A Long December
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (December 20)- - The off-season might mean empty race tracks, but NASCAR race shops are as busy as ever. Jeff Gordon's Daytona 500 car was completed in October. Hendrick Motorsports has already started the final touches on its fleet of Cars of Tomorrow, which debut at Bristol in March. The Chevrolet Impala COT will be on track for 16 events in 2007. Crew chief Steve Letarte has spent a majority of his December dealing with internal matters. After the season ended in Homestead last month, he immediately morphed from crew chief to team manager. Teams typically spend December going over which employees need contract extensions and supervising pit crews' offseason regimes. "As a company, we have done a good job expecting that the Car of Tomorrow was coming," Letarte said. "We started ahead of time. While the crew chiefs were racing, there are 6-8 key people here at the company who didn't close their eyes to the Car of Tomorrow." The 38 race season takes its tool on over-the-wall pit crews, and Letarte uses December to give his team a moderate break. His seven-man pit crew spends the month working out with light weights and rehabbing nagging injuries. "They won't pit practice in December," Letarte said. "They will go to the gym but they won't pit practice. 38 weeks is so hard on knees and ankles. In the gym they are really not lifting, they are stretching and getting rehabilitation." (Nascar.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (December 17)- - The Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital at NorthEast Medical Center in Charlotte held its grand opening celebration on December 16 with an appearance from the four-time NASCAR champion. The hospital will offer a continuum of care for pediatric patients from birth to age 18 in a serene environment where nature is the primary surrounding. "I was introduced to these illnesses through Ray Evernham and Ray J., and after you see somebody go through that it makes you want to give your time to things like Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Riley Hospital for Children," Gordon said. "Then you are meeting the kids and meeting the doctors and you become so educated that you are just drawn into it and you can't help but want to give whatever you can. Cabarrus County had a need for it and Northeast is a top-notch center." Gordon's personal touch centers around four photographs he took during an African safari in 2005. He asked the hospital to exhibit the pictures of a gazelle, elephant, lion and giraffe.
Back To School
SOUTH FLORIDA. (December 7)- - Jeff Gordon might have four NASCAR championships and 75 victories under his belt, but when it comes to Grand Am racing he's simply a rookie trying to speed up his learning curve. Gordon took to the track at Homestead-Miami Speedway on December 5-6 in the #10 SunTrust Pontiac on the track's road couse in preparation for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January. Gordon joined more than 25 Rolex Sports Car Series teams to participate in the test. Gordon will team up with Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor in the #10 Pontiac Riley in the endurance race. "Each time I'm in the car, I get a better feel for things and find some speed," Gordon said. "[Wednesday] I felt like I was getting more consistent. The next step is going to be really the fine-tuning. Also the thing that's going to be the toughest I think to accomplish is working through traffic. That's something that is important at Daytona, the 24-hour race. There's a lot of traffic. There's a lot of time that can be gained or lost there. Right now I'm not comfortable enough to just dive in there on guys. But the speed seems to be there, so I'm happy about that." Gordon's experience on the NASCAR road courses of Sonoma and Watkins Glen was expected to help him in the Grand-Am car. But there are still adjustments to be made. "In the Daytona Prototype you can drive in so deep and just push the brake pedal down so hard. Of course, the sequential shifting as well really makes a big difference in the braking zones," Gordon said. "The car has a lot of downforce. Through the high-speed corners, like they call it NASCAR 3 and 4, you're just flat through there, wide open. The braking zones, you can just really attack, attack, attack. The car actually has quite a bit of torque and power under throttle in the slower sections, so you get a lot of wheel spin. There are some aspects that are more impressive than I thought and other aspects that are more challenging than I thought."
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