South Of The Equator
November 30 - - It was a rather forgettable weekend on the racetrack for Jeff Gordon in Brazil during a charity go-kart challenge among several of the world's top drivers. Mechanical problems limited him on Saturday and he finished 25th out of 25 drivers. Things didn't improve much on Sunday as Gordon finished 22nd of 25, and was 20 laps down. Overall, Gordon placed 24th (out of 25) during the two-day challenge.
On Guard '09
November 22 - - The National Guard will serve as the primary sponsor on Jeff Gordon's car in select races in 2009. Several diecast websites have reported the National Guard could be the primary sponsor in 8 races. The sponsor will also serve in an associate capacity throughout the season on Gordon's car on the quarterpanel, which would take the place of Nicorette. The paint scheme has yet to be unveiled, but merchandise points to a white base with black/red flames.
From Driver To Socialite
November 18 - - The legendary Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach unveiled its $1 billion dollar reinvention and expansion on Friday, November 14. Jeff Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch attended the event. The star-studded audience included Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Heidi Klum, Alex Rodriguez, Chloe Sevigny, and Venus and Serena Williams, among others. Following the debut night, the hotel hosted the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show on Saturday, November 15. Gordon and his wife were also in attendance for that event as they watched runway models in lingerie. Gordon was busy with his racing career on Sunday, but jetted back to New York City after the event. On Monday, November 17, he and Ingrid attended the 5th Anniversary of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Show at Skylight Studios in Manhattan. Attendees included tennis star Maria Sharapova, actress Charlize Theron, designer Tommy Hilfiger, and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
November 17 - - For the first time since 1993, Jeff Gordon completed a full season without scoring a points-paying victory. While Gordon went winless in 2008, he heads into next season buoyed by a solid 4th place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Gordon started 37th and slowly made his way through race traffic. By lap 25, he moved up to 30th place. However, he gained only two spots over the next 25 laps and slipped toward the end of the lead lap. Gordon pitted under green onl lap 53 and was running in 24th when the pit sequence cycled through. The first caution on lap 70 brought the field to pit road with Gordon exiting in 17th position. He took off on the restart and gained five spots by lap 90. Gordon then proceeded to pass his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Casey Mears to take 8th on lap 120. He pitted under green on lap 127 and ran 11th when the stops cycled around. A debris caution on lap 140 brought the field to pit road. Gordon departed in 6th place after opting for two tires as nightfall enveloped the track. A caution on lap 152 brought Gordon to the pits for tires while most of the leaders stayed out. He restarted in 16th place and quickly gained four spots within 10 laps. Gordon inherited the lead when he stayed out during a caution period. With 82 laps to go, Matt Kenseth passed Gordon for the top spot. A caution with 68 laps to go brought the field to pit road. Gordon exited in 8th place after changing four tires. Another caution shortly after that brought Gordon in to top off the fuel-- thus allowing him to make it to end. Gordon found himself in 18th on the restart with 56 to go and gained positions in the final laps as the leaders pitted and moved up to 4th. Johnson captured his third straight championship and eighth overall for Hendrick Motorsports.
November 14 - - In honor of the 25th anniversary season of Hendrick Motorsports in 2009, its drivers are expected to take to the track during pre-season testing in silver cars with the HMS logo on the hood. Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, and Dale Earnhardt Jr will test in the silver HMS cars. However, NASCAR has banned testing from January thru June at all sanctioned tracks-- including non-Cup series tracks in Nashville and Kentucky. The traditional test dates at Daytona International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway may be shifted to Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina (among others), which is not an officially sanctioned NASCAR track. "We're going to look at the testing schedule because right now it looks like testing is wide-open in December so we might be doing all of our testing in December," Gordon said.
The Social Rounds
November 11 - - Jeff Gordon and Ingrid Vandebosch were among the guests at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Film Benefit gala on Monday, November 10 in New York City. The gala honored the work of Baz Luhrmann, director, producer, and screenwriter of such films as Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo & Juliet (1996), and Moulin Rouge (2001). Actor Hugh Jackman serve as Honorary Chair of the event. The Film Benefit raised funds to ensure that great works of cinema continue to join the collection of The Museum of Modern Art. In addition to a cocktail reception and dinner, the evening included a special presentation recognizing Luhrmann as a groundbreaking director. Among the other celebrities in attendance were actresses Jessica Biel, Rachel Weisz, and Eva Amurri; media mogul Rupert Murdoch; designer Zac Posen; and Editor-In-Chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour.
