NEW YORK, N.Y. (November 27)- - In the world of racing, you can't look back for too long-- the next race and next championship is always ahead. But this week, it's nearly impossible not to look back. One year ago this week, Jeff Gordon was in New York City for a week of media interviews and obligations leading up to his acceptance of the 2001 Winston Cup title. During the week he celebrated his seventh wedding anniversary, as well as his wife's birthday. Helping her blow out the candles on her cake at Sardi's was one of the subtle highlights of the week. One year later, Jeff and Brooke are in the process of a divorce. He finds himself in Gran Canaria off the coast of Morocco for an exhibition rally-sprint car race. His journey from November 2001 to November 2002 has seen many twists and turns. Changes in latitude, changes in attitude. Nothing remains quite the same. It's been a long year for everyone.
COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (November 18)- - Jeff Gordon started the Miami 400 in 37th position after taking the first provisional of his career. He made steady progress through the field but could only muster 20th place by the halfway point. However, chassis adjustments in the latter stages helped Gordon gain positions. He entered the top-10 on lap 205. After a caution with 41 laps remaining, the DuPont team changed two tires and moved up to fourth. As the laps wound down, he dropped back to sixth but passed Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman for position in the final 15 laps. Mark Martin got by Gordon to take fourth while Kurt Busch held off Joe Nemechek to win his fourth race of the season. Gordon's fifth place finish moved him up to fourth position in the final standings. Johnson ended the season in fifth, just seven points behind Gordon. "We fought hard all day long and that's the kind of effort this team is capable of," Gordon said. "We put it out there all year long. Unfortunately not all the finishes have shown that. I'm pretty excited about the way this team has performed at the end of the season. We've had top-fives and solid runs. To come from 37th up to the front and get a top-five, there was some serious battling going on at the end. Everybody's jockeying for points in the championship. I couldn't be more proud of this team and I want to thank them for everything they've done all year long, and thank all the fans. It's been a great year, glad it's over, but I'm really excited about being fourth in points."
Onward And Upward
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (November 20)- - It is often said that the hardest thing to do in Winston Cup racing is getting a foot in the door. In 1994, Robert "Bootie" Barker, armed with an engineering degree from Old Dominion University and a dream, headed south to Charlotte to work in the world of Winston Cup racing. In college he caught the racing bug by working on Late Models for Ashton Lewis. But Winston Cup was a major step up. "To get a shot in Winston Cup racing you either have to know somebody or have everything fall your way-- and I definitely didn't know anybody," Barker said. His break came when Mike Beam hired him to sweep floors and as a general laborer for Bill Elliott's independently-owned team. He swept floors and cut bodies off of wrecked cars. Within three months, Kurt Roehrig hired him to work on his Craftsman Truck team. Over the next two years he learned how to build shocks at Roehrig Engineering, which manufactured shock dynos to other raceteams. Barker eventually moved on to Bill Davis Racing for a couple of seasons. In 1999 he was hired by Ray Evernham to work on Jeff Gordon's team as a shock specialist. Gordon won five races over a two year span with Barker handling the shock building duties. His ultimate dream was to become a Winston Cup crew chief. When Bill Davis called with a crew chief offer, Barker accepted the position for Davis' Busch team and led Scott Wimmer to four victories in 2002. Earlier this week he was hired as crew chief for Dave Blaney and the #77 Jasper Motorsports team in the Winston Cup series. His dream job is finally a reality.
