Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon Knocks Homestead Off Win List

After a drama-filled 2015 Chase, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend for its championship race.

The year has been a victory lap of sorts for @JeffGordonWeb, who will step away from racing after Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400.

Gordon’s career has no doubt been legendary, but his accolades aren’t set in stone just yet. He, along with @KevinHarvick, @MartinTruex_Jr, and @KyleBusch are the four drivers remaining in the Chase, making the latter three the only thing standing between Gordon and an elusive fifth championship. If history is any indication, Gordon has as good of a shot as anyone at the title.

Homestead-Miami Speedway is one of the few tracks on the circuit that hasn’t been around Gordon’s entire career. The Sprint Cup Series first came to the South Florida track in 1999, four years after it opened.

In the inaugural race, Gordon both qualified and finished in the 10th position, having led a total of three laps, all of which came during green-flag pit stop cycles. Over the next 12 races at Homestead, Gordon would consistently run well. Despite averaging a seventh place finish and only finishing outside of the top-10 three times during that time, Gordon’s highest finish was fourth in that stretch.

Once the 2012 season finale at Homestead came around, Gordon was already mathematically eliminated from championship contention, sitting 11th in points. He was 115 points behind points leader Brad @Keselowski after being docked 25 points for a late-race incident with @ClintBowyer at Phoenix International Raceway the previous week.

The Homestead weekend started out indicative of how the season had gone for Gordon, as he qualified in the 15th position. However, Gordon and the No. 24 team still had some fight left in them.

After @JoeyLogano led the field to the green flag, Gordon began to slowly move through the field, cracking the top-10 for the first time on Lap 31. Gordon continued his slow march over the next 40 or so laps and was in eighth when the first caution of the day flew for debris on Lap 78. He gained one spot on the ensuing pit stops and restarted seventh behind teammate @JimmieJohnson.

On Lap 99, Gordon broke into the top-five, getting past Johnson for the position.

The No. 24 was up to third on Lap 144 when the caution came out for debris once again. This time, however, Gordon would lose spots in the pits as he elected to take four tires when many of the leaders took only two, and he restarted 11th.

The race would only remain under the green for six laps, as the race’s third and final caution of the day came out when Ricky @StenhouseJr hit the wall in Turn 3. Although the run was short, Gordon was able to get back into the top-10, restarting 10th on Lap 166.

A good restart got the No. 24 Dupont 20 Years Chevrolet up to seventh and Gordon continued to move through the field over the next 10 laps, moving to fifth with 90 laps to go. Gordon charged through the field with Johnson, as both had fresh tires, and was running second with 65 laps to go.

The four-time champion took the lead for the first time on Lap 213, when Johnson came in for a green flag pit stop, but Gordon then gave it up just a lap later as he too came down pit road. Because of differing pit strategies, Gordon was in fourth when his round of green-flag stops cycled through.

The differing pit cycles, however, would turn out to greatly help Gordon. With 13 laps remaining, he was running third behind Truex Jr. and Busch, both of whom couldn’t make it the rest of the way on fuel. With all of the attention focused on Keselowski, who had all but wrapped up the championship, Gordon quietly took the lead on Lap 255.

Gordon went on to drive away from the field, and took the checkered flag by a huge margin. The win was his second of the season and 87th of his career.

“I knew we had a great race car going into the race,” said Gordon in Victory Lane. “At times I didn’t think we had a winning car, but we played the strategy perfectly.”

While the win was an important one, making Kentucky Speedway the only track Gordon has not won at in his career, the lasting memory of Jeff Gordon at Homestead will likely be this Sunday, when he runs the final race of his career.

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist. 

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon Ends Drought, Starts Phoenix Repave

In last week’s Jeff Gordon Retroactive, we went back to 2009, when @JeffGordonWeb snapped a 48 race winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway, a track at which he had struggled to find success.

The winless streak was the longest of Gordon’s career to that point. However, after the 2009 Texas victory, Gordon would yet again suffer the worst winless streak of his career.

Heading into the 2011 Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Gordon hadn’t been to victory lane in 66 races, dating back to the 2009 Samsung 500. Just like Texas, Gordon hadn’t found much success at Phoenix, winning only once in his 24 starts at the track.

