News


October 2009 News


Closing The Door
October 26 - - Denny Hamlin held off Jimmie Johnson on a series of late race restarts to win his third race of the season. Johnson's runner-up finish allowed him to expand his points lead as he closes in on his fourth consecutive Cup championship.

Jeff Gordon started 2nd and held the position after an early race caution flag for Marcos Ambrose's spin. Martin Truex Jr pushed up the track and made contact with the side of Gordon's car on the restart, with the National Guard Chevrolet holding the runner-up position. On lap 22, Gordon moved under Ryan Newman on the backstretch to take the lead. Michael Waltrip's cut tire and subsequent spin brought the second caution period. The leaders came to pit road with Gordon opting for two tires. He was forced to dodge Bobby Labonte's car on the tight pit road to avoid damage.

Gordon led on the restart on lap 50, but lost the lead to Jimmie Johnson ten laps later. Johnson went from 15th to the lead in just 60 laps. Newman pushed Gordon back to 3rd on lap 63, with Mark Martin passing Gordon to take a position on lap 65. Juan Pablo Montoya made contact with the rear of Gordon's car before take a spot on lap 75. Gordon descension continued as he dropped to 6th on lap 82 when Denny Hamlin passed. Truex passed Gordon on lap 86, as the driver and crew chief readily admitted that two tires was a disasterous call. A caution for Dale Earnhardt Jr brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon gained a spot and departed in 5th place. He took 4th from Montoya on lap 100 after a brief paint-swapping battle. On lap 113, Montoya drilled the rear of Gordon's car and re-assumed the 4th spot.

After Earnhardt Jr cut another tire, the caution waved and the leaders came to pit road. Gordon gained a spot and departed in 4th position. He took 3rd from Newman on lap 157 before a debris caution. David Stremme and Sam Hornish spun on lap 177 to bring out the caution. The leaders came to pit road with Gordon leaving in 6th place after a 14.6-second four-tire change. Several cars stayed on the track due to an earlier stop, so Gordon restarted deep in traffic in 23rd. He moved up to 20th before a caution on lap 196 for Hornish's second spin of the day. Gordon moved up to 15th due to a pit stop sequence. At the halfway point, he was battling in 11th on the cusp of the top-10. He entered the top-10 under caution at lap 253.

With 200 laps to go, Gordon moved up to 7th, but distantly trailed Johnson who led the event. He slipped to 12th as he continued battling traffic. Gordon's car hooked up later in the run and he moved to 6th on lap 365. With 75 to go, Gordon ran his fastest laps and moved to 4th. He pitted under green for the final time with 65 laps to go. However, it was a slow 16.5-second stop, which dropped him in the running order. A caution with 55 to go bunched the field for the run to the finish. Gordon took 3rd from Montoya with 31 to go, as Hamlin and Johnson led the way. With 17 laps to go, NASCAR threw a caution for debris on the track -- outside the racing groove. Montoya took 3rd back from Gordon with 11 laps to go. Scott Speed's crash with 6 laos to go brought out another caution flag and set up green/white/checkered flag finish. Hamlin held off Johnson to win, while Gordon faded to 5th. Gordon trails Johnson by 150 very lage points with four races to go.

JG post-race comments

THOSE LAST FEW LAPS THEY DIDN'T PLAY INTO YOUR HANDS BUT BOY THAT WAS SOME GREAT RACING.
"Yeah we needed the long runs with the DuPont/NationalGuard.com Chevrolet. That was pretty obvious. We were really strong on the long runs. We were able to get by Juan Pablo (Montoya) on that last run. On the restart I just could not get back in the gas off the corners. It's unfortunate. I didn't want to see that restart. I think we might have been able to get to Jimmie (Johnson) too but who knows. It was still a great day for us."

THE LAST 100 LAPS OR SO YOUR CAR CAME AROUND PARTICULARLY WHEN THE CLOUDS COVER CAME OVER THE RACE TRACK AND COOLED THINGS OFF.
"Well we've been really struggling with drive off early in the race. Maybe it was the cloud cover or adjustments that Steve (Letarte, crew chief) made. I was real proud of them. They had great pit stops and they never gave up. We got way behind at times and it didn't look like we were going to make our way back to the front. But we needed more long runs and we finally got it and that long run is what got us back into in. We drove all the way back up to third or fourth. Real happy. Wish we could have won it. Wish we could have finished maybe one or two positions forward but we'll take it."

