Johnson Dominates Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, VA. (October 20) - - Jimmie Johnson captured the Tums 500 at Martinsville Speedway and further closed in on his record-tying third straight championship. The winningest driver of the 21st century dominated the event by leading 340 of the 500 laps en route to his 39th career victory. With four races remaining, Johnson leads by 149 points. Johnson would probably need two finishes below 30th to give the title to someone else. For Jeff Gordon, a 4th place finish was the best he could muster after dealing with handling problems on longer runs. Gordon started 8th and found grip on the outside line at the outset to move up to 6th by lap 3. Two laps later he entered the top-5 with a pass on Kevin Harvick. Gordon passed Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards to take 3rd on lap 9. He took the runner-up spot on lap 19 before the first caution on lap 28. On the restart, Gordon immediately dove to the bottom to take the lead from Jimmie Johnson. However, Johnson bided his time and re-assumed the top spot on lap 56. The first pit stop came under cauton on lap 68. Gordon had major problems leaving pit road due to a tight pit box. He restarted in 16th position after 12 cars stayed on the track. He moved to 12th by lap 74 due to fresher tires, and re-entered the top-10 on lap 80. Gordon patiently worked through race traffic and moved up to 5th by lap 105. A caution flag then brought the field to pit road. Once again, Gordon had problems due to the tight pit box and dropped to 14th. He took off on the restart and moved up to 9th on lap 130, and re-entered the top-5 on lap 145. Gordon moved up to 3rd before a caution for Kyle Busch's cut tire. Gordon had an easier time on pit road and left in 2nd position behind Johnson, who benefited from the first stall. Gordon remained behind Johnson for the next 100 laps as they worked through lapped traffic. On lap 242, Johnson heated his brakes and pulled aside for Gordon to take the lead. However, Gordon lost the lead under caution as Johnson beat him off pit road. The duo traded the lead after the restart before Johnson pulled away after lap 290. Handling problems affected Gordon and his chances for the win completely evaporated over the next 60 laps as he dropped back to 6th. A caution with 117 laps to go brought the field to pit road. Gordon left pit road in 7th, but moved to 4th with 100 laps to go. The handling went away on the longer run and he dropped to 5th with 48 to go. Brian Vickers took a position from Gordon five laps later. The final pit stop was made under caution with 39 laps to go and Gordon went with two tires to move into 4th where he eventually crossed the finish line.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 12) - - It was an eventful night for Jeff Gordon at Lowe's Motor Speedway. While the race result may have put his title chances on the shelf, he showed that -- when given the chance -- he could hold his own among the leaders. Gordon started 8th and made an early mistake by drilling the wall coming off turn two on the opening lap, which damaged the right side of the car. Inexplicably, he nailed the turn four wall just five laps later. A tire rub forced him to pit road on lap 11. He rejoined the race a lap behind the leaders. A long green flag run doomed his initial chance to get the lap back as race leader Tony Stewart lapped the rear of the field. However, Gordon worked his way into free pass position when AJ Allmendinger's crash brought the caution flag out on lap 53. Gordon restarted in the rear of the field on lap 59, albeit on the lead lap. Gordon eventually worked through traffic and made his way up to 24th by lap 75, before entering the top-20 on lap 80. Over the next 40 laps he settled into 15th before a charge after a restart on lap 114. Gordon moved to 13th on lap 116 by using the outside line. After a caution on lap 121, Gordon flirted with the top-10 before the handling tightened up and he dropped to 14th on lap 150. He held the spot through a series of caution flags over the next 50 laps. Gordon elected to stay on the track during a caution period on lap 197 and moved up to 2nd. On lap 204, Gordon pulled to the inside of Martin Truex and took the lead. He led the race until he needed to come to pit road on lap 251. As the leaders cycled through their stops, the caution flag waved. Gordon re-assumed the lead, but decided to give it up for a pit stop. He was the only one of the lead cars to pit and the decision proved costly. He ran the rest of the race between 8th-10th place, eventually finishing 8th at the finish.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
TALLADEGA, AL. (October 6) - - Jeff Gordon's slim title hopes were essentially destroyed in a wreck at Talladega Superspeedway as his teammate Jimmie Johnson took another step toward his third consecutive championship. Gordon started 26th and moved up to 15th by lap 3. However, an intentional move to the high line sent him back to 35th by lap 4. He regrouped to move up to 27th by lap 6. Meanwhile, Johnson mirrored previous Talladega strategy by dropping to the extreme rear of the field at the outset. Gordon used the middle line to jump up to 12th on lap 11 as he decided not to lay in the back. He entered the top-10 on the outside line on lap 16. Gordon then got a bump draft from behind by Tony Stewart and moved up to 3rd on lap 23. He remained in the outside line and pushed David Gilliland to the lead, who broke immediately to the inside. The first caution waved on lap 34 for debris with Gordon in 3rd place. A quick pit stop gave Gordon the lead for the restart. He went to the middle line and dropped back to 10th. He eventually settled on the inside line behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. A dart to the middle on lap 44 put him in a three-wide situation before a debris caution on lap 46. Gordon dropped to 20th on lap 50, and was down to 30th three laps later. David Reuttiman's cut tire made Gordon turn hard right on the backstretch. He wasn't running far enough behind the pack to avoid the melee. He lost control of his car and slammed head-on into the wall. He pulled behind he wall for extensive repairs and put his fading title hopes on the shelf. Gordon returned to the track with a replacement black hood on lap 88, but pulled behind the wall for good with 50 laps to go after smoke billowed from his Chevrolet. Gordon's 38th place finish put him more than 230 points behind the leader in 8th. "We got shuffled to the back," Gordon said. "We tried to get together with our teammates and it wasn't working out. It looked like (Reuttiman) cut a tire. I tried to avoid him. When I did, I lost control and went into the wall."
Back In Black
NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 2) - - Jeff Gordon unveiled the 2009 DuPont paint scheme on October 2 in New York City. Most striking is the change from a base blue to black, and more red on the hood area. In addition, National Guard replaces Nicorette on the quarterpanels. The scheme seemingly changes whenever there's a new occupant in The White House. Gordon raced the rainbow-themed DuPont Chevrolet from 1993-2000 while Bill Clinton occupied the highest office in the land. Gordon experienced his greatest career success in the rainbow car. In 2001, he changed to the fire and flames scheme and raced that for the next 8 years while George Bush ran the country. And now, the third -- and likely, final -- incarnation will be raced in 2009 and beyond.
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