The 2011 weekend didn’t start out very promising, with a 20th position qualifying effort. It was his third worst starting spot ever at Phoenix. After Carl Edwards led the field to the green flag, Gordon began moving through the field and was up to 15th when the race’s first caution came out on Lap 20 for debris.

On the ensuing pit stops, Gordon was able to gain four positions, bringing him up to 11th. However, Gordon had to make a second stop to replace a broken scoring transponder in his car. Because this was an official pit stop and no other work was done on the car, Gordon was able to retain his spot, and restarted 11th.

When the race restarted, Gordon got caught in the much slower outside line and fell as far back as 23rd just three laps after the return to green. This misfortune all but erased the track position Gordon had gained before the caution.

The next caution flew just six laps later when @RobbyGordon spun in Turn 2. Gordon was running in the 22nd position when the caution came out, but only took two tires during his pit stop, and restarted eighth.

Gordon found himself restarting on the high line again, but this time it kept up with the lower line. Gordon used this to his advantage and cracked the top-five for the first time on the day just before the third caution flew on Lap 51 after Daytona 500 winner @Tbayne6 spun and hit the wall.

Gordon pitted once again under this caution and came off of pit road eighth after taking four tires. However, 11 cars stayed out, and Gordon restarted 19th.

Just four laps later Gordon was still back around his restarting position when Carl Edwards made contact with @KyleBusch, sending the No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion into the grass coming out of Turn 2 where it sustained serious damage. Gordon was running alongside Edwards going into Turn 3. Edwards had lost his steering and ran himself and Gordon into the wall.

The time it took to fix the damage on pit road caused Gordon to restart 31st, but the No. 24 team would get a stroke of luck just a half of a lap into the green-flag run.

Just after the restart, @BrianLVickers lost control of his car coming out of Turn 2. Vicker’s No. 83 Red Bull Toyota got perpendicular to the field, creating a huge wreck behind him. The wreck collected 13 drivers, including @ClintBowyer, @ReganSmith, @JeffBurton, @TravisKvapil, and David Reutimann, all who had been running in or around the top-10. The wreck brought out a lengthy red flag. By Lap 67, there had been a total of 23 cars involved in a wreck.

When the race resumed under yellow, Gordon along with @DennyHamlin, @RyanJNewman, Paul Menard, and Tony Raines decided not to pit, giving Gordon the fourth spot for the restart. Four laps after the restart, Gordon took the lead for the first time on the day, getting past Newman on the backstretch.

Gordon relinquished the lead 11 laps later when he intentionally fell behind Newman to remove debris from his grill. Gordon dropped back to fourth as Tony Stewart took the lead but quickly recovered and settled into second.

Gordon remained there until Lap 124 when he was able to overtake Stewart going into Turn 3. The lead, however, would be short-lived, as another caution flew just four laps later when David Regan cut a tire and slammed into the wall in Turn 4.

Both Gordon and Stewart took four tires on the ensuing pit stops, but Stewart barely edged out the No. 24 coming off of pit road, and Gordon would restart second. Stewart was able to drop down in front of Gordon on the restart and retained the lead.

Despite this, Gordon never fell more than a few tenths of a second behind Stewart and took the lead coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 141. Gordon retained the lead for the next 30 laps, but Stewart began gaining on him around Lap 170 when he encountered lapped traffic, and the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy eventually retook the lead on Lap 173.

@JimmieJohnson also got past the No. 24, and Gordon found himself in third as Johnson and Stewart battled for the lead. Gordon briefly returned to the lead during a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 190, but returned to third once pit stops cycled through.

Over the next few laps, Johnson began reporting his car was a bit too loose, and Gordon passed Stewart for second. On Lap 204, Gordon seized an opportunity when Johnson got loose going into Turn 1, and took the lead for the fourth time.

This time, Gordon would have a long run out front as he held the lead for the next 78 laps.

Gordon lost the lead during the final round of green flag pit stops, and although his stop went smoothly, he got caught up with Brad @Keselowski when exiting pit road and came back on the track running seventh behind Kyle Busch and Stewart.

All the cars that hadn’t yet pitted did so under the ensuing caution, making Stewart, Busch, and Gordon the top three when the race went back to green with 23 laps to go.

