Jeff Gordon: Excited not just for Kansas, but rest of the season

1 Comment

It took an 11th – or 13th – hour adjustment to get Jeff Gordon into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, but given he and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports’ team’s success this season, it’s only a matter of time before he eventually breaks through for his first win of the year.

The series points leader has starred throughout most of the year, but late-race bad luck has cost him shots at at least two races.

Heading into Kansas this weekend, where Gordon won the track’s first two races in 2001 and 2002, Gordon’s optimistic.

“I’m excited to get there and see what the track has to offer, as well as how the new ride heights and downforce will play out this year,” he said in a Wednesday teleconference. “We’ve excelled at a lot of tracks. Kansas has always been one of my favorites, although it moved further down on the repave, but it ages, go through the winter and gets back to the Kansas. The transitions are still there. The variable banking is always a plus.”

Gordon, who continues to search for his elusive fifth championship, added that this has been one of the best starts he’s ever had to a season.

“I know that time is running short, but I’m not concerned about it,” he said. “I have accomplished more than I ever thought. We have such a great race car and race team this year. We’re off to a great start. We’re healthy, and in good shape.”

“What I’m excited about is that we have such a great race team. We’ve had such competitive cars. Some we unload and we’re fast, others we really have to work at it.”

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”