Late Rally Falls Short
ATLANTA, GA. (October 28) – - For the balance of the Pep Boys 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon battled handling problems. In the closing stages, the DuPont team made gains but came up short with a 7th place finish. Gordon's points lead was trimmed to 9 after Jimmie Johnson scored his 8th victory of the season. Gordon started off battling a loose handling car early in tire runs. On a long green flag run, he ran laps as fast as the leaders. He started the race 8th and moved up to 4th on lap 20. He lost positions shortly thereafter and slipped to 7th on lap 55. Gordon gained positions on pit road nearly all day. A chassis adjustment on lap 103 was made to improve handling after restarts-- but it came at the expense of handling on the long run. Gordon dropped from 5th on lap 105 to 12th on lap 140. More chassis adjustments followed as Gordon continued to lose positions on the track. He dropped to 21st on lap 195. Racing in traffic he narrowly escaped some of the spins in front of him. He went low on the track to avoid Jeremy Mayfield's spinning car, and later ducked onto the track apron as David Stremme's wrecked car came down the track. An air pressure on pit road during a caution period adjustment paid immediate dividends as Gordon moved to 15th with 83 laps to go. With 58 to go, he gained three spots on pit road to enter the top-10. A late race caution brought the field to pit road. Gordon changed four tires and restarted 11th with 4 laps to go. Denny Hamlin ran out of gas resulting in a melee. Johnson inherited the lead while Gordon moved up to 9th. The final restart came under green/white/checkered conditions. Just after the restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr blew a tire and slammed the wall, thus resulting in an immediate conclusion with Johnson ahead of the pack. Gordon's 7th place finish narrowed the points gap to 9 points. "We struggled in the middle part of the race," Gordon said. "The track can change a lot and it did. This was all about sticking with it. We got it turned around too late and we were too far behind by that point. But at the end, my car was awesome. On the long run it was too tight, but we really fixed it for the short run. I needed about a 5-lap run and we really would have given them a run for their money on the four tires."
Johnson Threepeats At Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (October 22) – - The winningest season in the history of Hendrick Motorsports continued with a victory by Jimmie Johnson in the Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway-- his third straight at the half-mile track. HMS drivers have combined for 15 wins this year. Johnson's seventh win featured a late race battle with his teammate Jeff Gordon that culminated with Johnson taking the lead with 45 laps to go. Gordon had been mired in the rear of the field in the mid-stages of the event due to a pit road miscue but battled back to have a chance at the victory. He started on the pole and led the first 109 laps before Johnson took the lead. However, his day to a turn for the worse on lap 169 when lug nuts were left loose on the left rear. After re-pitting Gordon was 33rd. He utilized pit strategy to gain spots and made his way up to 5th on lap 293. Gordon reassumed the lead with 106 laps to go by beating the field off of pit road. However, Johnson ran him down and took the lead in the closing stages. Gordon dropped to 3rd after Ryan Newman passed with 7 laps to go. The third place finish, combined with Johnson's 30th career victory, trimmed Gordon's points lead to 53. "It didn't end up the way we wanted to," Gordon said. "Third place is great compared to where we were at one point. The car was great on the long runs. We just didn't need all those cautions. I just couldn't get going on the restarts and was loose going in. It's a good points day for us. Jimmie was tough - congratulations to him, I really didn't have anything for him. He got the best of us at the end."
KEY WEST, FLA. (October 16) – - You just won your second consecutive NASCAR race. You increased your points lead to a semi-comfortable margin. You sprayed champagne until the wee hours of Sunday morning. You wake up and realize you have a free day to spend any way you want. You get on a plane and head down to Key West, Florida for a laid-back Sunday with a few friends. The end of the road is where your story begins. Where the green of the Gulf meets the blue of the Sea. It's a slow weekend in paradise as the island gears up for Fantasy Fest from October 20-27, and then a week later hosts Meeting of the Minds-- the annual Parrothead convention. But here you are -- the most successful American race car driver of your era -- at a marina. You want a bite to eat and head to A&B's Lobster House, an island staple for 60 years. When the hostess doesn't recognize you, you simply smile while thrilled to keep a low profile at a table near the kitchen. Of course, on the way out your waiter asks you to autograph a few menus. You happily oblige before heading out and returning to your life.