On the restart, Gordon pushed Busch into the lead, but Stewart settled into the lower line in front of Gordon. Stewart, however, didn’t stay there for long, as Gordon captured the second position from him just a few laps later.

From there, Gordon set his sights on the No. 18 of Kyle Busch. Gordon gained on Busch over the next 10 laps and got to the bumper of the No. 18 Combos Toyota coming out of turn 4 with nine laps to go.

Gordon bumped Busch up the track, and the two were running alongside each other as they crossed the line with 8 laps to go. The No. 24 got loose heading into Turn 1, but Busch was on his outside, and suffered, rather than benefitted from Gordon’s slip up. This gave Gordon the lead for the final time.

Gordon drove away from Busch over the next eight laps and captured took the checkered flag with a lead of over one second. The win snapped Gordon’s 66 race winless streak and was the 83rd of his career.

“Man, what an awesome, awesome feeling it is when you’ve got the car right like that and they give you 20 to go and it’s your job to go get it done. I thought, even if I catch him (Kyle Busch), what am I going to do with him,” said Gordon. “And I caught him, he got loose, I got underneath him, then he was at my door and I got loose and they said ‘clear’ and I just went because I knew I needed to get away from him as fast as I could.”

After his celebration, Gordon then got behind the wheel of a backhoe and made the first dig in the track as it prepared to undergo a repave.

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist. 

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: A Texas-Sized Breakthrough

It’s widely known, even outside of the motorsports world, that @JeffGordonWeb is one of the winningest drivers in NASCAR history. His 93 wins puts him third on NASCAR’s all-time wins list behind Richard Petty and David Pearson, two first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Gordon has won consistently throughout his career, with trips to Victory Lane in all but three of his 23 full-time seasons in the Cup Series. However, there was one stretch of time in his career when Gordon struggled mightily to capture a checkered flag.

Heading into the 2009 Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Gordon hadn’t won in 48 races, a stretch that ran back to October 2007. Given that he had also never won at the Fort Worth track to that point, it didn’t seem like much would change that weekend.

The weekend started on a good note for Gordon, as he qualified on the outside pole behind David Reutimann and just in front of @MattKenseth.

When the race began, Gordon battled with Reutimann for the lead most of the first lap, finally edging him as the field came to the line. Gordon led the next seven circuits before Reutimann retook the lead on the backstretch.

Throughout the first half of the race, Gordon ran consistently in the top-10, mostly around the fifth and sixth positions. He would momentarily retake the lead on Lap 153 during a round of green-flag pit stops, but held it for only one lap before coming down pit road himself.

After that round of pit stops, Gordon found himself running in the top-five with @TonyStewart, @DavidRagan, @gbiffle, and Kenseth. He would briefly lead again on Lap 212 during another round of green flag stops, but once again relinquished it after only one lap out front.

A few laps later, the caution came out when @MarcosAmbrose blew an engine. Although the leaders had just pitted, many decided to take another stop, including leader Biffle. Gordon, however, decided to stay out and restarted on Lap 225 with the lead.

Gordon showed that his car was one of the fastest on the track over the next 31 laps, handily leading each one until the caution came out on Lap 252 when @RobbyGordon blew an engine coming off of Turn 4.

On the ensuing pit stops, @DaleJr decided to only take two tires and fuel, while most of the field, including Gordon, took four tires. The time difference in the stops was enough to give Earnhardt Jr. the lead after coming onto pit road 12th.

Six laps later, the lapped @KyleBusch got loose next to the No. 88 Chevrolet of Earnhardt Jr. and pushed him out of the groove. Gordon seized the opportunity and retook the lead.

Gordon led for the next 31 laps but complained throughout that his car was getting progressively looser. With 40 laps to go, Carl Edwards ran down the No. 24 Dupont/National Guard Chevrolet and the two began to battle for the lead. They ran side-by-side for the next two laps before Edwards got by Gordon coming out of Turn 4.

The final caution of the day came when @DavidStremme spun in Turn 4.

With the leaders needing one more pit stop, they all came down pit road during the caution. Gordon’s crew had a stellar pit stop and gave him the lead.

That was all Gordon would need. Over the remaining 28 laps, Gordon held the lead and took the checkered flag for the first time in a year and a half. It was also his first win at Texas, giving him another track to cross off the very short list of those he hadn’t won at.

“How ironic is this,” Gordon said. “We go on this streak and we end it here in Texas, a place that just alluded us for so long. This was a team effort, this whole year has just been amazing.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon Leads One Lap in ‘Dega Sweep

One of the reasons @JeffGordonWeb is in the conversation of being the best NASCAR driver in the history of the sport is because Gordon has consistently won at every type of track. From short tracks to road courses, Jeff Gordon has been a threat to win each week for the past 24 seasons.

Gordon has also found success at superspeedways, including Talladega Superspeedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads this week for the final race in the Contender Round.

Gordon has six wins on his resume at the historic Alabama track, with his first coming in just his third full year at NASCAR’s top level. However, it was Gordon’s last Talladega win in the fall of 2007 that proved to be the most exciting.

Gordon and the No. 24 team had already won the spring race at Talladega when they rolled back down south that October, sitting second in the point standings behind teammate @JimmieJohnson.

While the team had reason to be confident about the UAW-Ford 500, the weekend started off on a sour note, as Gordon qualified 34th. His second worst starting position ever at Talladega.

The action up front was exciting early, as there were eight lead changes before the race’s first caution on Lap 17. @BuckeyeBullet10 (Dave Blaney) @Bobby_Labonte, @mw55, @RobbyGordon, @BrianLVickers, and @DennyHamlin had all led a lap early on. However, Gordon had advanced just three spots into the 31st position at that point.

On the ensuing pit stops, crew chief @SteveLatarte decided to wait to see what other teams did before calling Gordon to pit road. The No. 24 Dupont/Pepsi Chevrolet pitted during the caution, but a lap after the field, and took four tires.

The move set Gordon back to 37th.

Throughout the race, it was clear that Gordon along with Johnson and many other Chase contenders were planning to avoid trouble by running in the back of the pack. When the race hit 60 laps to go, Gordon was still sticking to his plan, running in the 36th position.

With 49 laps to go, it looked as though all hope was lost for Gordon, as he was forced to serve a pass-thru penalty. The penalty came after an air gun got caught under the tire and was dragged out of his pit box. It kept Gordon in 36th position, making him the last car running.

Five laps later, however, Gordon caught a break when the ‘Big One’ finally happened. Bobby Labonte’s No. 43 car got loose in Turn 4 and collected 11 other cars, including those of Chase contenders @KyleBusch and @mattkenseth.

Gordon restarted 17th after the wreck and had his opportunity to finally get to the front. The No. 24 cracked the top-10 for the first time all day on Lap 154, when Gordon drove by Jeff Green.

He would stay put through two cautions over the next 15 laps and restarted ninth on Lap 167 after @KylePetty spun and wrecked his No. 45 American Spirit Dodge in Turn 4. Over the ensuing 10 laps, Gordon hovered around the top-10 and was running 11th when the race’s final caution flew on Lap 177.

The race restarted with eight laps to go and @RyanJNewman in the lead. That was when Gordon decided it was time to make a move.

By the time the field came to the line with six laps to go, Gordon was sitting sixth. The next time around he was second Johnson.

From there, Gordon sat and waited.

As the white flag went up, Gordon was still second behind Johnson as @TonyStewart led the high line with help from @KaseyKahne.

As the field went four wide down the back straightaway, Gordon saw his chance. He ducked out from behind Johnson, went across the middle two lanes of traffic, and settled in front of the hard-charging Stewart.

With a push from Stewart, Gordon overtook Johnson and captured the lead for the first time all day, with less than half of a lap remaining. Johnson only had one shot at Gordon coming through the tri-oval, but the four-tine champion held his teammate off.

The win was Gordon’s fifth on the year, and the 80th of his career.

“I have no idea,” said an elated Gordon on how he got to the front. “This guy right here (Letarte) builds an awesome race car and has put together one heck of a race team. We didn’t want to have to do it that way, but there’re a lot of unknowns, it’s hairy out there. We just wanted to play it safe until it really counted.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon Goes Two-for-Two at Kansas

As NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup rolls into Kansas Speedway this week, @JeffGordonWeb looks to gain ground, just as was when the series came west in September 2002.

Gordon had won the inaugural Winston Cup Series race at Kansas in 2001 on his way to his fourth championship, but this time, Gordon found himself fourth in the points heading into the season’s 29th race. Much like this year, Gordon was looking to win at the track for the second straight year and put himself in a better spot for the championship.

The weekend started off worse than the previous year for Gordon, as he qualified 10th as opposed to second in 2001.

At the drop of the green flag, Gordon began to move through the field and was already up to sixth when the first caution of the day flew on Lap 7 for a multi-car wreck on the frontstretch.

While Gordon ran well the first three-quarters of the race, he was never able to capture the lead. The No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet was only out of the top-10 during rounds of green flag pit stops, but the race was dominated by @RyanJNewman and @KevinHarvick, who led a combined 129 of the first 144 laps.

Caution came out on Lap 143 for oil on the track, and Gordon came out second behind Bill Elliott after the ensuing round of pit stops. On the restart, Gordon stayed with Elliott throughout the lap and overtook the No. 9 Dodge Intrepid coming to the line for Lap 148.

Gordon made the most of his first lead of the day, holding onto the lead while holding off a young Newman for 59 laps. However, Gordon was forced to relinquish the lead on Lap 206 during a round of green-flag pit stops.

@JeffBurton and @KylePetty led for a few laps each until the No. 24 cycled back to the race lead on Lap 210. While Gordon had recaptured the lead, he still had to contend with the No. 12 of Newman, who had been on Gordon’s tail ever since he took the lead.

Newman was tough, but Gordon was able to build up a nearly five second lead over the rookie driver with 17 laps to go, but a caution for debris on the back stretch decimated that gap. After the ensuing restart, Gordon drove away from Newman, opening up a nearly two-second lead.

The win was firmly in Gordon’s hands until yet another caution erased his lead.

This time, the yellow was brought out by a wreck involving Ricky Rudd, Johnny Benson, Jr., and Jimmy Spencer in Turn 4. The wreck ended up causing a nerve-racking red flag with four laps to go and Newman lurking behind Gordon.

The race restarted with three to go, and Gordon once again proved that the No. 24 was the best car on the track that day, handily holding off Newman and taking the checkered flag for his third victory of the year.

After the race, Gordon spoke about the amount of work his team had put in to make the victory possible.

“This team, what an amazing job they did,” said Gordon. “They did a lot of working coming into this event, working off of notes from last year. They never gave up.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Two Tires Leads to First Gordon Win

As the Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend to begin it’s Contender Round, @JeffGordonWeb continues his push for a fifth title in his final season. However, there was a time when NASCAR’s top series headed to Charlotte and Gordon wasn’t considered a contender, as he was more of an afterthought.

The 1994 Coca-Cola 600 came at just about a third of the way through Gordon’s sophomore campaign in the Winston Cup Series. Through the first 10 races, the No. 24 had struggled to find success, sitting 18th in the points.

Gordon was looking to turn the tides going into the weekend and started it on a good note by qualifying on the pole position for the second straight race at Charlotte. But on the initial start, Gordon was only able to fend off the challenge of outside polesitter @GeoffBodine for one lap, as Bodine overtook Gordon in Turn 2 on Lap 2.

Bodine, @ErnieIrvan, and @RustyWallace, dominated a vast majority of the race, even leading 241 of the race’s first 300 laps. Meanwhile, Gordon remained inside the top-five, looking for his chance to make a move to the front.

Gordon had the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet up to the second position by Lap 299, and saw the opportunity he’d been waiting for all race. Going into Turn 3, Wallace got slightly loose, and Gordon drove to the lower line and overtook the No. 2 Miller High Life Ford.

As night began to fall on the 1.5-mile track, the action on the track began to heat up.

@DaleJarrett got past Gordon and Wallace for a few laps, but Wallace recovered and took the lead once again on Lap 320. Over the next 40 laps, Gordon and Jarrett battled for the third position while Wallace and second place Bodine began to drive away from the field.

It looked as though all was lost for Gordon and the No. 24 team. However, with about 35 laps to go, Gordon began to pull away from Jarrett’s No. 18 machine and began to close on Bodine.

While young Gordon had a lot of work to do to get to the front, he wasn’t in an unfamiliar position. A year earlier, Gordon had a stellar run in the 1993 Coca-Cola 600 and found himself behind Dale Earnhardt in the closing laps of the race. Gordon did everything he could to get past The Intimidator, but Earnhardt’s prowess proved too much, and Gordon settled for second.