WAS PASSING MORE DIFFICULT THAT USUAL HERE TODAY?
"Yeah, it seemed to me to be really challenging. Our car was just really good on the long runs. So on the long runs we could pass guys fairly easily, but on the short runs, which is fairly common, it just seemed like we struggled more than normal. Plus with the double-file restarts you've got a lot of good cars up front, not single file, double file, and just the aerodynamics affect even a short track. But I think our car just really wasn't quite tuned up for the shorter runs. It was much better on the longer runs and we had the long run that we needed and drove all the way up there and then had the caution that we really didn't need."

WE SAW SOME AGGRESSIVE DRIVING BETWEEN YOU AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW YOU GUYS RACED EACH OTHER TODAY?
"He's an aggressive driver. We've seen it from him before. I thought I did something to make him mad because I didn't understand why he was just driving into me for no reason. But hey, that is Martinsville. That's kind of the way he drives. And I just tried not to make him mad anymore and race him as clean as I could. And unfortunately my car wasn't as good on the restarts and he got by me and we had a great battle for third and we raced clean at the end and that's all that really matters. I hope it's not something that transfers over because I don't know really what I did if I did do something."


Dominance Personified
October 18 - - Jimmie Johnson dominated the weekend at Lowes Motor Speedway en route to the victory. He led every practice session, captured the pole position, and scored his 3rd win in his last 4 races. Johnson opened a 90-point lead over Mark Martin, and a 135-point lead over Jeff Gordon as he is firmly in command toward an unprecedented fourth straight championship.

Gordon started 9th and fell to 13th before the first caution for Sam Hornish's spin on lap 3. He slipped back to 15th on lap 10, just before Hornish's second spin of the night. He held 15th until a caution period for rain on lap 35. Gordon gained two spots on pit road and restarted in 13th place on lap 44. He took 11th from David Ragan on lap 50 as the handling began coming in. Four laps later, he took 9th from Ryan Newman with a pass coming off turn four. Newman re-assumed the 9th spot on lap 83, as Clint Bowyer also took a position from Gordon sending him back to 11th.

Green flag pit stops came at lap 95 with Gordon taking four tires. He fell back to 13th battling handling issues in race traffic. A caution for Kyle Busch's spin in turn four slowed the field on lap 119. Gordon changed two tires and departed pit road with the lead. Gordon led the field thru the next caution period when Juan Pablo Montoya spun on lap 164. Gordon opted for four tires and fell to 2nd after Denny Hamlin won the race off of pit road. Gordon took the lead from Hamlin within a lap of the restart, and led until a debris caution on lap 189. Gordon lost two spots on pit road after taking two tires and restarted behind Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon fell back on the restart and dropped to 4th on lap 204 after Kasey Kahne passed. He fell to 5th on lap 243 when Bowyer passed.

Gordon came in for a four-tire pit stop under he green flag on lap 246, and ran in 5th when the stops cycled through the field. On lap 285, he pulled to the inside on the backstretch and let Kurt Busch and Joey Logano pass, which dropped him to 7th place. Max Papis' blown engine on lap 291 brought the caution flag out, and the lead lap cars came to pit road. Gordon opted for two tires and departed in 3rd place. He passed Kahne on the restart before a caution flag for Carl Edwards' blown engine. That allowed Gordon to line up alongside Johnson for the restart with 18 laps to go. Gordon took the lead with 15 laps to go, but lost the top spot to Johnson two laps later. Gordon then fell to 4th with 10 to go. He held off Joey Logano on the final lap to finish in 4th. Johnson pulled away for his 3rd win in the last 4 races. Simply unstoppable X4.


Up Against The Juggernaut
October 12 - - Jimmie Johnson led the most laps en route to the victory in the Pepsi 500 at California Speedway. It was Johnson's 45th career win and gives him the points lead in the Chase for the first time. Jeff Gordon finished 2nd after briefly challenging Johnson for the lead during several late-race restarts. Gordon moved up to 5th in points, but still trails Johnson by more than 100.

Gordon started 10th and used the outside line to his advantage on the opening lap to move up to 8th. By lap 8, he gained two more spots and ran in 6th place. Gordon moved into the top-5 on lap 21 with a pass on Greg Biffle coming off turn four. He brushed the wall on lap 30, before coming in for a green flag pit stop 10 laps later.

