Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won a track record four Brickyard 400s, including the inaugural event in 1994. He’s also managed 10 top-10 finishes here in 13 starts. The Indiana transplant is hugely popular with the fans in Indy, as well.
Now that we have survived the final off weekend of the year, it’s time to turn our focus to the upcoming seven-race slugfest that will determine the field for the 2007 Chase for the Championship. Obviously, there are certain drivers that are all but locked into the field barring some sort of meteor hitting their race shops. But the expansion to a field of 12 this year has widened the door for more of these wheelmen to try to make a name for themselves and stake their claim to a piece of NASCAR history.
Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race to capture the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find; the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what some select few were thinking after the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon won this race last year and has top five finishes in four of his six starts at Chicagoland. With a 10th-place average finish, Gordon doesn’t beat around the “Busch,” although some days, we are sure he’d like to.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon’s Daytona record speaks for itself; he’s won a total of six points races there, most recently the 2005 Daytona 500. With the Hendrick teams on a roll at the plate tracks, that should make Gordon an automatic contender, right? Not quite; it has to be pointed out that Gordon has finished outside the top 25 in two of the last four points races here.
The 1-mile flat track up in New Hampshire proved as difficult as ever to pass on Sunday, but that didn’t stop a resurgent Jeff Gordon from giving it a shot. His last lap battle with Denny Hamlin left the two side-by-side heading to the finish line; but in the end, Hamlin held on, squeaking out a win while sending out a statement that his team could pose a challenge to Hendrick’s Car of Tomorrow dominance. In the meantime, several storylines developed behind the two contenders, with late-race pit strategies, dropped jacks, and two-tire stops doing their best to separate the contenders from the pretenders as the Race to the Chase began its final 10-race stretch.
0.068 – Denny Hamlin’s margin of victory over Jeff Gordon at New Hampshire (in seconds).
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has three wins at Loudon, but none since 1998. In fact, his third-place finish at NHIS last fall put to bed a streak of three straight finishes outside of the top 10. But overall, Gordon has 13 top 10s in 24 career starts at this track – and do you want to bet against a Hendrick driver at a CoT event?
Another questionable debris caution late in the race Sunday bunched up the field and led to an exciting finish at California. But is NASCAR losing credibility with the fact they may be “engineering” finishes with these yellow flags?
As the Nextel Cup Series put its second race in the books last weekend in California, a state known for wildfires surely did its part to fuel the flames of several of Nextel Cup’s hottest drivers. This week’s surprising contingent listed as currently burning up the tracks includes a 48-year-old veteran who continues to steal center stage, as well as a 21-year-old rookie using a combination of luck and racing smart to fight his way towards the top of the charts.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson scored his first ever career Cup victory at California back in 2002 (yes, kids, they were racing stock cars way back in 2002). In addition, Johnson has scored three runner-up finishes at Fontana, one of them in this race last year. That’s a total of four first or seconds in eight career Cup starts at the track.
Jimmie Johnson: Johnson won last year’s Daytona 500, and his 32nd-place result in last year’s Firecracker 400 ended a streak of five finishes of sixth or better in Daytona points races. On the plate tracks lately, the Hendrick cars always seem to be contenders.