This year, the cars to beat were those of Bodine and Wallace, and Gordon was determined to prevent history from repeating itself.

Bodine and Wallace fought it out for the lead with Gordon in third until a late round of green-flag pit stops. All was routine on Bodine and Wallace’s stops, but a risky two-tire stop put Gordon ahead of the two in second, behind Ricky Rudd who had yet to pit.

The stop proved to be the deciding factor in the race.

Gordon took the race lead for the final time when Rudd came in to pit on Lap 391 and went on to win the first Cup Series race of his young career.

“I’m speechless, man, this is the greatest day of my life,” said Gordon, fighting through tears. “I don’t know what to say. It’s a wonderful feeling, but I owe so much to this crew …They made that decision, I just drove the wheels off of it. They did such an excellent job in the pits, and that’s what wins races.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Dover Rebound in 2001

@JeffGordonWeb’s career has been nothing short of legendary. From his 92 wins to his four championships, to his recent capturing of NASCAR’s “Iron Man” title for most consecutive starts, Gordon is no doubt a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Gordon’s dominance was rarely more apparent than on during the 2001 MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover International Speedway.

By 2001, Gordon had already accrued three wins at the Monster Mile, all coming in a row, having won the fall race in 1995 and swept both races in 1996. Since then, he had some success at the track, but he failed to finish in the top 20 in each of the previous year’s races at Dover.

Gordon came into the race weekend sitting second in the point standings, 75 behind @DaleJarrett. Qualifying was rained out, so he started the race in second in the points behind Jarrett, and just in front of @RustyWallace.

At the drop of the green flag, Gordon got a run on Jarrett coming out of turn two and blew right past the No. 88 UPS Ford.

Gordon led through two cautions over the next 20 laps and the first real competition for the No. 24 on the afternoon came on the next lap as Wallace challenged for the lead.

Wallace got by Gordon to lead Lap 23, but he regained the lead on the ensuing lap.

Gordon retained his lead for the next 123 laps, before coming in for a green flag pit stop on Lap 147, relinquishing his lead to Jarrett.

While stops were cycling through, Sterling Marlin, @RickyCravenESPN@TonyStewart, and @DaleJr each led a single lap before Gordon regained the lead on Lap 153.

Gordon once again dominated the next portion of the race, getting out to a nearly half-track lead over second place Steve Park by the time the No. 24 had to come down pit road for another green flag stop on Lap 265.

Park followed Gordon down pit road, and Tony Stewart led for a lap before he, too, came in for a stop, giving up the lead to Ricky Craven.

When pit stops cycled through, Gordon was once again in the lead.

The No. 24 Dupont Chevy was clearly the car to beat by this point in the race, and Gordon went on to lead the next 79 laps, all under a green flag.

Gordon would relinquish his lead with 49 laps to go as he came into pit, and Craven took the top spot.

Craven kept the No. 32 Tide Ford in the lead for four laps until he came down pit road as well, giving @MarkMartin the lead.

Gordon got back to the front of the pack after Martin took his No. 6 Viagara Ford into the pits for a green flag stop.

He then began to once again drive away from the field, but a caution flew on Lap 364 when Ron Hornaday, Jr. spun on the front stretch.

Gordon had a very strong restart on Lap 368 and handily maintained the lead.

The final threat to Gordon’s lead came in the closing laps of the race when Steve Park cut down a nearly two-second lead to just seven-tenths of a second as the white flag flew.

Park closed in even more on the final lap, but he was unable to catch the No. 24.

At the end of the day, Gordon took the checkered flag after leading 381 of the race’s 400 laps, having never been out of the lead for more than 8. The win was his second on the year, and 54th of his career.

“That was incredible, I wasn’t expecting that today,” said Gordon in victory lane. “I feel like the Dupont No. 24 Chevrolet of old here at Dover… These guys, they really had it hooked up today.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Evernham’s Gas ‘N Go Seals the Win at Loudon

As NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup rolls into its second race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, @JeffGordonWeb is looking for a solid run to redeem himself following last weekend’s slide from second to 14th in the final laps at Chicagoland.

In 1997, Gordon was also in a points battle heading into the fall race in Loudon, but that year he was in a much better position.

