Ft. Worth - October 30, 2007 - Not only does the heated battle for the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship loom large among Team Chevy drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, but also in the forefront this weekend is...
Ft. Worth - October 30, 2007 - Not only does the heated battle for the 2007 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) championship loom large among Team Chevy drivers Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, but also in the forefront this weekend is the countdown to retirement for Chevy's winningest model, the Monte Carlo SS.
When the tour rolls into Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) for the Dickies 500 on November 4, 2007 it will mark the next-to-last race for the legendary nameplate that has carried Team Chevy drivers and teams to 31 Manufacturers' Cup titles and 23 NASCAR Cup Driver's Championships since 1971.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr, No. 9 Budweiser Monte Carlo SS, relates many of his fondest NASCAR racing memories to his time behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
"It's almost impossible to pick just one memory because Chevy has been a part of my life since I was born," said Junior. "Before that, my grandpa Ralph raced 'em. My other grandpa, Robert Gee, built and worked on them. And I watched my dad win so many races in Monte Carlos and Luminas. It's just a part of the Earnhardt legacy and it always will be. I have so many changes ahead of me for next year with a new team, new sponsors, new everything: except Chevy. That's been the one constant for decades with my family and I don't see that changing.
"I have so many memories - like getting my first Corvette as a gift after I won my first Busch championship. What a special moment that was. But, if you're looking at purely Monte Carlo moments, my first Busch Series win at Texas (in 1998) will never leave me because it was the first time I'd won a big-time stock car race. That day, I started to feel like I belonged in NASCAR. And then, two years later, we came back to Texas in the Monte Carlo Cup car - and I won my first Cup race (in 2000). What a day that was too. It made my dad so happy and I knew it was a moment that again confirmed I belonged as driver at the top level of the sport. I've had so many other unbelievable moments in a Chevy - like winning the Daytona 500 or winning the All-Star race as a rookie, but those two races at Texas still resonate with me as much as any."
For Gordon and Johnson, the weekend at TMS has huge implications as the Hendrick Motorsports drivers continue to battle for the biggest prize in racing - the title of NNCS Champion. They are currently one-two in the point standings.
"Now we have a nine-point lead and the pressure is on even more," said four-time champion, Gordon. "All we can do right now is go out and put up the best numbers and performance that we possibly can on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and hope that it's enough.
"I feel like we've got the team and the equipment to do it, but those guys are tough and they are showing it every weekend. I mean all I'm really focusing on and concerned about right now is trying not to have a bad day. For a little while today, it looked like today was going to be that day. So to me, to be able to fight back and come back and finish seventh, even though Jimmie won, it still was a great day for us I feel like, and a great motivation for us going forward.
"So we're just going to keep doing that week-in and week-out. If we come out of Homestead and we've got a point's lead, then fantastic. If we don't, then we did all we can do."
Johnson, who has recorded eight victories this year so far, is hoping to repeat as the NNCS champ. "At Texas, we've been running better there every time we come back. This past spring we were really strong and had a engine problem. So even though the result doesn't reflect it, I feel really good about going to Texas. It's more about outrunning the No. 07 (Clint Bowyer) and the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) than it is about victories.
Bowyer, who is putting additional pressure to the Hendrick teammates, is perched 111 points behind Gordon in third place. "What we have to do is keep digging," said Bowyer. "We can't give up and we won't give up. You've got to be fast the whole run and that's what we've focused on. We focused on everything that we can do to try to close that gap of our weakness. It used to be that we'd kind of be a little bit too loose and then a long run I'd be good. Gil's (Martin) really changed the bodies around and got the things where they're a little bit more comfortable for me getting going and the longevity hasn't died. Just hard work and pushing harder to make things work."
Even though neither Gordon nor Johnson has won at Texas, Bowyer's approach won't change. "It's still a mile and half track and you've got to be good. The same principles apply. I think the same car that wins at Atlanta or a Charlotte is going to be capable of winning at Texas. It's all about the way you drive it and the way you set it up. It all comes down to what you ask for on Friday because that's the day the counts - Friday and Saturday."
-credit: gm racing