Anatomy Of A Winless Season
November 10 - - The only thing standing between Jeff Gordon and a winless season is 267 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. Gordon's sixth DNF of the season in the Checker 500k at Phoenix International Raceway came after engine problems while he was running in the top-five, which only heightens the team's profound sense of frustration. Gordon started 7th and patiently worked through traffic to take the fifth position on lap 7. The first caution on lap 20 brought the field to pit road. Gordon exited in 9th place due to drivers ahead of him opting for two tires. He remained in 9th until a rain shower brought the field to pit road on lap 44 for a red flag condition. The race was halted for a half hour while the track was dried. After the restart he worked his way to 7th by lap 60, and moved into the top-5 after Ryan Newman cut a tire. Gordon pitted under green on lap 101 as the team tried to correct a loose handling condition. After the pit stop sequence, Gordon found himself in 4th spot. A debris caution on lap 141 brought the field to pit road before Gordon radioed about a possible engine problem. Gordon gained a spot and departed in 3rd place. However, he lost the spot on the track to Jamie McMurray on lap 163. Engine problems-- rather, a dropped cylinder-- came to the forefront on lap 165 as Gordon faded back to 10th within a few laps. The car continued down on power as he slipped to 17th on lap 190. Eventual winner Jimmie Johnson put him a lap down on lap 195 and he fell to 25th in the running order. "I guess if we had to break an engine, better ours than the #48," said crew chief Steve Letarte. With 43 laps to go smoke billowed from the rear of Gordon's car, thus sending him to the garage and a dismal 41st place finish. "It lost power early on," Gordon said. "I didn't pay too much attention because we were running well. It's the kind of year we've had. We had a lot of stuff happen to us. We had a good run going and were doing everything to finish the season on a positive note. It's not going to be now." At the front of the field, Johnson scored a dominant victory and essnetially clinched his record-tying third straight NASCAR championship providing he starts the season-finale at Homestead on Sunday. The most successful driver in the 21st century scored his 40th career win -- and third in a row-- at Phoenix.
FORT WORTH, TX. (November 4) - - There's more than one way to score a solid finish in a NASCAR race. You can have a great car and beat your competitors. But when the handling on your car -- to be blunt -- sucks, you rely on acumen. That's what Jeff Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte did at Texas Motor Speedway. Gordon started on the pole but lost the lead on lap 13. He ran in the lower half of the top-10 for most of the first 100 laps, but faded to 15th by lap 160. Race winner Carl Edwards put him a lap down on lap 213 as his priorities shifted to getting the free pass. When David Gilliland intentionally wrecked Juan Pablo Montoya with 75 laps to go, Gordon had an opening. He received the free pass to get back on the lead lap. The cleanup on the track delayed the restart a few laps. Gordon turned his engine off and coasted under caution, knowing that he'd try and stretch the fuel if the race went green to the end. Gordon restarted in 15th but wasn't focused on gaining spots. He backed off on the throttle and was the last car on the lead lap during the final run. With 20 laps to go, the lead lap cars began pitting for a splash of fuel. Edwards and Gordon remained on the track trying to stretch their fuel. Edwards was in desperation mode to gain points on Jimmie Johnson, while Gordon was desperate for a victory. As the laps wound down, Edwards made it to the end with Gordon more than 10 seconds behind. The DuPont team's performance at Texas showed they still have a long way to go before they can contend on a weekly basis with Edwards and Johnson. But the performance also showed that Steve Letarte is among the smartest crew chiefs in NASCAR racing. And his driver can pull a solid finish out of day that seemed lost at times. They're far from a championship team this year, but never underestimate brilliance in all forms.
Nothing But A Breeze
HAMPTON, GA. (November 1) - - Before embarking on 500 miles at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon looked skyward and saw the legend 'Go 24' emblazoned by a skywriter across the Georgia horizon. Taking the injunction to heart, Gordon installed himself firmly in the top five for the half of the race. Crew chief Steve Letarte tried a variety of small changes to improve the carís performance, and Gordonís crew continued to hold serve on pit road to keep him near the front. Though the car stayed loose, Gordon held steady in the top five, and as shade moved over the track, the car began to come to life. After a restart at lap 254, Gordon fell back to 11th, apologizing to the team for calling for the wrong adjustments. A wreck by Michael Waltrip at lap 290 gave Letarte another chance to adjust on the car and an aggressive restart moved Gordon forward to ninth before Waltrip brought out another caution. Gordon pitted again for fresh rubber, but was unable to advance in heavy lapped traffic, especially when cars behind him had fresher tires after the final caution. Gordon finished 9th and his winless season continues to evaporate like the skywriter's smoke. Three races remain for Gordon to return to Victory Lane and set the tone for 2009. Right now, that's all he has left.
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