By winning the Mountain Dew Southern 500 (and a $1 million bonus) two weeks earlier, Gordon had taken the points lead from @MarkMartin, with whom he had been battling all year. A third place finish at Richmond the following week kept Gordon in the lead by 97 points, but a @DaleJarrett win put him in third, just 153 points back from Gordon.

Gordon qualified in the 13th position for the 1997 CMT 300 at New Hampshire between @Bobby_Labonte and Geoff Bodine. It was his best qualifying effort at the track since a second place start in 1994.

In the opening laps of the race, Gordon quickly put the No. 24 car in the top-10 but his march to the front was a slow one. @RickyCravenESPN and Bobby Hamilton looked to be the cars to beat throughout the first half of the race, as the two combined to lead 146 of the race’s first 148 laps.

The No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevy finally took the lead from Craven on Lap 149 with a pass in Turn 3. Gordon would relinquish the lead on Lap 157 during a round of green-flag pit stops, but cycled back to first just four laps later after most of the field followed his lead into the pits.

Craven never fell far behind Gordon, although the No. 24 led for the next 39 laps.

When a caution came out on Lap 199 for Robert Pressley hitting the wall in Turn 3, it was just the right time for the leaders, as it was right in most of their pit windows. During the caution, all of the leaders came in to pit, and Craven beat Gordon off of pit road.

Craven kept his No. 25 Budweiser Chevy in the lead on the restart, fending off strong challenges from Gordon. However, Gordon stayed on Craven’s tail and just six laps later retook the lead when Craven took a high line out of Turn 4.

As was common throughout the race, Gordon was unable to drive away with the lead.

On Lap 222, @ErnieIrvan, who had been charging through the field, got a run on Gordon going into Turn 3, and took the lead from the then one-time champion. Irvan began to drive away from Gordon, opening up about a 15-car length lead by Lap 226.

Gordon needed a break to catch up to Irvan, and he got one on the next lap when Hut Stricklin spun from the 13th position in Turn 1 and brought out just the third caution of the day. Gordon took a gas-and-go pit stop during the caution and handily won the race off of pit road, with Craven coming out second.

Gordon was able to hold the lead through four restarts over the next 60 laps, and was out front when caution flew with eight laps to go after a multi-car wreck on the front stretch involving Mike Skinner, @mw55, Bill Elliott, @KenSchrader, and others.

The cleanup from the wreck took six laps, and the race restarted on Lap 298 with Gordon trying to fend of Irvan for the win.

Irvan’s No. 28 Texaco Ford remained in Gordon’s rear view for the race’s final two laps, but the No. 24 was able to hold off a final charge by Irvan between Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap.

Gordon took the checkered flag and became the first repeat winner in NHMS history with his 10th victory of the year. The win also extended Gordon’s points lead to 139 over Mark Martin.

“Those last 50 or 60 laps I never thought we could hold off Ernie,” said Gordon in victory lane. “I’m not sure of the cautions were good or bad, but this team is great. They made a great call doing that gas-and-go. I question him every once in a while, but Ray (Evernham) makes excellent decisions and he did a great job in the pits.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com

Categories
Commentary

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Gordon vs. Kenseth Feud Continued at Chicagoland

Matt Kenseth wasn’t very happy with Jeff Gordon following the USG 400 in 2006.

With four laps remaining and Kenseth leading, Gordon drove his Chevrolet to the bumper of the 2003 Winston Cup Champion and spin him out in turn two. The caution sent the race into overtime with Gordon taking his first victory at the 1.5-miler.

“That wasn’t an accident. He ran over me,” Kenseth said following the race. “On the restart, he was hanging back and NASCAR has a rule that you can’t hang back, although I’ve never seen it enforced. He was hanging back because I was a little weak on restarts.”

Gordon made a backhanded apology.

“I certainly didn’t mean to wreck him,” Gordon said. “But I didn’t mind moving him out of the way, either.”

“On long runs, we had the best car and I hate to win one like that,” Gordon said. “Matt ran a great race. I got in there hard, he blocked me a couple times and I jumped back in the gas. Matt knew he blocked me on the restart. If I wanted to spin him, I could have spun him then.”