Gordon ran 4th when the pit stop sequence cycled through. However, he lost the position to Denny Hamlin before the 50-lap mark. As the run progressed, Gordon re-assumed the 4th spot from Hamlin. The first caution came at lap 65 for Jamie McMurray's cut tire. Gordon came onto pit road in 4th held the position. He dropped back on the restart before rallying back to 3rd on lap 75. Two laps later, Jimmie Johnson passed to send Gordon back to 4th. On lap 79, he dropped to 5th, and slipped to 6th after Kevin Harvick went by on lap 81. A caution for Ryan Newman's cut tire brought the field to pit road on lap 84. Gordon lost two spots on pit road and departed in 8th position.

He worked through race traffic and moved back into the top-5 on lap 90. At the 100-lap mark, he passed Mark Martin to take back the 4th position. A debris caution on lap 117 brought the leaders to pit road, where Gordon moved up two spots. He restarted in 2nd place on lap 121 alongside Denny Hamlin. He fell to 3rd as Johnson passed within two laps of the restart. Gordon dropped to 4th on lap 130 as Juan Pablo Montoya went by. He took 3rd from Hamlin on lap 145. Gordon stayed out during a pit sequence to lead a lap -- the first lap he led in the Chase. However, after the pit stop he slipped back to 4th while voicing his displeasure with the tires on the car. A debris caution on lap 183 brought the leaders to pit road, where Gordon made a mistake and slid through the pit box -- thus slowing the time. He departed pit road in 6th place.

On the restart, Montoya and Hamlin made contact with Hamlin hitting the inside wall and sending him to the garage. Gordon moved to 4th with 54 laps to go, but ran distantly behind Johnson and Montoya. Gordon took 3rd from Martin on lap 215, before pitting under green with 25 laps to go. Gordon ran 2nd to Johnson after the pit stop sequence cycled through. A debris caution with 15 laps to go slowed the field and set up a restart with Johnson and Gordon alongside each other. Gordon started on the inside and took the lead on the backstretch. Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne spun on the frontstretch, bringing out the caution with 11 laps to go. The restart came with 7 laps to go with Gordon on the outside. Johnson took the lead from his teammate coming off turn four before a wreck in turn 1 collected six cars, including Jeff Burton, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Reed Sorensen, Kasey Kahne, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The final restart came with 3 laps to go with Johnson pulling away from Gordon for his 45th career victory. Gordon's 2nd place effort was his 8th runner-up finish of the season.

JG post-race comments

"I didn't think we were a second place car, so we were pretty happy about finishing second. We had a good pit stop and some good restarts there and were able to get ourselves action into the lead but couldn't maintain it. My car just didn't work good on the outside, especially early in the runs. So we kind of gave up that lane to the 48. You know, once you give up that lane to him, he was so good up there, you're going to lose the lead. So we did, and we've got to be happy with second, that was a good day for us."

Q: Jimmie said he was actually nervous out there sitting on turn four during the red flag. Thought he might not have enough laps to on pull that out. Curious what you were feeling and thinking at that point?
"He chose the inside lane, there was a lot of Speedy Dry up there. Up there in the outside lane I got a perfect restart, and I was right down on the outside of his door. I was hanging right with him, and as soon as we hit that, I slid up and he was able to put the power down a lot better than I was. And I just fell in behind him. I knew at that point we were done.

Q: I know you said you had a great run. You didn't expect that. Is there any frustration that you still lose points to Jimmie Johnson?
"Well, there are still some tracks in there that can change that all in one lap. So, you know, I mean right now we can only do our best. When we get to Homestead or finish out in Homestead, if you're best isn't good enough, then you work harder over the off season and see what you can do to improve it for next season. But right now the only frustration I have is the first two races that we've had, we didn't get the finishes that I felt like we were capable of, especially at New Hampshire. So we're definitely behind. But we made gains on a lot of guys. Got ourselves in the fifth now. So we're doing what we need to do in my opinion. You know, if it takes a third place average finish over ten races, then, no, we're not going to win it this year. You know, we've already gotten a 15th place finish. We've just got to keep battling, and keep trying to get wins and Top 5's and the last couple of weeks have gone really well, and I'm proud of those efforts, even though we have finished second."

