October 2004 Random News

Victory Dedication
HAMPTON, GA. (October 31)- - After an emotional week following the tragic loss of members of the Hendrick Motorsports family, Jimmie Johnson showed the unwavering determination and motivation of the racing organization by winning the Bass Pro 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Mark Martin dominated the race, but Johnson charged to the front with 15 laps to go on fresher tires. He held off Martin to score his seventh victory of the season and 13th of his career. In victory lane he spoke to owner Rick Hendrick via cell phone and was joined by his HMS teammates Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte, and Brian Vickers, along with their race teams, to celebrate the victory. But it was more than a victory. After all, Hendrick Motorsports has scored 129 victories in NASCAR's top series. Sunday's race at Atlanta was simply a dedication to Ricky, John, Kimberly, Jennifer, Randy, Jeff, Joe, Liz, Dick, and Scott. As far as Jeff Gordon's day, the ending was likely the high point. He struggled with a loose handling car for the balance of the day before he experienced a rear gear problem on lap 177 while leaving his pit stall. Gordon pulled behind the wall and repairs were made. However, he finished 34th on a day when points leader Kurt Busch blew an engine and finished 42nd. Gordon dropped to third in the series standings and trails Busch by 72 points with three races remaining. It was a rough day for us," Gordon said. "We were fighting a bad loose condition and it came out of nowhere. The car was nice and stuck, but it wedged into a major, major loose condition where I couldn't even hang onto it. I came into the pits, and when they dropped the jack, I just heard pieces breaking. It seems like nothing is going our way. I hate it that Kurt had his trouble, but we were going to try and capitalize on it, but I can't do that now." However, Sunday was about the HMS family getting back to what they do best; win races.

Racing Stripes at Atlanta
HAMPTON, GA. (October 30)- - Jeff Gordon joined actor Steve Harvey to unveil a special showcar at Atlanta Motor Speedway on October 30 to promote the movie "Racing Stripes." The animated movie hits theaters in January 2005 and features the voices of Snoop Dogg, Mandy Moore, Dustin Hoffman, and Frankie Muniz. The plot centers around an abandoned baby zebra that grows up believing he's a racehorse. With the help of barnyard friends and teenage girl who dreams of being a jockey, he overcomes prejudice and self-doubt to pursue his dream of running with thoroughbreds. In addition to unveiling the car, Gordon named an honorary 'pit crew' consisting of children afflicted with chronic and life-threatening illnesses to support the mission of the Jeff Gordon Foundation, which will receive a portion of the proceeds from the premiere of the movie.

Motivation and Determination Tinged With Sadness
HAMPTON, GA. (October 30)- - The Hendrick Motorsports drivers will take the green flag on Sunday with last weekend's tragedy still on their minds. But getting back to racing is what they do. After attending the memorial service for the Hendrick family on Thursday, Jeff Gordon is ready for the stretch run of the season with added inspiration. "I have never been so inspired and driven in my life," Gordon said of his championship quest. "This is an important weekend for us for so many different reasons, but I can't think of anything that could drive us harder and stronger than this loss. One, we want it bad no matter what. We work very hard for it but I think there is something that's going to allow us to dig a little deeper to try to make a difference, whether it be for the families that are grieving, to try to ease their pain some, or for those that are, you know, looking down on us. I think that instead of this being something that's a negative, we're going to take something and make something positive out of it and try to do our jobs better than we ever have before."
Gordon qualified 10th for Sunday's race under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday night. "We were up and down during practice and qualifying," Gordon said after his lap. "But that's the best it's felt. I think we got the most out of it. It's been a been a tough week. This is a good way to start the weekend. I'm really proud of this team."

Freaky Friday At Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (October 23)- - After setting an unofficial track record during testing at Martinsville Speedway in early October, expectations were high for Jeff Gordon heading into qualifying for the Subway 500. However, Gordon struggled during Friday's practice session and qualified 15th-- his worst start at Martinsville since he started 25th during his rookie season in September 1993. Ryan Newman shattered the old track record by nearly two miles per hour with a lap of 97.04 miles per hour. "The surface is just different," explained Gordon, who had started on the front row five consecutive times at the track. "I knew when we came up here (to test) that we weren't going to have the edge we've had over the competition here in the past. I felt like I had a good lap. But the lap times certainly didn't show it. I know how much of an advantage it's been for us to be starting up front, and we're not going to have it this time." The track is actually faster now. It's got good grip. Before we just had a great handle on the setup and the way you drive the car to get around these tight corners. It's not as challenging now because it's so smooth and has more grip." With a tight pit road at Martinsville, Gordon's task for Sunday becomes slightly more difficult since he won't be in a preferred stall with an easy in/out route. "You've just got to live with what you got and pick the best you can," Gordon said. "Robbie has been doing an awesome job all year picking great pit stalls. We'll be patient with it. We're probably going to get blocked in and have trouble in the pits getting in and out, but it should sort itself out. If we can stay on the lead lap, we'll be there at the end." Despite the uncharacteristic struggle on Friday, Gordon is one of the pre-race favorites to win on Sunday. He led 180 of the first 272 laps of the spring race at the track before running over a piece of dislodged concrete on the track surface. Damage to the front of the car likely cost Gordon a shot at the victory as he finished sixth. He trails Kurt Busch by 79 points in the quest for the first Nextel Cup trophy. A victory in Sunday's race would go a long way toward vaulting Gordon closer to the points lead and his fifth Cup championship. With 17 top-ten finishes in 23 career starts at Martinsville, Gordon is the dominant driver at the track having swept both events at the track in 2003.

Political Statements
SOUTH FLORIDA (October 23)- - While one political campaign has boasted ad nauseum about endorsements from a litany of NASCAR stars-- including 9 of the top 10 in the series points standings-- there's one high profile driver absent from the endorsement list. Jeff Gordon said he's avoiding the political scene. "I choose to keep that private," Gordon said. "How I vote and who I vote for is up to me. I don't think it's right for them to be putting pressure on the drivers so they can use them to promote [candidates]. I encourage people to vote. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to go out there and promote one or another."

Racing Stripes at Atlanta
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 23)- - Jeff Gordon will unveil a special showcar at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend to promote the movie "Racing Stripes." The animated movie hits theaters in January 2005 and features the voices of Snoop Dogg, Mandy Moore, Dustin Hoffman, and Frankie Muniz. The plot centers around an abandoned baby zebra that grows up believing he's a racehorse. With the help of barnyard friends and teenage girl who dreams of being a jockey, he overcomes prejudice and self-doubt to pursue his dream of running with thoroughbreds. "I'm looking forward to Atlanta," Gordon said. "It's been a great track for us. I love racing there. That track has matured so much. We've really been strong there the last couple of times. We hopefully will have something good for it. Plus we have a little promotion going with the Racing Stripes movie. The whole race that weekend is going to be promoting that. It's going to be a lot of fun."

Desert Skies
AVONDALE, AZ. (October 20)- - Jeff Gordon remains winless in 11 starts at Phoenix International Raceway in the Cup series. Though he has visited victory lane in sprint car and Busch series events at the one-mile track, his winless streak in the Cup series remains a desert mystery. Phoenix is just one of four tracks where Gordon has yet to post a victory. Though he's had fewer starts at Chicago, Texas, and Miami in comparison to Phoenix. Gordon spent two days testing at the track in mid-October in the hopes of getting a handle on the track. Gordon's next scheduled test date is at Homestead-Miami Speedway in a few weeks.

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