September 2009 News

Gunned Down In Dover
September 27 - - Jimmie Johnson mastered the Monster Mile with a sweep of the Cup Series races at Dover International Speedway in 2009. Johnson led the most laps en route to the victory in the AAA 400. He closed to within 10 points of Mark Martin for the series points lead as he tries for an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship.

Jeff Gordon's day was an exercise in frustration as he appeared on the way to a runner-up finish. However, a pit road problem in the closing stages pushed him back in traffic, before he rallied to finish a distant 6th. He moved from 10th to 8th in the series standings, but trails Martin by 122 points with just 8 races remaining.

The race was marred by a spectacular crash on lap 32. Several cars slowed entering the corner. Joey Logano checked up after Kasey Kahne slowed, which brought Tony Stewart into the rear of Logano's car. The rookie driver spun down the track, then back up and was hit again by Reed Sorenson, which sent Logano barrel-rolling down the track. The wreck also collected Robby Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. and required a nearly 24-minute red flag for cleanup.

Johnson lost the top spot briefly to Kurt Busch during the first half of the event, but took firm control before the halfway mark. Johnson won all races off of pit road -- the advantage of having the first stall -- and coasted to the victory ahead of Martin.

JG post-race comments

"I'm really disappointed. I feel like we had a second-place car and when you have a second-place car you've got to finish second or contend for the win. We had a problem with a gun on pit road and I don't know what you do about that but we'll try to fix it for the next time. It's just nice to run good. The No. 48 was in a league of their own but I felt like we were second best."

"I already knew that earlier in the race. It was very challenging. It was like driving a different race car when you get fifth or sixth on back. We had already made adjustments to the car to be up front like we had been. You take that risk when you adjust the car. We were trying to make it better and compete with the No. 48 and then you get behind, I think we were seventh, eighth or ninth or something like that. We were just a sitting duck. We couldn't go anywhere."

"It certainly was an improvement over last week. It can always be worse. You have to remind yourself of that but right now I don't want to remind myself of that. I will tomorrow or the next day but right now I'm just disappointed. We just can't get things to go our way. That's what it takes to win a championship. We're certainly not out of it yet and we're going to keep fighting hard like we did today and like we did last week. We're eighth in points and we'll just keep on going. I think the next two tracks are really good tracks for us so I'm looking forward to those."

"I believe you make your own luck. Putting yourself in position, communication, preparation and just hard work. I don't know what happened to the gun. We've got to find out why that happened and we'll try to fix that for next week."

"Certainly. We saw Mark Martin win and finish second here and he's tough. Jimmie Johnson dominated today and finished fourth last week. I think a lot of people thought that Hendrick Motorsports could be the team to beat and right now they certainly are. We're racing them plus other guys. We've got work to do. That's part one."

"It was pretty tough. To me this tire was not as sketchy as the ones we've had during the past but it was certainly different the way it picked up rubber under the cautions. It really made the restarts challenging to get grip and then the double-file restarts made it a challenge as well. I'm surprised we didn't see an outside groove really materialize like we have in the past. This tire turns good and has pretty good grip so it allows you to run around the bottom a lot more. I don't know that might be something to think about for the next time. It certainly worked good for Jimmie."

D.C. Tour
September 23 - - Jeff Gordon joined Dale Earnhardt Jr and Rick Hendrick for a stop in Washington D.C. in which they layed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and then toured The Pentagon. "I was honored to pay tribute to all those currently serving our country and all those who have been lost in the past," Gordon said. "It makes you very proud to be an American."
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Falling In New England
September 20 - - A 15th place effort was not the way that Jeff Gordon wanted to begin the Chase for the Championship. He'll have to climb out of a 100+ point deficit due to the substandard finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Gordon started 10th and moved to 7th on lap 3 by using the outside line. He took the 6th position from Martin Truex Jr on lap 10, and moved into the top-5 on lap 14. Gordon patiently worked through lapped traffic and took 4th from Denny Hamlin on lap 52. Twelve laps later, he dove to the inside of Kurt Busch on the backstretch and moved to 3rd. The first caution waved on lap 66 for Kasey Kahne's blown engine. Pit stops ensued with Gordon departing pit road in 5th position after overshooting his stall coming in.