Q: Is it bittersweet?
"Well, the only thing to me that's bittersweet is that we finished second, and I felt like we were like in a second class category. That's the only thing that bothers me a little bit. We're just not good enough. We're good, but we're not good enough. We're doing everything we can to be good enough, but it's just not there. So we've got to search and find something. We've got to be better than that. I feel like Charlotte's a good track for us, and I'm looking forward to going there. And hopefully we can make up the ground that we're lacking. Maybe it's just in the set up. Maybe we've got to look at our cars a little bit more. I mean, it's our teammate, but they're in another category. We saw it at Dover, and we certainly saw it here."

Q: The last 12 chase races going back part way through last season, Jimmie's won five. So nearly half of the last 12. Is that surprising or is that almost expected because you know of his ability, his equipment, and what he has? I mean, obviously, 10% winning percentage among drivers would seem to be fantastic, but he's almost hitting 50% here?
"Yeah, they have something magical about the final ten races. You know, these ten tracks really suit them. They do an incredible job. What else can you say? They're the best out there. They've won the last three championships. They're going to be hard to beat for this one. Really, unless they make a mistake, I don't see how they lose it."

Q: Do you feel is there a certain tradition points wise? You've had success at Charlotte, you've had success at Martinsville, do you need to be in a certain place going into Talladega?
"I would like to get back to our winning ways at Martinsville. I feel like we've definitely gotten beat there the last several times by Jimmie and Denny. And I feel like we're capable of winning there. What our focus is just winning at each track that we go to. Next week is Charlotte, and I don't even know after that. Martinsville. And we're going to go there. One week at a time, we just focus. We prepare far in advance, but right now we just think about it a week in advance, and go in there and give it everything we've got. I mean, that's what we've done the last two weeks we've finished second. You know, I'm pretty happy with those results. We can't control what the other guys do. We can only control what we do."

Q: Can you characterize any differences between this chase and others you've been in before, in particularly the intensity that seems to be added with the late race double file restarts like we saw today?
"No doubt the double file restarts are adding a lot of excitement and intensity. Had we not had those double file restarts you might not have seen any lead changes there towards the end. So it was exciting to see some lead changes and be a part of that. We're seeing that everywhere we go. So I definitely say that that's a change from what I've seen in the past. But I've never seen any Chase really go the same way. I mean, the last three finished the same way, but there's all kinds of different ways to win it. What happens within that Chase is different each and every week and each and every year, and I can't really go into specifics because there's never been two alike in my opinion."

Q: Do you see any tracks throughout the remainder of the year where the double file restarts may have as great an impact as they had at this track?
"Every weekend, you know. In two weeks at Martinsville, the outside lane is not the preferred lane. So guys that are on the inside lane, it's going to be big. You can see a freight train of guys. What that does is builds frustration for the guys on the outside trying to get down on the inside, and that's when you start seeing contact and crashes and things happening. Charlotte is going to be intense just like we've seen on the double file restarts there for the All Star event. It gets pretty crazy. So I think it's every weekend. Every track. There is no one that is any more or less than the other, except for maybe Talladega. I think Talladega, we're already double file there anyway most of the time, so it's not going to be that big of a deal there?"

Q: Primarily this track is probably the biggest difference compared to last year where Jimmie just ran away with it?
"From where I was looking, he ran away with it today (laughing). So I didn't see a big difference. The only thing I saw was Juan Pablo Montoya. He's really stepped it up, man. Those guys whatever they're doing, it's working. He's fast. He at least gave the 48 a run for his money. We played around with him on the restarts, but really had nothing for him. At least Juan had something for him at times. Other than that, I don't see anybody that could have touched him the last couple of times he's been here this time of the year."

Q: Asking this out of curiosity, not to be a smart ass or anything. When you talk about you feel like they were in another class, obviously, with you guys coming out of the same shop, can you shed some light on what is the difference? Do you have any idea what the difference is or how things have separated themselves like that?
"Ask the tech center. I don't know. I have no idea."


Closing The Gap
October 4 - - Jeff Gordon finished 2nd in the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway after a late race four-tire change allowed him to move through traffic. He struggled with handling at the outset, but made up positions in the last 30 laps. However, he was about a half second behind race winner Tony Stewart at the finish. "We were better than Tony at the end but not enough," Gordon said. "We needed to get out front sooner to maintain it. As I got closer to Tony, my car got tighter." He moved to 7th in points, and trails by 103 in the standings.


Charlotte Megatron
October 2 - - Jeff Gordon will have a Transformers (Megatron) paint scheme on his car for the October 17 race at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C. Gordon and Ryan Newman will drive cars to promote the upcoming movie.
Paint scheme



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