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November 2009 News


Four For History
November 23- - Jimmie Johnson captured an unprecedented fourth consecutive NASCAR Cup series title with a 5th place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports took the top three spots in the points standings as Mark Martin finished 2nd in points, followed by Jeff Gordon.

Gordon started 20th at Homestead and gained five spots in the opening five laps of the race. He entered the top-10 on lap 15 due to Marcos Abrose's unscheduled pit stop. Gordon ran as high as 9th before Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed to send him back to 10th on lap 39. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag pit stop on lap 54. After pit stops, Gordon ran in the 8th position.

The adjustments made by crew chief Steve Letarte helped Gordon through the corners and he moved up to 6th on lap 60. The first caution waved on lap 81 for Marcos Ambrose's spin. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted in 7th place. However, on the restart he slipped back while complaining of a possible tire issue. He fell to 17th by lap 90, but regrouped to 15th ten laps later. A caution for John Andretti's cut tire on lap 102 brought out the caution flag. Gordon ran in 15th over the next 15 laps before a caution for Juan Pablo Montoya's cut tire on lap 120 following an ego clash with Tony Stewart. Gordon stayed on the track during the caution flag and moved up to 7th for the restart.

On lap 156, Montoya exacted a dose of revenge by spinning Stewart coming off turn four. After the caution flag, Gordon made it 3-wide coming down the frontstretch and took the 5th position from Kevin Harvick on lap 165. Ten laps later, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson passed to put Gordon back to 7th spot. Gordon complained of a lack of grip and slipped back to 9th on lap 180. Robby Gordon's spin on lap 194 brought out the caution and the lead lap cars came to pit road. Gordon's pit crew sent him out in 6th place.

In the closing stages he ran within striking distance of Kurt Busch in the battle for third in the Cup series points standings. Johnson took a position with 18 laps to go as Gordon ran in 7th place. He moved up to 6th at the checkered flag and finished the season 3rd in the points standings.

JG post-race comments

A DIFFICULT NIGHT, BUT A GOOD ONE JUST THE SAME FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
"No, it was. Our thoughts certainly are going out to Rick (Hendrick) and his family right now. I know how much he'd like to be here. I know how much family means to him. So we just want to let him know, congratulations, and that we're certainly thinking of him. I know how proud he is to be one-two-three. I know how much it meant to him. He kept sending me texts and calling me and everything all week long going, 'We really need that one-two-three!' (laughs). So he put a little pressure on me and this team that I don't think we were really thinking about other than just trying to come here and win. And so that did put a little extra pressure on us. And then what can you say about Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus and all the guys at the Lowe's Chevrolet team. I never thought I'd see anybody win four in a row. And who's to say they won't go win five in a row next season? We're really proud of them. I know as a member of Hendrick Motorsports it's an honor to see our organization excel like that. And it takes all the people; everybody out there to make it happen. And I've got to say thanks to the fans. It's been a great year. We really appreciate everything that the fans have done for the sport this year."

HOW SPECIAL IS THE FEAT THE NO. 48 TEAM PULLED OFF?
"Man, you know, they're just good. As a group, as a total group, they're just good. And that's what you see when you see championship caliber teams. You see them come together as one and all working in the same direction with a lot of confidence in each other. And you can say oh, well, things went their way. Well things go your way when you've got a good race car and when you have good pit stops and when the driver and the crew chief are communicating and doing their jobs well. It just trickles on down. And those guys have done it better than anybody else. I think more than four years, to be honest with you, because I think they've been the best team probably the last six years. It just took them a couple of years to figure out how to win that championship. Once they figured that out, whew, man, watch out. And as a competitor it's a little bit frustrating as well as inspiring for us to try to figure out how we could go out there and win a championship for ourselves. But right now we're just going to enjoy this moment being one-two-three and those guys winning four in a row and go into the off-season with something to smile about and a lot of work left ahead of us."

