Johnson City Press Thursday, October 2, 2014

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Gordon continues to prove critics wrong

May 13th, 2014 7:31 pm by Jeff Birchfield

Gordon continues to prove critics wrong

Jeff Gordon? Seriously?

It was a the reaction a couple of years ago to then points leader Greg Biffle’s surprising answer to the question, “Who is the best driver in NASCAR?”

Most of us at the special media session set up by Bristol Motor Speedway were expecting an answer like Jimmie Johnson who had surpassed Gordon as a five-time champion at that point. Or maybe, Kyle Busch who is often said to have the most ability of any driver on the circuit.

Perhaps, Biffle would say Tony Stewart for his versatility of winning in so many different kinds of race cars. Maybe, he would go the politically correct route and name one of his Roush-Fenway Racing teammates which then included Matt Kenseth.

Instead, Biffle went on to explain how Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champion, was still as good as anyone behind the wheel.

If one looks at the numbers, Gordon doesn’t win nearly as often as he did 12-15 years ago. Since 2008, he has eight wins, which ranks him just 10th among Sprint Cup drivers over that time period.  

However, there are those moments when the now 42-year-old gets up on the wheel like few others can.

A couple of those moments include the 2011 Atlanta race when Gordon outdueled Johnson at the end, and the 2012 regular-season finale at Richmond when Gordon and Kyle Busch were battling for the final Chase spot. Gordon charged to a second-place finish while Kyle Busch faded to 16th-place.

There has also been the first part of this season.

Although Gordon’s 89th career win at Kansas was his first victory of the season, he’s been in position to win on four other occasions. His No. 24 Chevrolet has been the Sprint Cup Series’ most consistent car, particularly on the long green-flag runs, throughout the first 11 races. 

With the chemistry between crew chief Alan Gustafson and himself at an all-time high, Gordon has been in the top five of the point standings all season and he has led the points for the last six weeks. He has eight top-10 finishes in the first11 races, a record only matched by Kenseth. His five top-five finishes are second only to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano, who each have six top-fives to start the season.

Can Gordon maintain this type of performance throughout the season and win a fifth Sprint Cup championship? While most, myself included, would have bet against it the start of the season, the old veteran keeps on proving his critics wrong.

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The Sprint Cup Series will be in Charlotte this Saturday night for the All-Star Race, always one of the most entertaining events of the season.

Jimmie Johnson has four wins in the All-Star race, followed by Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt with three wins apiece. Mark Martin, Terry Labonte and Davey Allison were the only other multiple winners with two victories each.

While others like Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick have a single All-Star victory, guys like Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Combined, that group of four notables are 0-for-30 in All-Star appearances.

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Racing is slated to return to Kingsport Speedway this Friday night with twin Late Model features after last week’s program was called for weather. 

The weather forecast also caused the Carolina Clash race scheduled for last Saturday night at Volunteer Speedway to be postponed until Saturday, May 24.

This Saturday night, the Bulls Gap dirt track has a $2,000-to-win race for the Steel Head Late Models as the featured event with the Crate Late Model and Modified Hobby divisions also scheduled.

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Carter County racers continue to excel in the DER Bracket Series at Bristol Dragway, while the list of winners from the latest races  include Larry Barr of Johnson City in the Pro division and Dylan Howard of Gray in Junior Dragster, Division 2.

For the Carter County racers, Carl Widener of Elizabethton won again in the Sportsman division, while there were three runner-up finishers.

Those final-round appearances were made by Felix Hutchinson of Hampton in Super Pro, Josh Reece of Elizabethton in Motorcycle and Candis Bice of Elizabethton in the Trophy class.

Bluff City rider Jerry Turner, a longtime veteran of the Motorcycle class, was the only racer to sweep weekend events.

The DER Bracket Series is on hiatus this weekend with the K&N Spring Fling in town. The DER Series will race again May 24-25. 

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The drag strip wasn’t the only place where Carter County racers had success over weekend.   

Wesley Keylon of Elizabethton of Elijah Buchanan of Roan Mountain were among the winners this past Saturday in the Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series at Appalachian Fairgrounds.

Keylon was the winning rider in the 450D class, while Buchanan was first in the College Boy 14-24 division.

Keith Hensley of Johnson City was also among the winners, taking the title in the 40+ division. Chris Furches of Jonesborough was tops in the ATV Youth class.                                          

Will Andrews of Hampton was the runner-up in two divisions, and Tanner Treadway of Johnson City finished second in the Super Mini 80-112 cc. Other runner-up finishers included Wyatt Luther of Erwin, and a pair of Jonesborough riders, Logan Robinson and Riley Horton. 

The Hot Summer Nights Series moves to I-81 Raceway Park this Saturday night.

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