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Press Snoop: Gordon wins before Room of Doom

16 February 2007


JEFF GORDON won the second Gatorade Duel on Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, which helped set the field for Sunday's NASCAR Nextel Cup Daytona 500.

This was his fourth victory in the Duels, and his thirteenth win at Daytona, which has included four Daytona 500 races, and, in Victory Lane, Gordon admitted that the feeling was 'awesome'.

"I am so exited to be here in Victory Lane," he said, "It's neat to see things going our way right now. It's a great feeling to get back here into victory lane at Daytona."

His win Thursday would have put him on the outside of the second row for Sunday's Daytona 500 race but, as the old saying goes, it ain't over until the Fat Lady sings. While Gordon was in the media centre after his victory, his car was in the so-called Room of Doom, the technical bay in the NASCAR garage. JOHN DARBY, NASCAR Nextel Cup director, among others, was under the car, there were consultations with officials and Gordon's crew chief, STEVE LETARTE and, even before Gordon left the media Centre, word filtered back that there was a problem and that his car was illegal. Gordon seemed genuinely stunned, at first thinking it was a journalist joke. Then his face froze and he left for the garage.

After more than two hours of inspection and discussion, NASCAR's VP of competition, ROBIN PEMBERTON, announced the obvious. There was a problem. Gordon's car was indeed too low, and his penalty would be to start outside of the last row instead of outside the second row. The only person starting behind Gordon will be DALE JARRETT, who will take the first of his six allowed past champions provisionals.

Basically, Gordon's car was roughly an inch lower in the shock mount area in the rear. The serrations were misaligned, not matched up correctly, resulting with a loose pin, which could also be potentially dangerous if it fell off. The actual part was confiscated and added to the display in front of the NASCAR hauler - perhaps the largest ever such NASCAR display.

Unlike all the others caught out with technical violations this week, neither Gordon or his owner, RICK HENDRICK, will be fined or lose any points. NASCAR determined that the violation was unintentional but unsafe. Gordon is still the winner of Gatorade Duel 2, and he is the first Chevrolet caught in NASCAR's net.

Meanwhile, back at the race, the Busch brothers made a sandwich of DAVID STREMME, who finished third in the second Duel. KURT BUSCH finished second - the top Dodge - and little brother KYLE finished fourth.

MATT KENSETH finished fifth after starting last in the 31-car field - the top Ford. He was one of those penalised by NASCAR for technical violations. Kenseth said before the race that the violation was overblown and not such a big deal.

Kenseth was penalised 50 drivers' championship points, and his owner, JACK ROUSH, was fined 50 owners' points. Kenseth's crew chief, ROBBIE REISER, was suspended for four races and fined $50,000. Kenseth's penalties were for violations under NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Rule 12-4-A: Actions detrimental to stock car racing; 12-4-Q: car, car parts components and/or equipment not conforming to NASCAR rules; and 20-2, 1E: unproved aerodynamic modification. Reportedly, GEOFF SMITH, president of Roush Racing, plans on appealing Kenseth's penalty next week, based on NASCAR's inconsistent penalty assessments.

Another of the drivers penalised for violations of the same rules was KASEY KAHNE, who finished 16th. He was similarly punished 50 drivers' points and his owner, RAY EVERNHAM, 50 owners' points. Crew chief KEN FRANCIS was suspended for four races and fined $50,000.

Another Evernham driver was penalised for technical violations. ELLIOTT SADLER was penalised 25 drivers' points, Evernham fined more owner points - 25 this time - and crew chief JOSH BROWNE suspended for two races and fined $25,000. The offences were the same as with Kahne. Sadler finished 21st in the race.

SCOTT RIGGS finished 25th in the Duel, without his crew chief RODNEY CHILDERS, who had been suspended for two races and fined $25,000 for the same two NASCAR technical violations. Riggs was penalised 25 points and owner JAMES ROCCO the same.

RICKY RUDD, who finished 22nd in the Duel but had already claimed second on the grid, had his unproved probe heater put on display outside the NASCAR hauler.

Rookie JUAN PABLO MONTOYA led several laps before falling back. He said the car started to bog down. JPM said he had contact with someone on the left rear which eventually damaged the hub and rotor, the tyre went down and Montoya fell back.

"It was just one of those things," he noted, "The car was fast, but now we start from the back. It was awesome. The first thing I said to my crew chief was I didn't want to run three-wide. I hit the wall a little bit. I've got to say my experience here so far has been pretty good. The last time here I led the 24 Hours. Now we led the 150. It's nice to see the car run competitive. It was awesome running up front, no complaints. Today was easy because we started up front. Now we've got to start from the back, but it's nice to see. Harvick helped me in the beginning and that was very nice because I could have been left out dry. I learned how to run through the corners, and I think we'll be fine Sunday."

JPM was the first one out of the race, while Harvick also was a DNF, with transmission problems. He said it was a freak thing. "We broke a pinion. It just won't go without all the pieces connected. The stars just lined up right."

Rookie DAVID REUTIMANN and MIKE SKINNER also retired. Reutimann was already into the Daytona 500 field based on speed - because BORIS SAID qualified for the Daytona 500 in the first Duel based on speed, leaving another Daytona 500 space open for Reutimann. Don't ask.... the qualifying process for the Daytona 500 is so complicated I have given up trying to understand and explain.

Twenty-four cars finished on the lead lap in race two. The top rookie was PAUL MENARD in 15th after starting 15th. He's on to something here. However, he failed to make the field for the Daytona 500. BRIAN VICKERS was the top Camry in the race, and was credited with a 26th place finish after his DNF.

The weather was part of the race equation. It was cool, windy and overcast. The rain, such as it was, came after the race was over, but was insufficient to stop or even postpone qualifying for Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Chevy Silverado HD 250 race.


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