Tony Wins The Winston Cup
KEY LARGO, FLA. (November 18)- - Tony Stewart finished 18th in the Miami 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch the 2002 Winston Cup championship. Stewart ran in the top-ten for the first 100 laps but fell back in the running order in the mid-stages. On lap 191 he was passed by race leader Joe Nemechek to fall one lap down. However, a well-timed caution flag for Matt Kenseth's blown engine and a solid restart put him back at the tail end of the lead lap. After John Andretti blew an engine with 41 laps remaining, Stewart made up the full lap and virtually assured himself of the title. Though he only scored one top-five finish in the final five races, he held on to win the Winston Cup by 38 points over Mark Martin who finished second in the standings for the fourth time in his career. Stewart began the year with a 43rd place finish in the Daytona 500 after blowing an engine on the third lap. He scored top-five finishes the next three weeks, including a win at Atlanta, and was leading Darlington before getting collected in a wreck. He suffered a concussion and needed relief help from Todd Bodine at Bristol. He won at Richmond in May but wrecks at Talladega, Daytona, and Loudon hurt his title hopes as he racked up 6 DNF's on the season. Not to mention an off-track incident with a photographer at Indianapolis that created havoc with his life off the track. True to form, he bounced back with a win at Watkins Glen one week removed from the Brickyard incident. Stewart remained focused on his ultimate goal and put together six top-eight finishes in a seven race stretch from September-October to take the points lead. Congratulations to Tony, crew chief Greg Zipadelli, car owner Joe Gibbs, and the entire Home Depot team. Racing is a team sport and the #20 team was the most consistent in 2002. He's been called a lot of things-- some of it polite and some not. But right now, there's only three words to call Tony Stewart: "Winston Cup Champion."
COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (November 16)- - A three-member panel heard the appeal of Roush Racing on behalf of Mark Martin regarding the 25 point penalty he was docked for using an unapproved front spring at North Carolina Speedway. The commission upheld the penalty meaning that Martin still trails Tony Stewart by 89 points heading into Sunday's. Though few thought that the points would be restored. Jeff Gordon said before the ruling that if that penalty were overturned, he would want teammate Jimmie Johnson to be given back the 25 points he was deducted in July for using unapproved mounting bolts. The bolts on Johnson's car were found during the first round of inspections and the car never got on the track. Martin ran an entire race with an illegal spring. "By penalizing Jimmie, they are sending a message that trying to stretch the rules will not be tolerated," Gordon said. "But I believe if you go on the track, you deserve to be penalized. Something caught before the car even makes it out there-- take it away and make sure it never comes back. That's enough." Johnson, meanwhile, said penalizing the drivers is unfair. In addition to the points the driver loses, NASCAR has also taken car owner points away and fined the crew chief. "I have no idea what is going on with the car, I just drive it," Johnson said, echoing the sentiments of many of today's modern NASCAR drivers. "How do we know if we have illegal stuff on the car? It makes no sense to penalize us. Take the car owner points, fine the crew chief, but leave us out of it." The Winston Cup standings are based on driver points.
Sign Of The Zodiaq
WILMINGTON, DE. (November 13)- - For the past few years, various DuPont companies have been featured on the TV panel-- the area below the spoiler and above the rear bumper-- of Jeff Gordon's Chevrolet. Last weekend at Phoenix, DuPont Zodiaq was featured. Zodiaq, a premium quartz surface material, represents DuPont's latest miracle of science. Zodiaq quartz surfaces is manufactured by DuPont and backed by a 10-year installed warranty. Zodiaq provides an innovative way to create residential and commercial interior environments with a distinctive, bold and sophisticated look that expresses individuality. It captures the radiance of quartz crystal with depth, clarity, radiance and strength. DuPont created Corian more than 30 years ago- an esteemed brand that has earned the trust and respect of homeowners worldwide. Ever since, DuPont has continued to expand options, bringing new and innovative products to the home.
The Rock Show
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (November 3)- - NASCAR's two winningest active drivers had another skirmish at Rockingham. While the history between Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace is well documented, another chapter was almost written on Sunday. Gordon was trying to get around the lapped car of Wallace and the pair tangled. "We were battling there and he was a lap down and I was trying to get by him, and he was just holding me up," Gordon said. "I tried to pass him clean, he just chopped me off. We got into it on the back straightaway and he let me go by and then he just tried to wreck me down the front straightaway. That cost us a bunch of positions and I think we could have been up a little further there at the end. Rusty and I got into it a little bit out there. He wasn't real happy with me; I wasn't real happy with him. Anyway, it cost us a couple of positions." Gordon also had a minor incident on pit road. Phil Gould, rear tire carrier for Bill Elliott, was hit by a tire during a pit stop on lap 265. Gordon was leaving his pit stall directly behind Elliott's and drove partially through Elliott's stall, hitting a tire, which then struck Gould on the tight pit road exit. Gould was not injured.
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