ON JIMMIE JOHNSON WINNING FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW
"I never ever thought I'd see it done, to be honest with you. I think it's absolutely incredible and I think it's something that I don't know if I'll see in my lifetime ever happening again. But they've shown that it's possible and they've also shown just how good they are and that's why they're where they're at. It's quite a feat."

YOU AND RICK HENDRICK ARE NOW CAR OWNERS WITH FOUR IN A ROW, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
"Yeah, I just don't look at it that way because I'm still so focused on driving. And I'm still biased to the No. 24 team as a driver. But I'm very fortunate that Rick (Hendrick) has made me a part of the organization the way he has and I'm thankful for that. And I'm happy to share in that success."

AS A CAR OWNER, HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON MIGHT BE TAKEN OUT WHEN JUAN PABLO MONTOYA AND TONY STEWART WERE MESSING IT UP?
"I had no idea what was going on around those guys or how close it was. I was so focused on our own race."

YOU'VE MESSED IT UP WITH JUAN YOURSELF A LITTLE BIT. WAS HE JUST AGGRESSIVE?
"Juan is aggressive. He's a great driver and I think that sometimes he tries to show a little bit too much to people that he's not going to get pushed around or taken advantage of. In this series, sometimes you've got to know when to back off and when to push somebody's buttons and when not to; and who. I think he found out tonight."

TONY STEWART IS OBVIOUSLY THE SAME WAY
"That's my point. You've got to recognize who you can get into those battles with. And sometimes some guys are going to surprise you and other times it's just guys you don't do that with. If you want to get the best finish you can possibly get, not getting into it with somebody is the way to do it. Sometimes you might look a little nonaggressive by doing it that way, but in the long run, that's what gets you to the end of the race and get's you maximum points by the end of the day. I think Mark Martin is a perfect example of it. You don't see him pushing and shoving and causing controversy and he's one of the best drivers out there. And I think that Mark is the kind of guy when somebody runs him down and is better than him, he lets them go. But when his car is good, he expects the same from you."

YOUR CAR WAS GOOD EARLY ON AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?
"When the sun went down we just really struggled. We were really loose. And we tried to fix it but all we did was make the middle tight. We finished sixth. We finished third in the points. We did what we had to so, but it wasn't real pretty."

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THIRD IN THE POINTS OR ARE YOU HAPPY THAT HENDRICK WAS ONE-TWO-THREE?
"I'm happy that we're one-two-three, but I want to be No. 1. My team wants to be number one. We've got to try to figure out how to get that."


Elimination Sunday
November 16- - Jeff Gordon will be eliminated from championship contention when Jimmie Johnson takes the green flag to start the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Gordon finished a distant 9th at Phoenix International Raceway as Johnson claimed his 7th victory of the season.

JG post-race comments

ABOUT THE DAY
"It wasn't a great day. I thought we were going to be a lot better than that. We started off the day great, and I don't know, we just faded. We just didn't have it. We fought hard for ninth and got that."

IS IT JUST A MATTER OF NOT BEING ABLE TO CHANGE AS YOU GO ALONG?
"We started off so good. It just seems every weekend we start off great and I don't know what it is. If we knew what it was, we'd do it (laughs). But you know we lost track position. That didn't help and we weren't good on the restarts and that didn't help. We tried to make adjustments and we tried everything and none of them seemed to help. I don't know. The track changed it and it affected us more than it did some others."

YOU SOUNDED VERY FRUSTRATED ON THE RADIO THROUGHOUT THE RACE JUST NOT BEING ABLE TO GET THE RIGHT SET-UP.
"I was really excited in the beginning. I thought we were great. I thought we were really going to get up there for the win or at least a top three or four. But man, it just went away in a blink of an eye. On the restart they took me three wide. We just couldn't get up and get going. I was on the inside lane and from that point on, it was just a struggle."

ON THE LONG GREEN-FLAG RUNS
"At the beginning of the race I wanted to go long green flag runs the whole time. I really think the yellows are what cost us. The yellows are what really hurt us. We weren't bad actually on those green flag stops. We were pretty good. But the restarts just ate us up. We just could not get up and go on the restarts."

