johnson trailed Jeff Gordon by more than 400 points at the end of the regular season, the chase concept put Johnson in the lead at the outset. He then put together a modern-era record-tying four straight wins late in the chase to claim the title from Gordon. This time around he finished the regular season more than 300 points behind Kyle Busch -- but he once again scored back-to-back wins at California and Richmond heading into the chase. Busch and Carl Edwards have been this season's two most successful drivers, but the chase is a season unto itself. And there's simply no better driver in the 'chase' than Jimmie Johnson. "I don't see how you can compare any champions once the Chase started," Gordon said. "It's just not possible. And I'm not taking anything away from the Chase at all. What Jimmie's done is unbelievable. It's equally as impressive as what any other champion has done. But you can't compare this (to pre-chase seasons)."
RICHMOND, VA. (September 7) - - After being fired by Hendrick Motorsports last year, Kyle Busch signed with Joe Gibbs Racing where he has experienced immediate success. Busch swept the road courses, won 2 out of 3 restrictor plate races, and visited victory lane on intermediate and short tracks. On the heels of two mundane races at Indianapolis and Pocono over the summer, Jeff Gordon commented that Kyle and his team were slipping. Busch responded with a victory at Watkins Glen. During the Richmond weekend, Gordon was asked whether Busch was ready to win a championship. "I think Carl Edwards is more ready than Kyle," said Gordon. "He has the ability to go really hard, really fast, and he's made big improvements in my opinion this year over last year... I would put Carl ahead of him as far as being ready experience-wise, and I'd put Jimmie Johnson ahead of both of those guys with just his experience of winning the last two."
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