Jeff Gordon talks about having a disappointing finish in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 but enjoying his time in Sonoma during his final full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
CALAMA, Chile -- Robby Gordon will be leaving Chile and the Dakar Rally much earlier than expected. Trying to recover from mechanical issues after Stage 2, Gordon's Hummer was hit with more problems during Wednesday's Stage 4 and he was disqualified, according to speedenergy.com. Speed Energy was Gordon's sponsor for the Dakar Rally. Gordon began the day 17th but had right-front wheel bearing issues before the start of the timed special, costing him about five hours. He completed the stage, but because he was late to the special, he was disqualified from the rally. Gordon was one of six cars to withdraw Wednesday. "Disappointed doesn't even begin to describe the way I'm feeling right now, not only for me but for everyone involved," Gordon said. "Knowing all the hard work and dedication that was put into this program is what makes our untimely exit from the Dakar Rally a hard pill to swallow. "While it may not appear like it due to our performance thus far, countless hours went into this effort. To have a wheel bearing fail is just sickening ... a huge, huge disappointment. We run this same wheel bearing on the trophy truck and have put thousands of kilometers on HUMMERs, and we have never had this part fail." STAGE 3 SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, Argentina -- Attempting to overcome a poor finish in Stage 2 due to mechanical issues, the No. 303 HUMMER was back on unfamiliar terrain. In the 2010 edition of the Dakar Rally, Stage 3 took the competitors from La Rioja to Fiambala, however, this year the route has moved further east as they make their way to Chile. Beginning the day in San Miguel de Tucuman, this special stage was been split into two parts, totaling 165 miles. Starting the day in 21st position overall, Robby Gordon and navigator, Kellon Walch finished the stage in 15th, putting the team 17th overall, 1 hour 32 minutes behind leader Carlos Sainz. Even as Gordon improved his position in the rally, he was not pleased with the performance of the HUMMER. "We keep putting ourselves behind the eight ball. We passed a bunch of cars early in the special, but then realized we had lost a transmission pump", Gordon said. "[Tuesday's] special would have been good for the HUMMER had we not had a mechanical issue. The route had some very technical, rough stuff in the beginning, and it would have been good for us." STAGE 2 SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, Argentina -- Robby Gordon struggled in the second stage of the Dakar Rally on Monday, finishing 46th after an accident and dropping to 21st overall in the standings. Carlos Sainz, the defending champion, won his second stage in as many days in his Volkswagen. His lead is 3:05 ahead of Stephane Peterhansel's BMW and 1:06:55 in front of Gordon in his Hummer. Gordon's accident occurred after a solid start and cost him an hour's worth of repairs. "We were actually pretty good through the first few check points," Gordon said. "One corner snuck up on me; I didn't see it and just drove off the road, hitting a large rock. This is very unfortunate for our team. Now that we are an hour behind heading into Chile versus only a few minutes, we definitely got our work cut out for us. I think we will be OK though; there is still plenty of racing left. "The Hummer sustained some damage on today's stage as when we smashed the front of the race vehicle into the rock, and the transmission doesn't have reverse because it broke when I tried to reverse out of my mistake. I would say that we were broke down for maybe an hour today...a very costly hour." Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. The race heads north on Tuesday to San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina and crosses into Chile on Wednesday, heading for the Atacama desert. STAGE 1 CORDOBA, Argentina -- Robby Gordon and Team Hummer completed the first stage of the Dakar Rally on Sunday in eighth place, covering the 138-mile course in 2 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds. Gordon and navigator Kellon Walch trail defending champion Carlos Sainz by 11:04. Sainz's Volkswagen was 1:31 ahead of second-place Stephane Peterhansel in a BMW and 2:16 in front of Volkswagen teammate Nasser Al Attiyah. American driver Mark Miller was fourth, 4:17 behind in another Volkswagen. Gordon started fourth but dropped to ninth by the first marker as heavy rain created a slippery disadvantage as participants suffered from skidding and sliding. "We knew that the Hummer team would not be as strong as we would like in the Argentina portion of this race, but we struggled a little bit more [Sunday] than I would have liked due to the weather conditions and technical rally-style section," said Gordon , who offered a reason for the discrepancy in time in correlation to the leaders. "Sainz and Peterhansel ... started the race before the weather began and were virtually unaffected by it. That's why you see the gap in time from the rest of the competitors. "We started out the special good, but we had a couple of challenges along the way. Kellon and I had to change helmets during the middle of the stage because his microphone quit working. I ran off the road at one point. We also ran out of windshield wiper fluid due to the mud. These mistakes probably cost us about 1 minute of total speed. I expected to give up 5 minutes in [Sunday's] stage, not 11 minutes, which disappoints me. "It is still early in the race, but we have some ground to make up [Monday]. Some of the guys are already starting to have issues this early. Hopefully, we will recover quickly from [Sunday's] issues before we enter Chile because it is our best opportunity to make up time. By this point, I want to be less than 10 minutes behind." Sunday's first stage from Victoria to Corboda in northern Argentina followed the ceremonial ride from Buenos Aires to Victoria a day earler. Officials said 407 contestants started the race Sunday, down from the 430 who were enrolled Saturday. Dakar is being held for the third consecutive year in Argentina and Chile. This year's route covers 5,903 miles, reaching the Atacama desert in northern Chile -- one of the driest places on earth -- before heading back for the Jan. 16 finish in Buenos Aires. Monday's second stage from Cordoba to San Miguel de Tucuman is a 201-mile race through the mountains. "[Monday's] stage is supposed to go through the mountains, which are not good for us for two reasons. First, the Hummers are not turbo-charged, then the course is a little narrow. They did say that we should encounter some bumps, which could be good for us," Gordon said. Gordon's second team, with Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar and navigator Steve La Roza, is in 28th place after the opening stage, 34:25 off the pace. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Team owner lauds spirit of his driver, NASCAR community Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch is "resting comfortably" following surgery Saturday night at Halifax Medical Center, but how soon he returns to competition is unknown. "Kyle ... was kind of light-hearted and joking around with me and talking about wanting to get back in the car right away before surgery," said team owner Joe Gibbs. "(The doctor) said everything went very well. RELATED: See the updated Daytona 500 lineup "The major portion of what they did yesterday was his lower right leg ... they took care of that. They're going to wait on his (left) foot. ... They said there's no rush on that." Busch, 29, sustained a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in an accident on Lap 112 of the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series event, the Alert Today Florida 300. RELATED: Kyle Busch undergoes surgery on right leg His No. 54 Toyota was involved in a multi-car crash, slid across the track and struck the interior wall just beyond the exit of pit road on the frontstretch at Daytona International Speedway. After being treated at the scene, Busch was transported to Halifax. On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted for the first time since the wreck: Would rather b driving than watching the #Daytona500 but pulling 4 @Matt_Crafton and the No. 18 @mmschocolate team. — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) February 22, 2015 Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton will drive the No. 18 Toyota in today's season-opening Daytona 500. "Matt has driven some of Kyle's stuff," Gibbs said. "He's a veteran guy and we felt like it was the perfect fit. "As far as time or length, I don't have a good understanding of that with the doctors and everything -- I think we're just going to pray for him to bounce back." "I can tell you this, Kyle's already telling (wife Samantha), 'Hey, I just want to get back to racing.' He has a great spirit about things like that. "... I told him before surgery, 'Hey, I love you.' And that's the way we feel about it." Gibbs said no further surgeries dealing with Busch's right leg are anticipated and that the left foot injury can be dealt with at a later date. "As far as going back to Charlotte, we're on standby with the plane," he said. "Whenever he feels that he can travel, we'll get him back to Charlotte." Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Toyota, will be making his first start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. He has driven Sprint Cup cars previously, qualifying for Robby Gordon in 2008 at Dover International Speedway as well as testing for JGR a year ago. Busch was slated to start today's race from the fourth spot, but because Crafton was not the driver of record during qualifying, he will be required to drop to the rear of the field. "We're going to ride in the back for a little bit, get comfortable with the car," Crafton said Sunday morning. "We've got 500 miles to figure it out. I'm sure for the first half of the race, we're going to ride, be smart and just see what I can learn." The area of the wall struck by Busch's car is not protected by the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, although much of the 2.5-mile track features the energy dissipating system. Saturday night, track president Joie Chitwood III said tire packs would be place along the wall as a safety measure for today's race, and that SAFER barrier would be installed "on every inch at this property" following the race. "This is not going to happen again," he said. "We're going to live up to our responsibility. We're going to fix this and it starts right now." Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick said Sunday he had hit close to the same spot as Busch during last year's 500 "and kind of voiced my opinion." "Unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart and there was no reaction," the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. "Hopefully this is a lesson learned. "We know what fixes these walls. ... That's why we wear a helmet. That's why we wear HANS. That's why we wear fire suits. That's why we have fire bottles. It's for that one moment that you have to protect yourself against." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After heated exchange at Pocono, the pair look ahead to Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The much ballyhooed “heated” radio conversation between four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson has been put to rest. “If anything,“ Gordon said Friday at Michigan International Speedway , “I think it’s been more positive that we kind of got that out there and had this heated moment and said some things and got them off our chest. I think it’s actually helped us coming into this weekend really focused and excited about it.” During the eighth and final caution of Sunday’s Axalta 400 at Pocono Raceway , and with Gordon running 21st, Gustafson called his driver in for four tires. The Hendrick Motorsports driver questioned the decision, and the radio conversation quickly became heated before spotter Eddit D’Hondt stepped in to try and settle the pair down. “It’s intense out there,” Gordon said Friday. “We had a car far better than what we finished (14th). I would say (it was) a little bit of a build-up with the type of season we’ve had so far. “It seems like every time we have a car that’s capable of either winning or running in the top five some circumstances come about that take us kind of out of that. That’s frustrating. When you’re in the closing laps of a race, coming down to kind of the final pit stops and you’re making choices and decisions you’re not always going to like those decisions. You have to play a role in it. At that point, I think both Alan was frustrated and I was frustrated. The restarts weren’t going great; we took a risk on the pit strategy (earlier), the caution came out that blew that strategy and that put us back. We saw how hard it was to pass, track position being really, really important especially in that final run.” The winningest active driver competing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series today with 92 career victories, Gordon , 43, is stepping out of the car following the 2015 season. While he is 10th in points heading into Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR), he’s yet to win a race this season. To qualify for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup , a driver must be in the top 16 in points or have at least one win after the 26th race of the year. Gordon said he felt his car was good enough to stay out and maintain its track position at that point in the Pocono race. “I rarely ever question those calls -- he’s the crew chief and he makes great calls,” Gordon said. “But at that point I felt like I needed to stay out. It got a little heated. “But it’s all good. We’re big boys; we respect the heck out of one other. We’ve had great conversations this week.” FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule