Best Of The Rest
HOMESTEAD, FLA. (November 21)- - While Tony Stewart celebrated his second NASCAR championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Jeff Gordon could take comfort in the improvement his team has shown in recent races. A season-ending stretch of four top-10 finishes in the final five events cemented a points finish of 11th, concluding with a 9th place finish at Homestead. Gordon had hoped his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson could come away with the championship at Homestead. However, Gordon was simply an observer as Johnson blew a tire and wrecked in front of him on lap 125. For Gordon as a car owner, it was a disappointing end to the season. "I definitely saw what kind of night Jimmie Johnson had," Gordon said. "He cut that tire down right in front of me and I knew things were pretty much over at that point." The driver, as opposed to the owner, in Gordon might be more optimistic. Though his 9th place finish was not indicative of his run at Homestead, he did run in the top-10 all night and led more than 30 laps. The handling on the DuPont Chevrolet went away as the night progressed which sealed his fate. "I ran great and finished horrible," Gordon said. "I was just really thrilled the way we ended the season. Not making the Chase and we just tried to get some momentum and I feel like we have recently. And tonight was a great run for us, out there leading and I felt like at one time I had one of the best cars. As the lights came on and cooled down, we got real, real tight. We just really struggled on new tires all night and that last pit stop killed us. And we ended up falling back to ninth." At the front of the field, Greg Biffle edged Mark Martin in a door-to-door finish to claim his second straight victory at Homestead. With the win, Biffle ended the 2005 season as the runner-up in the championship standings. After contending for the championship over the past 9 races, Johnson slipped back to fifth after his crash. Rusty Wallace finished 13th in what is expected to be his final NASCAR race. "I'm just really happy we ended on a good note," Gordon said. "The middle part of the season, I was so frustrated I didn't know what kind of ending we'd have. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. Here lately there has been. It's been a lot of fun." Gordon finished 11th in the series standings, which earned him an invitation to the awards banquet on December 2. Despite finishing outside the top-ten in the series standings for the first time since his rookie season, Gordon won four races to push his career total to 73.
Stopover In Southern California
THE OC. (November 14)- - Jeff Gordon stopped by California Speedway on November 14 to participate in a press announcement about renovations at the 2-mile track located about an hour east of Los Angeles. The track unveiled plans for a new midway and logo for the Southern California motorsports facility. Specifically, the redesigned midway and logo will help bring the SoCal culture into the California Speedway brand. The new logo will be implemented immediately, while the Midway construction will begin after the February race weekend and will open for the September race weekend at the track. “I’m very excited about the changes California Speedway is making,” Gordon said. “Enhancing the fan experience is a priority for everybody in our sport. I know NASCAR and all of the teams are looking forward to seeing the new amenities the Speedway has planned.” The Midway features a town center, retail store and concert stage. Driver merchandise trailers will wrap around promotional displays throughout the Midway to create a street festival atmosphere. An outdoor café will sit at the center of the Midway behind the grandstands. California Speedway has redesigned the track’s logo from the classic swoosh that has represented the Speedway since opening in 1997 to a sophisticated moniker that showcases the Southern California roots of the region surrounding the venue.
Always Next Year
AVONDALE, AZ. (November 14)- - It wasn't his first career Cup series win at the track, but a solid third-place finish in the Checker 500 at Phoenix International Raceway is just what Jeff Gordon had hoped for as he looks toward 2006. Gordon started 8th and ran in the lower half of the top-ten for the first half of the event, unable to make any gains due to track position. During a pit stop on lap 190, Gordon took two tires and left pit road with the lead. He lost the top spot on lap 217 to Greg Biffle before coming to pit road under caution on lap 219. Gordon dropped to 15th while most of the lead lap cars stayed out. Gordon moved up to 6th on lap 232 when he stayed on the track while the leaders came to pit road. Gordon got back on the same pit sequence as the leaders on lap 255 when the final stops were made under caution. Gordon took two tires and exited pit road in 4th place. He moved up to third on lap 260 with a pass on Brian Vickers and took the runner-up spot from Dave Blaney with 47 laps to go. However, Biffle and Kyle Busch changed four tires and zoomed past Gordon with 41 laps to go. Gordon eventually got around Scott Wimmer to take third, but was no match for Biffle and Busch at the front of the field. Busch eventually passed Biffle for the lead and held on to win his second race of the season. With the finish Gordon moved up to 11th in the series standings, which pays $1 million at the season ending awards ceremony. However, his focus remains on 2006 rather than 2005. "We're really not chasing that, but it would be great if we could get it," Gordon said. "We're working for next year and trying to win races. To come out of here third, I'm extremely happy. We had two tires at the end and I needed to get clear of those guys ahead of me. I just couldn't do it. Once those guys on four tires got to me, I knew I was done. But I was surprised we were able to hold onto third. Our car was pretty good on the long runs, so I'm happy with this effort and I'm looking forward to Homestead."
Losing Grip In Texas
FORT WORTH, TX. (November 7)- - Despite a runner-up finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon knew that the 500-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway would be a better indication of how much progress his team has made on its intermediate track program. Gordon tested at Texas in October to better prepare for the event in hopes of improving on a 15th place effort in the spring. Gordon did improve-- by a single position. Throughout the race in Texas, Gordon struggled with a tight handling car despite track bar, spring rubber, and air pressure adjustments. He started on the outside of the front row, but dropped out of the top-10 by lap 70. During the mid-stages of the event he ran near the tail end of the lead lap, falling as low as 27th on lap 189. Gordon steadily gained spots on restarts, but would lose those positions as his car tightened up. He restarted in 18th with 11 laps to go and moved up to 14th at the finish. The Roush Racing cars were dominant throughout the day as Carl Edwards captured his second consecutive victory, leading his teammates Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth to a 1-2-3 finish.
California Hot Hues
LAS VEGAS, NV. (November 4)- - Jeff Gordon will drive a DuPont Hot Hues paint scheme during the 500-mile race at California Speedway in February 2006. The 'Heat Waves and Flames' scheme was designed by Chip Foose. The Blackened and Starry Night hues also incorporate the following DuPont Hot Hues colors as accents: Snow Storm, Atomic Tangerine, Lemon Glow, Dragon Fire and Sassy Orchid. “I try to be original and innovative in all of my designs, and, with this race car, I wanted to create a truly unique representation of speed and power,” Foose said. “The heat waves and flames are reminiscent of the heat that radiates off of race motors and asphalt.” For Gordon, the Foose-designed car offers the opportunity to showcase his longtime sponsor in a unique way. “Cars obviously play a big part in my life,” Gordon said. “This project unites some of my favorite interests: custom cars, cool paint schemes and racing. I have been with DuPont for many years, and I’m glad they have responded to the custom paint industry needs with a dedicated brand of premium custom finishes.” The car was unveiled on November 3 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show in Las Vegas.
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