ON RICK HENDRICK AND HIS ORGANIZATION
"Those guys are amazing. Rick Hendrick and his organization is the best out there. They have been proving it year in and year out. It's very gratifying to know that it's coming to Hendrick Motorsports and also the Manufacturers' Championship this year and we're excited and at the same time we're just like everybody else out there. We want to beat the #48 team. So, it inspires us over the off-season to try to get better and we'll look at doing that. And right now we've got one race to go and we'll certainly look forward to giving those guys all the props and respect that they certainly deserve because they've earned it. There are a lot of different reasons why we need to run good out there. It's not just because we were trying to win the championship, we're also trying to stay within the battle that we have for second. We lost points to Kurt Busch and we lost points to Mark Martin and that's what makes it a little bit more frustrating."

WOULD IT BE ANY MORE FRUSTRATING IF JIMMIE JOHNSON MAYBE WAS 9TH OR 10TH AND YOU FINISHED WHERE YOU MIGHT HAVE GAINED POINTS ON HIM TODAY
"You know, it really just matters to me how we run. That's how we operate. Last week we didn't run good and we didn't capitalize on their misfortunate. If they finished 9th and we didn't capitalize on that, I'd be upset too. But it was more because we just didn't run better."

YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DAY?
"I was really excited when we started the race. Man we drove right to the front. Me and Mark (Martin). I know how good Mark is here so I thought we were going to be great. I don't know. It just got away from us. We weren't very good on the restarts and it was just a ninth-place day for us. A little disappointing because I thought we were going to be better than that. Even if we had been a third or fourth-place car the No. 48 did what they needed to do which is no surprise. We've seen them do it many times. That's why they are three-time champions, soon to be four."

IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP SOMETHING YOU THINK IS STILL WITHIN YOUR GRASP IN THE FUTURE?
"Not if we run like this. We've got to run better than this. I sure would like to take a couple of tracks and exchange them in the Chase because I think we're just so much stronger at a lot of different tracks, two of the 10 that are in this Chase. That's the way it is and we've got to get better at them and I feel like that was our efforts this year and we made them better but not good enough. We'll come back next year and hopefully be stronger. We're still looking forward to Homestead. I think we have a great car for that race and we'll see what happens."


Opportunity Lost
November 9 - - If Jeff Gordon falls a few points short of the NASCAR championship, he'll likely point to Texas as the deciding factor. After Jimmie Johnson's early crash opened a window of opportunity for Gordon to trim the points deficit, he struggled to a 13th place finish and still trails by 112 points. Had Gordon scored the victory, the deficit would have been just 46 points. Nevertheless, there are still two races -- and more than 700 miles of racing-- to go in the season.

Gordon started on the pole and led the opening laps. On lap 3, Jimmie Johnson spun on the backstretch after contact from Sam Hornish and drilled the inside wall. Johnson sustained heavy front and rear end damage on the Lowes Chevrolet and brought his car to the garage for extended repairs. Gordon led until lap 13 when his car became loose in the corners. Kurt Busch took the lead one lap later. Kyle Busch took the runner-up spot on lap 19. As the action progressed on the track, Jeff Gordon's car chief Jason Burdett went to the garage area to help with repairs on Johnson's car.

Gordon fell to 5th on lap 40 after Tony Stewart passed. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag pit stop on lap 55. Crew chief Steve Letarte opted for track bar and air pressure adjustments to tighten the car up in the corners. A slow pit stop hindered Gordon as he ran 11th after the stop. On lap 88, Sam Hornish lost control and hit the inside wall on the backstretch to bring out the caution flag. Gordon came to pit road for tires and a track bar adjustment. He gained two spots and restarted in 9th place. Juan Pablo Montoya passed Gordon on lap 99, putting him back in 10th spot. On lap 116, Johnson returned to the track in a rebuilt car to gain points. However, Gordon continued to struggle with the handling and dropped to 14th on lap 125. Gordon came to pit road for adjustments on lap 146 under the green flag. After the pit stop sequence, Gordon ran in 16th. A debris caution on lap 167 saved Gordon from going a lap down.