<<A visit from Jeff Gordon
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 14) – - Jeff Gordon's second consecutive victory came in the Bank of America 500 at Lowes Motor Speedway. Gordon took the lead with 50 laps to go and appeared to be cruising to victory. However, a caution flag with 13 laps to go resulted in late night drama. Ryan Newman sped past Gordon on the restart after he battled a fuel pickup problem. Newman jumped out to a comfortable lead but wound up spinning in turn two and made contact with the wall with just three laps to go. Gordon reassumed the top spot and held off Clint Bowyer on a green/white/checkered flag finish for his 6th win of the season and 81st of his career. Gordon started 4th but dropped to 19th after the first round of pit stops due to a miscue during the stop. He made his way back into the top-10 by lap 60. He hung around the lower half of the top-10 during the mid-stages of the race. Gordon entered the top-5 on lap 183 and took the lead on pit road on lap 208. Johnson's spin on lap 230 eliminated the night's most dominant driver from victory contention. Gordon dropped to 4th during pit stops but made his way through traffic to eventually take the lead from Busch. Gordon extended his points lead to 68 over Jimmie Johnson who finished 14th after battling through a mid-race spin and an unscheduled tire change. "When I saw Jimmie Johnson had problems I thought it was an opportunity for us," Gordon said. "The best the car was all night was toward the end- it was on rails. I was just saying 'no caution, no caution.' I saw oil on my windshield and I knew the caution was coming. Then it ran out of gas. The fuel was running out of the pickup. On the last restart the tires spun so bad that Clint Bowyer gave me a shot in the rear bumper and that got me going again. I had my sister here, and in 81 race wins, she's never been to victory lane. She's been there and left and a lot of crazy stories, but to have her and family and friends and to do it here in Charlotte was just really special, and of course, with the championship on the line, every win is so important."
Jeff Wins At Talladega
TALLADEGA, AL. (October 7) – - Jeff Gordon showed once again why he's the smartest driver in motorsports. His 80th career victory at Talladega Superspeedway featured a dramatic last lap pass in the Pepsi Chevrolet. After running in the rear of the field for the balance of the day, Gordon moved to the front when it counted the most. A break from Jimmie Johnson in turn three allowed Gordon to pick up a bump draft from Tony Stewart. Gordon rocketed past Johnson on the outside and held the lead through the tri-oval and to the finish line. Gordon also regained the points lead by 9 over Johnson who finished second. Gordon started 34th and ran apart from the lead pack for the first 150 laps. He hooked up in a single line draft with Johnson and was content to run in the back while jockeying went on in the lead pack. Gordon also overcame a pit road penalty that would have dropped him off the lead lap with 45 to go. A well-timed caution flag for a 10-car wreck saved his day. Gordon restarted 17th with 39 laps to go and immediately went to the middle line. Within four laps he was up to 10th place. He stayed in 9th through a series of late race caution flags. With 12 laps to go, Jimmie Johnson passed by on the low side. The final caution flag came out with 13 laps to go, setting up a 9 lap duel to the finish. Gordon restarted in 11th and moved to the low line to work with Casey Mears. Within a lap, Johnson dropped down thus allowing Gordon to push him into the lead with 5 laps remaining. Gordon stayed glued to Johnson's bumper until the backstretch of the final lap. He went to the high side to get drafting help from Stewart. A major push into turn three sealed the deal. "We just wanted to play it safe until it really counted," Gordon said. "I don't understand is how I ever got by Jimmie Johnson because I was there behind him and got a couple of pushes. But when Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch were on the outside of me, I really was just kind of stuck there. But when they got three-wide, I thought this was my opportunity. I got pushed from Dave Blaney and I went with the momentum. Luckily when I got high and Jimmie tried to block me, Tony Stewart was there and had nowhere to go. He drilled me and he's the one that pushed me to the front. So that's what you've got to do. You've got to put that rear bumper in front of those other guys' bumpers at the right time."