Chicago was in Kenseth’s wheelhouse too. For the second consecutive year, he had led the most laps in the race.

The two had a bit of a history in 2006, beginning at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier in March. It was the final lap of the Sharpie 500 and Kenseth pulled the ‘bump and run’ heading into turn four with the checkers in sight.

That move allowed Kenseth to take the lead in the standings.

Following the race, Gordon would spin Kenseth on pit road, which would later result in a penalty.

As Kenseth went to see Gordon to tell his side of the story, a shoving match an and verbal exchanged ensued. But it pretty much ended there. For the remainder of the 2006 season, the two played nice and put the incidents behind them.

With his final start at Chicagoland, Gordon, starting tenth as a result of the cancellation of qualifying, will look to grab his first win of the season at a track that brings back a storied memory.

 

EMAIL MIKE AT mike.calinoff@icloud.com
FOLLOW ON TWITTER@MikeCalinoff
LIKE MIKE ON FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/MikeCalinoff
LIKE POPULAR SPEED ON FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/popularspeed
WEBSITE: www.mikecalinoff.com

Categories
Development Journalists

Jeff Gordon Retroactive: Darlington Raceway

This weekend at Darlington Raceway NASCAR will take a step back in time with a retro theme complete with throwback paint schemes, announcers of days past, and even food selections that haven’t been offered in years.

All of NASCAR’s legends show up when looking at past winners at the South Carolina track. Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough, and David Pearson have all taken checkered flags at The Lady in Black.

This weekend’s race, the Southern 500, is often regarded as one of the series’ premier events, and while fans may have to look back through time to grasp the legends who have won at Darlington, they won’t have to look nearly as far to see the Southern 500’s all-time win leader.

In fact, he’ll be on track looking to extend his record on Sunday.

Throughout his career, @JeffGordonWeb has been the driver to beat at the track deemed “Too Tough to Tame.” Gordon has accrued seven wins (six in the Southern 500), 19 top-fives, and 23 top-10s in 34 starts at the historic venue.

Gordon’s Darlington resume is nothing short of dominant, but it had to start somewhere. The 1995 Mountain Dew Southern 500 was where Gordon would start his incredible Darlington career.

Gordon came into the 1995 Southern 500 having only one finish inside the top-20 in his first five starts. Looking to reverse the trend, Gordon started off the weekend on the right foot, qualifying fifth between Dick Trickle and Sterling Marlin.

Through the first 100 laps of the event, Gordon ran consistently in the third position while Dale Earnhardt and @John_Andretti battled for the lead. Just past the 100-lap mark, Gordon took the position, but watched as Dale Earnhardt led 118 of his race-high 208 laps.

The No. 24 DuPont car took the lead for the first time during a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 208, but it was short-lived as Gordon himself came down pit road the next lap, relinquishing the lead to Ward Burton.

Once pit stops cycled through, Earnhardt returned to the lead with Gordon still sitting top-five.

A caution on Lap 269 for a multi-car wreck began to shake things up. On the ensuing pit stops, Earnhardt lost the lead to Andretti and came out in the fifth position. Gordon restarted second.

Andretti held onto the lead for a few laps, but Gordon overtook the No. 37 when crossing the line with 85 laps to go. Ricky Rudd then got by Gordon on Lap 296 but he was then passed 19 laps later by @RustyWallace. All the while, Gordon remained in the second position.

Wallace was never able to shake Gordon while leading. Then with 43 laps to go, Gordon made his move and took the top spot on the backstretch.

An ill-timed caution just laps later set up another round of stops and this time Gordon lost his track position. He came out third behind Andretti and Hut Stricklin. Stricklin quickly took the lead off the restart, and Gordon rode his draft into the runner-up spot.

Gordon then set his sights on passing Stricklin, which didn’t take very long. Charging to the bottom entering Turn 3, by the time the field came to the line with 34 to go, the 24 was back in the lead.

Gordon never relinquished it and cruised to his first Southern 500 victory by 10 car lengths over Earnhardt.

“I’m about ready to come to tears here. This is a big win for us,” said Gordon in Victory Lane. “We had to come back from a lot of things and I’ve never really been in a battle with Earnhardt and Rusty and them towards the end, so that was a great accomplishment for me and this team.”

John McHugh is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.mchugh@popularspeed.com