On the restart, Gordon dropped to 7th as the outside line had the momentum, and Jimmie Johnson zoomed past on the inside. Gordon held 7th as the air pressures stabilized, before a debris caution on lap 85. The leaders elected to stay on the track. Gordon faded to 12th within two laps of the restart. On lap 115, he took 11th from Brian Vickers, and re-entered the top-10 on lap 119. Gordon moved up to 9th on lap 125 from Ryan Newman. A debris caution brought the leaders to pit road on lap 135, with Gordon departing in the 8th position. He held 8th on the restart and ran there for 20 laps before Erik Darnell brought out the caution. Gordon opted for fuel only and was the 2nd car off of pit road. He restarted in 9th due to drivers staying on the track. A multi-car incident on lap 169 collected Paul Menard, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip, John Andretti, and Robby Gordon.

Gordon restarted 10th and moved to 9th before Jeff Burton's spin on lap 176. David Stremme's wall contact brought the caution and the leaders to pit road with just over 100 laps to go. Gordon opted for right side tires and restarted in 14th place. He struggled with the handling and opted for wholesale changed during the next pit stop on lap 250. He dropped to 18th before a debris caution with 23 laps to go. Gordon opted to come to pit road for fresh tires in the hopes of making a final charge. Gordon restarted 19th with 18 laps to go. He moved up to 15th at the finish. At the front of the field, points leader Mark Martin held off Denny Hamlin and Juan Pablo Montoya to win his 5th race of the season.

JG post-race comments

"Yeah, I know. I was really happy with it (the car). I was concerned about our restarts. The last time we fought that as well, being really loose on the restarts. If you're on the front row, you can get away with it a little bit but being fifth or sixth we just really struggled with the grip on the restarts. We'd lose three or four spots every restart and then we'd start not being able to gain it back. It just wasn't a good day for us. It's one we've just got to put behind us and go on."

"I've got to see it on the video. All I know is my spotter was saying there's a car in the middle or stopped down low on the front straightaway. I never heard him say caution, so everybody was still doing and then I saw the caution out of the corner of my eye and said I never heard the caution and they said that's because it didn't come out until jut now and I was surprised by that."

"102 is a lot of points to make up. But you know, it could have been a lot worse. I said last week it's damage control when you don't have a good run. But we should have finished better than this. We didn't. It wasn't our day as far as tuning on the car and as far as pit stops and just a lot of things. So that's why we finished where we did and all we can do it put it behind us now and go to Dover and try to rebound. When you get in a hole like this, it puts that much more pressure on you that you have to win."

"No, not necessarily. This is a tricky place on restarts. It always has been. Double-file restarts I think is definitely going to affect the outcome of these races in the Chase. But no, this is a unique track. I don't know if restarts are necessarily going to happen. I hope it doesn’t happen to us again I know that."

Steady Improvement At Richmond
September 13 - - Jeff Gordon will enter the chase for the championship trailing Mark Martin by 30 points. Gordon didn't score the victory in the Chevy 400 at Richmond International Raceway, but he led laps and ran with the leader nearly all night before late race contact hindered his efforts.

Gordon started 7th and passed Brian Vickers for 6th on the second lap. Scott Speed's spin on lap 5 brought out the caution, with the leaders opting to stay on the track. On the restart, Gordon battled side-by-side with Kasey Kahne before taking the 5th position. Gordon moved to the inside of Jimmie Johnson and took 4th on lap 16. His forward march continued with a pass on Martin Truex for 3rd on lap 24. The second caution came on lap 45 when Tony Stewart spun coming off turn four and collected Reed Sorensen. Gordon came to pit road for tires and departed in 2nd place, as he benefited from an opening in front due to John Andretti having been lapped.