TALLADEGA, AL. (October 7) – - Jeff Gordon swept both races at Talladega Superspeedway in 2007 and set the all-time NASCAR record for most restrictor plate victories with 12. His 12th victory with the horsepower-robbing plate was perhaps his most challenging. The common template car and assorted NASCAR rules pushed the series to point of resembling the former International Race of Champions where the drivers were in equally matched cars. A variety of drivers normally in the rear of the field were able to run up front in the UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega. That's a direct by-product of NASCAR's common template. But when the laps dwindled down and the race was on the line, Gordon put himself in the right position to win. It's been said that the late Dale Earnhardt could see the air on restrictor plate tracks. Jeff Gordon can't see the air. Rather, he only sees checkered flags. And no driver on the planet is better at getting to that checkered flag first.
KANSAS CITY, KS. (October 1) – - Former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will make his Nextel Cup debut at Talladega Superspeedway. Villeneuve has raced in a grand total of one NASCAR-sanctioned event-- a truck series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Making a debut in the final race of the season has been a tradition in NASCAR. After all, Jeff Gordon's first race was the final event of 1992. However, Villeneuve's lack of experience on a restrictor plate track is troubling to the four-time champion. "I think it's great what they're doing and I want to see him in the Cup Series, but not at Talladega," Gordon said. "There is too much on the line. It's a track that is not for rookies. No matter whether he's one of the most experienced race car drivers in the world, it's just not the place to start. There are so many other tracks to start at, why start there? It makes no sense to me other than the fact that NASCAR approved David Gilliland last year under a similar situation and they kind of got themselves into a box with that one." Bill Davis Racing fast-tracked Villeneuve into the Cup race after he managed to stay out of trouble in the truck race. "You need to get some experience in something else before you go stick them in the Cup race at Talladega, especially when it is so crucial for the championship," Gordon said. Jimmie Johnson echoed Gordon's sentiments in preferring that Villeneuve's debut come at a different track. "That is a very quick period of time to put somebody in that situation," Johnson said. "He is a world-class driver, a world champion, and again, I am not trying to take anything away from him, but, there is a lot at stake. I share Jeff's concerns, I am not sure that is the best situation." Villeneuve will enter the event without any owner points and will be forced to make the race on his qualifying speed.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 4) – - November marks the 15th anniversary of Jeff Gordon's debut in NASCAR's top series. Gordon's initial foray was the final race of the 1992 season, which was also the last race of Richard Petty's illustrious career. Neither Gordon nor Petty had a particularly good day that afternoon. Gordon spun and hit the wall while Petty was involved in a multi-car accident. To commemorate the anniversary, Gordon will give the "Gentleman, start your engines" command from his car before the race at Atlanta. Petty will be the honorary starter and will wave the green flag. "A lot of great things have happened to me at Atlanta Motor Speedway," Gordon said. "We won our first Busch Grand National race there. I sat on the pole that day, and Rick Hendrick just happened to be watching. If he hadn't been watching, he might not have hired me. The track has been real good to us."
KANSAS CITY, KS. (October 1) – - Jeff Gordon's day at Kansas Speedway was a tale of two races. Gordon battled handling problems for the majority of the first 140 laps. He was running 11th when he pitted for fuel just before a torrential rain shower, thus trapping him a lap down in 30th position. Had the race been called at that point, Gordon would have trailed Tony Stewart by more than 100 points. However, after two hours the sun broke through and the track dried. The race was shortened to 210 laps when it restarted in the twilight. But it was the second part of the day where Gordon shined. On the restart, Ken Schrader spun and collected Matt Kenseth and Martin Truex, allowing Gordon to get back on the lead lap. He moved up to 18th before the complexion of the championship changed. Stewart spun out and collected Carl Edwards. Gordon pitted for tires and proceeded to make a championship-caliber drive through the field. He entered the top-10 with a pass on Kasey Kahne with 18 laps to go. He took 5th from Kevin Harvick with 11 to go. With darkness enveloping the track, the caution waved for debris. Greg Biffle captured his first win of the season, while Gordon recovered from handling problems to finish 5th. "What a crazy race it was," Gordon said. "At one time we were really strong and we fell back a little bit and we fell way back, all the way to 30th, and I saw the rain and to be able to bring the car from that far back, one lap down, to get our lap back and then to come up there all the way to a top five. I couldn't be happier. We had to make some adjustments on the car there and they really paid off, not just the four tires, and we were able to really slice our way through traffic there at the end."
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