(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Pure Michigan 400: Jeff Gordon wins third race of 2014, back on top of points


BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Jimmie Johnson is to win a record-tying seventh Sprint Cup championship, he’s going to have to get past Jeff Gordon – and that’s not going to be easy.

Gordon earned his third win of the season Sunday – and the 91st of his Sprint Cup career – capturing the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

He also regained the points lead in the Sprint Cup standings, leading teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who assumed the points lead after last week’s race at Watkins Glen, by just three points.

The triumph ties Gordon with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Johnson and Earnhardt, as well as 2012 champ Brad Keselowski, for most wins during the 26-race regular season.

After Kurt Busch hit the wall to bring out the caution on Lap 178, Gordon remained patient. Joey Logano was the race leader when the green flag dropped on the restart on Lap 183, but Gordon outmuscled Logano going into Turn 1 of the D-shaped track and never looked back.

“We earned this one, baby, we earned it,” crew chief Alan Gustafson told Gordon on the team radio after he crossed the start-finish line.

After the race, Gordon was understandably ecstatic about his third career triumph at MIS.

“That last restart was it,” Gordon said. “We had the car to win. I got a good restart. Joey was out there by himself, was able to get to his quarter and then was able to get by. I just needed a couple laps for my tires to come in, we were out front, set sail and the checkered flag was waving. This is amazing, this is just fantastic.”

Gordon now has earned the most wins for him since also winning three in the 2011 season.

However, there’s one significant difference to that: he still has 13 more races to go to add to those three wins. The last time Gordon had more than three wins in a season was when he visited victory lane six times back in 2007, when he finished second in the Chase to Johnson.

“Our Chase has already started,” Gordon said. “This team is championship caliber, but it’s going to be tough. We don’t want anything to change when we get to Chicago, just charge for those wins.”

In a sense, the way Gordon won was a case of several elements of déjà vu:

* He won his second race of the season, at the Brickyard 400, with “the restart of my life,” also taking the lead with 17 laps left — just like Sunday. What’s more, the car he won at Indianapolis is also the same one he drove to victory on Sunday.

* Ironically, the last two times Gordon won the Sprint Cup championship – the third and fourth of his career in 1998 and 2001 – he also won at Indianapolis and Michigan in both of those seasons.

* It’s been 13 years since Gordon has won at MIS.

Gordon started the race on the pole, setting a track record during qualifying on Friday with a burst of 206.558 mph around the two-mile track, which has become the fastest track in NASCAR.

Gordon’s pole was also the fastest in NASCAR history since the sanctioning body implemented restrictor plates at both Daytona and Talladega in 1988.

Kevin Harvick finished second for the fourth consecutive race at MIS, tying a NASCAR record for most consecutive finishes at a track set by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett four times in a row at Rockingham.

“We had a solid day, it’s just the 24 (Gordon) had more speed than we did all day,” Harvick said. “I felt like when Joey was out front, he could get away at the short run, we’d kind of even out. But all in all, it was a good day.

“The main focus for our team has been consistency heading into the Chase to make sure we can scramble and do the things we’ve done over the last month. When you have a solid day, finish it off. Those are the things we’ve been able to do. Obviously you want to win, but all in all we had some different goals that are as important leading into the Chase.”

Logano, who led the most laps (86) of the 200-lap event, rallied back to finish third, followed by Paul Menard and Earnhardt.

“It was one too many restarts,” Logano said. “We were battling on these restarts pretty hard. I used every trick in the book I had. … I had the run and then I was clear. I should have pulled up in front of him and got the draft. … Gosh, it’s close. It’s what we need to do before the Chase. We’re doing everything we need to do. … I’m going to relieve that in my mind the next two weeks.”

Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Johnson and Greg Biffle.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: Schumacher needs big weekend to keep Top Fuel title hopes alive

tony schumacher NHRA
(Photo courtesy NHRA)
Leave a comment

With just three races remaining in the Countdown to the Championship, eight-time and reigning NHRA Top Fuel champ Tony Schumacher needs a big-time Texas turnaround this weekend.

Schumacher, as well as the rest of the Top Fuel class, has been at the mercy of Antron Brown thus far in the Countdown.

Brown, who is Schumacher’s teammate at Don Schumacher Racing, has won each of the first three races in the six-race Countdown.

“We do have quite a challenge in front of us over the second half of the Countdown. Hats off to Antron and all those Matco Tools/U.S. Army guys because they’ve had about as perfect of a run so far as you can have in this sport,” Schumacher said in a media release.

And as the NHRA moves into this weekend’s AAA Texas Nationals at the (Ennis) Texas Motorplex, Schumacher – who is in second place in the standings, 94 points behind Brown – knows what is at stake.

And most importantly, with just 12 rounds of racing remaining this season (four rounds in each of the final three races), Schumacher – who is the defending champion of this event – knows what he and his team have to do.