Gordon took the lead from Hamlin on lap 67 with an inside pass entering turn one. He held the lead through a caution period on lap 107, but battled a tight handling condition in traffic. Hamlin re-assumed the top spot on lap 150, but relinquished the lead to Gordon during pit stops on lap 180. The duo swapped the lead three times over the next 15 laps, with Hamlin taking the lead on lap 195. Hamlin led lap 200 -- the halfway lap -- but Gordon came back to take the lead on lap 203. Regan Smith's blown tire on lap 204 brought out the caution. Hamlin won the race off pit road to re-take the lead, which he held thru caution flag pit stops on lap 281. Jeff Burton's cut tire with 80 laps to go slowed the field and resulted in pit stops.

On the restart with 74 laps to go, Gordon was tapped by Clint Bowyer -- who made an ill-advised run into the corner and locked up his tires -- exiting turn two. Gordon was forced up the track and dropped back to 6th before the caution waved one lap later. Brian Vickers took 6th from Gordon with 65 laps to go as his hopes for a victory all but evaporated. He passed Kyle Busch with 58 to go to move back into the 6th position. Brad Keselowski's blown engine with 20 laps to go brought the leaders to pit road for the last time. Gordon exited in 4th for the restart with 14 laps to go. He pulled to the inside of Mark Martin with 9 laps to go and moved up to 3rd place. However, he was distantly behind race winner Denny Hamlin and runner-up Kurt Busch.

In the final chase spot, Brian Vickers edged Kyle Busch by four points to qualify for the 12th and final transfer spot. Martin will have the points lead heading to Loudon, New Hampshire for the first chase race next weekend.

JG post-race comments

"We were fighting hard for the 10 bonus points. It was a great effort, we had a great car. This was the best one I've had (at Richmond) in a long time. We know we have some points to make up, but I think this team is ready to do that. I don't like giving up points to anybody. You don't want to allow anyone to have an edge. We know we're going to have to go out and win some races. Track position was so important because it takes the whole race to put yourself in position to possibly win the race. Denny Hamlin was so strong tonight and I don't think anybody had anything for him but we were certainly going to give it our best shot. A great great race. I really want to thank Wounded Warriors and all those soldiers out there that do so much for our country. I am thankful for the National Guard and what they do for their soldiers. So we are happy with the performance of the DuPont Chevrolet tonight. What a race car we had. Steve Letarte, all the boys, they did a great job in the pits, man the pit stops were awesome. That was the best car we've had here in a long time. This gives us some momentum going in to the Chase. I am fired up, really fired up. I hate that we got knocked around a little at that one restart that put us back and we just fought from there and got back up there."

How do you think this propels you as far as winning the championship this year?
"We pushed hard. Unfortunately Clint Bowyer pushed a little too hard down in turn one and almost pushed us out but we caught our way back up to third. I did exactly what I expected us to do as a team. Our goal was to win, and we went into it as hard as we could to win. We had great pit stops. We had the best car I've had here in a very long time. I pushed hard when I felt like I had to on the restarts, the double-file restarts, and I think we had a second-place car and we finished third."

Your thoughts on making the Chase
"We had a great year. We just were kind of a non-factor last year. And this year, I think has shown the effort has really shown in the results. I felt like the first ten races we are were on our game and were strong and had a shot to win some races, like at Texas which is something I never thought I would do and then lost a bit of momentum, and Tony Stewart came on strong and Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. It was a little bit disappointing. But I feel like the last five or six races we have really been able to get some things turned around and I feel like we are really well prepared for the next ten races and I feel like tonight was something that really proved to a lot of people, including ourselves, of what we are capable of doing. We had a great, great run tonight and best car I've had here in a long time and as strong as Denny Hamlin was for anybody to battle with him, I think was really saying something. And we battled with him a good bit. So it was a great night for us, and a little bit of momentum for us going into the Chase. I hate to have a deficit, but like Tony said, sixth is better than 12th, of the final ten races, a lot is going to happen, and I think we have a great shot at it.

Eight Becomes Enough
September 7 - - Jeff Gordon battled handling issues throughout the Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway en route to an 8th place finish. He moved up to 2nd in points heading to Richmond -- the final race before the chase for the championship begins.

