Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In The Shadow Of Bull Mountain

The view from my office window is of Bull Mountain.
"A plane with Hendrick executives and family members crashed into Bull Mountain on Oct. 24, the day of the Cup race at Martinsville Speedway. All 10 aboard died, including car owner Rick Hendrick's son, brother and two nieces. Hendrick's brother, John, was the team president, and Hendrick's son, Ricky, was being groomed to run the team.

Also among those killed were Jeff Turner, the team's general manager, and Randy Dorton, the team's chief engine builder."
This weekend marks a sad anniversary of sorts for the Hendrick teams, but according to Dustin Long at The Roanoke Times the adjustment and healing at the organization is progressing well.

Jeff Gordon honored their memory today with a win in the Subway 500 here at Martinsville Speedway. Teamates Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch joined him in the top 10 with 3rd and 9th place finishes.

Todays win was Gordon's second win here this season, also winning the Advance Auto Parts 500 in April.His win today means he now has seven of these, the traditional trophy at Martinsville Speedway has always been a Grandfather clock from local manufacturer Ridgeway Clocks.

While no number of on track victories or Championship seasons (like his teamate Jimmie Johnson is working towards) will ever fill the void left by the loss of family, friends, and vital members of the team.

"We just want to keep honoring those folks that were lost and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to pull this DuPont Chevrolet into victory lane and celebrate here," Jeff said in Victory Lane (which here at Martinsville is otherwise known as the front straight, there being no room in the infield for a "traditional" celebration area). "I know they’re looking down on us and really smiling. And I hope we honor them properly."

"I just want to thank Steve Letarte and all the guys on this team. That was a great call he made to stay out that one time, that's really what won us the race today," he said in describing his 73rd win and the first with current crew chief Letarte. The new crew chief made the decision to stay out on lap 342 when the other contenders pitted, thus gaining valuable track position.

Tony Stewart led the most laps, and was the dominant car during the first half of the race. In the last 25 laps, Stewart trailed Gordon and Johnson, having difficulty getting past Johnson while Gordon was able to pull away from both. Stewart was finally able to get under Johnson enough on or about lap 480. "We just did what Jeff did in the spring, and the same thing he did to me in Bristol in the last lap of 2000, just get the fender underneath there and that’s all you need, It was just enough for us to get underneath Jimmie and got him loose and we went under."

That move places Stewart first in the Championship points chase, with Johnson 15 points behind in second.

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