A wreck on lap 175 collected Carl Edwards and Montoya. Gordon spun in turn two but luckily did not hit anything. He came to pit road for tires and for repairs on the splitter brace. He muddled around in 18th position before the next caution on lap 205. Gordon went a lap down with 29 laps to go as the handling didn't improve under the lights.

JG comments

"Our finish is thanks to the hard work by Steve Letarte and this team. Never giving up. I am just really disappointed in this day. A total missed opportunity that completely got away from us. We just didn't have it today. We had more of our typical Texas race where we needed our spectacular Texas race like we had in Texas."

YOU FINISHED 13TH AND PICKED UP 80 POINTS ON JIMMIE JOHNSON IN THE POINTS BATTLE. HOW WOULD YOU ACCESS IT?
"I think more than anything a missed opportunity. I'm just terrible at this place. I don't know what it is. I can qualify and the guys gave a real good car on Friday but I just don't have the feel for this place. I don't know what it is. It just challenged us all day today. We seemed to be the best at the beginning of the race and we made some adjustments trying to make it better based on what I was telling them and we just went backwards from there and lost some track position. So it was a frustrating day. Kind of a more typical Texas day for us rather than what we had in April. It was a missed opportunity when the No. 48 had trouble so I'm bummed about that. Steve Letarte did a great job getting us to 13th, the whole team did. Great call there at the end. We'll go to Phoenix and Homestead."


Sense Of Four-boding
November 2 - - Jimmie Johnson all but locked up his fourth straight championship by surviving a wild finish at Talladega Superspeedway to post a 6th place finish. Combined with the last lap wreck that eliminated Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin, Johnson's points lead is nearly insurmountable at more than 180 over Martin, and nearly 200 over Gordon.

Gordon started 3rd and dropped to 20th by lap 4 as the inside line struggled at the outset. He used the middle line and made his way up to 12th on lap 5 before the first caution for Paul Menard's cut tire and subsequent crash. Gordon came onto pit road and opted for fuel only. On the restart, Gordon hooked up in a draft with Brian Vickers and Robby Gordon in the middle line, and moved up to 9th on lap 11. Gordon moved to the low line on lap 14 to move up to 3rd position. Three laps later he went to the high side and got a strong bump draft from Greg Biffle to take the race lead. His lead was short-lived as he dropped to 3rd on lap 22.

Single file racing ensued before a green flag pit stop sequence on laps 45-50. Just as Gordon was coming onto pit road, Kurt Busch spun through the infield grass to bring out the caution flag. Gordon pitted under caution and restarted 9th on lap 55. He briefly drafted to the front with Kevin Harvick, before falling back in the middle line. Gordon settled into a single file line in 22nd place and remained there until lap 85 when the field bunched up. Gordon hit pit road for a green flag pit stop on lap 98. After the stops, Gordon hooked up in the lead draft and ran 6th.

NASCAR decided to liven up the on-track action by throwing a caution flag in the best interests of the sport at lap 105. Gordon came to pit road for two tires and departed in 8th place. On the restart, he drafted with Jeff Burton and pushed him into the race lead. Robby Gordon then pushed Gordon into the lead of the race on lap 115. He lost the race lead one lap later as Gordon locked into a draft with Dale Earnhardt Jr. He stayed in the lead draft before a cuation for Denny Hamlin's blown engine on lap 138. Gordon opted for two tires and departed pit road in 2nd place. On the restart, David Stremme pushed Gordon into the lead. He held the lead for just one lap before moving to the high side and getting shuffled back in traffic. He ran single file in 16th position as the laps wound down.