Gordon started 4th and dropped to 6th within the first two laps before the tire pressures came up. On lap 6, he took the 5th position from Kurt Busch. He ran down Kyle Busch and moved into 4th a few laps later. On lap 20, Gordon took 3rd from Jimmie Johnson. The first caution came on lap 37 for Sam Hornish's spin, which allowed the drivers to come in for adjustments. Gordon, like all of his peers, dealt with handling issues during the opening run. He came onto pit road in 3rd place and departed in the same position.

He took 2nd place for Kasey Kahne within two laps of the restart before falling back to 4th after getting loose in turn two. On lap 48, he dropped back as Johnson and Denny Hamlin passed, and Mark Martin took a spot on lap 49. Gordon fell to 9th on lap 50 as Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch went by. Gordon fell to 16th on lap 60 battling a loose condition. Sam Hornish's second spin of the night brought out the caution and the leaders came to pit road. Gordon restarted in 16th place on lap 65. Within one lap of the restart, he used the outside line to move up to 11th. His forward momentum stalled and was back to 14th on lap 80. Carl Edwards' engine problem on lap 83 slowed the field for a caution period. Gordon gained four spots on pit road to move up to 9th place for the restart. He pedaled up to 6th on lap 88 by taking advantage of Hamlin who spun the tires coming up to speed. Gordon moved back into the top-5 with a pass on Kurt Busch on lap 89. Hamlin regrouped to take 5th on lap 91.

Max Papis' wall contact on lap 105 brought the caution out. Gordon held 6th through the round of pit stops. On the restart, Gordon moved up to 4th on the outside line. He took 3rd from Martin Truex on lap 116, before Johnson pushed him back to 4th one lap later. He regrouped to take 3rd from Kyle Busch on lap 125. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 131 as Gordon complained about a loose handling condition. The pit crew turned a 12.7 second stop to push Gordon into the lead. He chose the outside line for the restart and dropped to 2nd as Hamlin got a strong run off turn two. Gordon went back to the front on lap 140 with a pass on Hamlin in turn one. However, he slipped to 3rd on lap 167 after Hamlin and Kevin Harvick passed. Two laps later, Brian Vickers went around Gordon on the outside line. Dale Earnhardt Jr passed by on lap 176, and Mark Martin went by on lap 182. Gordon came in for a four-tire change on lap 189 under the green flag. Johnson's spin on lap 201 brought the caution out with Gordon in 8th. He gained two spots during pit stops and restarted 6th on lap 204.

Gordon moved to 2nd on the restart, but slipped back to 4th as the tire run continued. On lap 221, Earnhardt Jr and Martin passed to put Gordon back to 6th. With 100 laps to go, Gordon ran in 8th while battling loose handling issues. A caution for Kurt Busch and Reed Sorensen's crash brought the field to pit road. The pit crew once again did its job by gaining two spots. He moved to 4th on the restart with 72 laps to go. However, as was the case throughout the race, Gordon fell off as the run progressed. He dropped two spots back to 6th with 60 to go. Joey Logano's spin with 57 to go brought the field back to the pit road. Gordon exited pit road in 11th place due to a dropped lugnut. He re-entered the top-10 with 47 laps to go, and took 9th from Kyle Busch four laps later. Brian Vickers took a position from Gordon with 29 to go, sending him back to 10th. Clint Bowyer's spin with 16 to go set up some drama for the finish of the race. Gordon lost a position on pit road and restarted in 11th with 11 laps to go. He moved to 8th shortly after the restart but didn't challenge Vickers for position. At the front of the field, Kasey Kahne took the lead from Kevin Harvick on the final restart to win his second race of the season.

JG post-race comments

"It was really crazy and there were a lot of things going on. I can't even keep up with all the different things that happened. There were times I thought we had the car to beat then I thought we were going to go a lap down. We were trying to keep up with the changing conditions whether it was track, tires or whatever it was. Man, we were all over the place and never could seem to find any consistency. It was a good fight, a good top-10 and it was good to lead some laps."

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