“If you do the math, we have five round wins to make up in the next three race weekends, which is entirely within the realm of possibility, especially for this U.S. Army team,” Schumacher said. “We’ve made up larger deficits before and came out with the championship by the time all was said and done. We live for the challenges we face every day and this is one we’re certainly ready to tackle.

“Obviously, it would be incredible to wipe out the entire deficit at Dallas and then hit Vegas and Pomona (the final two races) on equal ground.

“It’s mathematically possible, but is it likely? I would think not, especially with the way (Brown’s) team has been performing the first half of the Countdown. But, you never know. The way we approach it is to take care of what we can control, and that is to go out and try to be fastest in every qualifying session, then run the table on Sunday. That’s the best we can do.

“I always say it is a gift to be able to do what we do, and it is a gift to be presented with the opportunity to come to bat with the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and your team needing a grand slam to win the game, to win the championship.

“Some people wilt under that kind of pressure. This Army team has proven time and again that it is at its best when those opportunities come around, and we have one of those in front of us right now. It’s time to go out and get it done.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Canada Drag Racing Hall honors some of nation’s greatest legends

canadian drag racing hall of fame
(Photo courtesy RB Photographie/Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame)
Leave a comment

Hockey may be the national sport in Canada, but drag racing isn’t far behind in overall popularity.

And nearly 40 legends in the sport were honored Oct. 9 as inaugural inductees of the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Montreal.

Among the 28 living and 10 posthumous legends honored included racers, crew chiefs, mechanics, track officials, promoters and sponsors from across the nation “who made a lasting impact and significant difference the development of drag racing in Canada and elsewhere,” according to a media release from the Hall.

“The recognition of world-class Canadian drag racing legends, all under one roof, is long overdue,” said Hall founder John Scotti. “I am very excited about this achievement for the sport and look forward to sharing it with others who will visit the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame museum as well.”

Added Hall director Bob Aubertin, “It is a dream come true to see great ones of our sport getting the recognition they deserve for their extraordinary achievements, contributions and efforts for the sport of drag racing.”

Among inductees are NHRA senior vice president Graham Light, all-star crew chief Dale Armstrong, famed Funny Car driver Gordie Bonin, longtime John Force Racing crew chief Bernie Fedderly, former U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Terry Capp and 1970 Winternationals Super Stock winner Barrie Poole, the first Canadian driver to win an NHRA national event.

A former Competition Eliminator and Top Fuel driver, Light owned and operated Edmonton International Speedway in his hometown from 1974 to 1982. He joined NHRA in 1984 and has been with the sanctioning body ever since.

“It’s a great honor to be inducted into the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame during its inaugural year and to be included among the legends of Canadian Drag Racing,” said Light, who was inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. “All of the inductees owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to founder John Scotti for his vision in creating the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame, which will provide an appropriate venue to preserve the history of the sport well into the future.”

Complete list of inductees in alphabetical order:

  1. Dale Armstrong, AB (Posthumous)
  2. Gordie Bonin, AB (Posthumous)
  3. Ron Bracken, Pierrefonds, QC (Posthumous)
  4. Ronald Brunet, Napierville, QC
  5. Frank Cantusci, Ottawa, ON
  6. Terry Capp, Sturgeon County, AB
  7. Wally Clark, Niagara, ON
  8. Aurèle Collette, Bouctouche, NB
  9. George Constantine, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  10. Marcel Couture, St. Henri, QC (Posthumous)
  11. Garry Dearn, Lasalle, QC
  12. Louis Desjardins, Montreal, QC
  13. John Dingman, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  14. Sandy Elliot, Chatham, ON (Posthumous)
  15. John Elliot, Chatham, ON
  16. Bernie Fedderly, Edmonton, AB
  17. Alban Gauthier, Montreal, QC
  18. Ralph Hope, London, ON
  19. Don Lavoie, Dieppe, NB
  20. Graham Light, Edmonton, AB
  21. André Massé, St.-Jean d’Iberville, QC (Posthumous)
  22. Jacques Marier, Repentigny, QC
  23. Terry ‘Zeke’ Maxwell, St. Constant, QC
  24. Ken McDonald, Montreal, QC (Posthumous)
  25. Doug Miller, Williamsburg, ON
  26. Jim Morrison, Elmsdale, NS
  27. John Petrie, Victoria, B.C.
  28. Barrie Poole, Montague, PEI / Chatham, ON
  29. Jim Rini, Kingston, ON
  30. Dan Rini, Kingston, ON
  31. Joe Roy, Montreal/Toronto, QC/ON
  32. Stan Sipos, Victoria, BC
  33. FJ Smith, Cayuga, ON
  34. Ollie Stephan, Scarborough, ON
  35. Alain Tanguay, Charlesbourg, QC
  36. Claude Tetreault, Napierville, QC
  37. Denis Warner, Toronto, ON (Posthumous)
  38. Scott Wilson, London, ON

Follow @JerryBonkowski