Positions began shuffling with 20 laps to go as Gordon moved to the middle line and up to 12th. He ran the high line behind Matt Kenseth and moved into the top-10. With 12 to go, he pulled to the low line and moved to 6th behind Kenseth. Four laps later, Gordon jumped to the high side and ran 3rd behind Jamie McMurray and Kenseth. With 4 to go, contact sent Ryan Newman spinning on the backstretch. His car flipped after contact during the spin and came down on Harvick's hood. A lengthy delay followed with Gordon running in 5th position. After a 12-minute red flag, Gordon's car failed to fire as he ran out of gas. The wrecker pushed Gordon to pit road for fuel. He restarted in 26th and was involved in the last lap crash that eliminated six drivers. Jamie McMurray scored his third career win after getting a bump draft from Kasey Kahne in the late stages.

JG post-race comments

"A little disappointing for us just because we ran out of fuel. I felt like we saved a lot. I certainly didn't think we were going to run out right then but I guess I'm kind of glad we ran out when we did because we were at least able to get back out there and destroy our car."

DID NASCAR MESS UP BY TELLING YOU GUYS HOW TO RACE TODAY?
"No, no; it just didn't change anything. As long as you can bump-draft period, you're going to have those kinds of incidences. Everybody really used their heads all day long and it was great. With guys staying off of you in the corners I think it definitely allowed us to get to the end. But we had more cars at the end and you know that it's going to happen coming down with a green-white-checkered finish. It's no different; same old thing as usual."

SEVERAL DRIVERS, EVEN RYAN NEWMAN AFTER HIS CRASH, SAID THIS WAS THE MOST BORING RACE HE'S BEEN A PART OF
"Well, yeah, but the only way it's not going to be is for it not to be 500 miles. I mean we know what we're up against. And why go out there and beat and bang and turn one another sideways in the first 100 or 200 miles? You want to make this a really exciting race for the whole race, make it 200 miles. That's why the truck races and other races when they come here are so exciting. To me, our sport is about strategy, it's about longevity, it's about pacing yourself. I thought it was a great race. But unfortunately the rules that we have are going to play out. The cars suck up too much. And they need to change that for this race track or it's just going to happen every single time."

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND THE NEXT TIME THE SERIES RACES AT TALLADEGA?
"My recommendation to them a long time ago and still, is I think basically we're just punching too big of a hole and we've got too much power to go along with that if you take away from that wicker. I just think we've got to get the air turned back down to catch the cars a little bit more. I don't know what the solution is if it's wicker or if it's something else. I'm not an aero guy. I just know that we shouldn't be able to just get into that pocket and close up; there's two things: one, the car has so much drag that when you clear somebody it's just like putting the brakes on. And then the other side is that when you get close up to them, you just close right up on them. And when you take 40 cars or 20 cars and pack 'em, it's just bumper cars at 190 mph."

THE INCIDENT AT THE END, SHOULD THAT JUST BE LOOKED AT AS TALLADEGA RACING? OR IS THAT SOMETHING RELATED TO THE RULES AND EVERYTHING?
"Well, I think this contributes more to it. But Talladega is always, on a green-white-checkered, is always going to be pretty hairy and crazy. But I don't think we had as much of that when the cars didn't close up as much. But then again, we didn't have the ability to pass as much. So I don't know what the solution is. I look forward to the day when I can watch this on TV instead of being inside of it. It's fun, exciting, and just so crazy at the same time, and you know what the outcome is going to be and that takes away a lot from the desire to want to go out there and race at Talladega."

WAS THE BUMPING WORSE IN THE STRAIGHTAWAY THAN USUAL SINCE YOU GUYS WEREN'T DOING AS MUCH IN THE CORNER; WAS IT A LITTLE HARDER?
"Yeah, it was. I think everybody realized that they had to make it all up on the straightaway. But before, it was on the straightaway and in the corner. So I thought that part was better today."

WHEN RYAN NEWMAN LEFT THE INFIELD CARE CENTER TODAY, HE SAID THAT NASCAR PUT YOU IN A BOX; AND BECAUSE OF THAT, IT'S CLEAR THAT THEY DON'T RESPECT YOU AS DRIVERS. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THOSE REMARKS?
"No reaction. I mean the car's in a box; there's no doubt about that. Ever since this car has come about, we've seen pretty much the same results here at Talladega. NASCAR obviously sees what's going on and we leave it up to them to make the call."



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