Notebook: Chevy team lands all four cars in top 12 at Sonoma
One week after all of the powerhouse team’s cars finished outside of the top 25 positions with a garden variety of misfortune, all four Hendrick drivers finished in the top 12 on the 1.99-mile road course.
Leading the charge was race runner-up Jeff Gordon, who jumped three spots to 13th in the standings. The upswing came after a wreck-related 39th-place finish at Michigan cost him five positions in the points.
“You know, over the years I've had a lot of success, but I've also had my failures as well and you learn from both of them,” Gordon said. “Sometimes you learn from your failures more than you do your successes. While the successes help build confidence and the failures break the confidence down, I think one of the things that me and this team are good at is leaving that behind and going and starting clean at the next race and just focusing on that race. And that's what we did here.”
Kasey Kahne finished sixth, with Hendrick teammate and series points leader Jimmie Johnson not far behind in ninth. Even Dale Earnhardt Jr., who brought up the Hendrick caboose at Sonoma, was pleased with his 12th-place effort.
“We will take it,” said Earnhardt, who held steady at seventh in Sprint Cup points. “This is definitely my worst race track, my least favorite track. We will take whatever, we will take a top-15 here any week.”
It wasn’t quite a carbon copy of last season’s effort at Sonoma, but Sunday’s result was nearly the same for Marcos Ambrose.
The road-racing specialist and pre-race favorite started second and led the first 18 laps, eventually fading from contention battling an ill-handling car to finish seventh. Last season, Ambrose won the Coors Light Pole Award, led the first 11 laps and dropped to an eighth-place finish, also with a finicky setup.
In pre-race comments, Ambrose said his No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports team’s goal was “trying to make sure our car is good on Lap 30 and not just Lap 3.” Ambrose was fast throughout practice and qualifying all weekend until conditions turned much cooler on race day. The irony of reliving last year’s drop-off wasn’t lost on the Aussie.
“Yeah, that didn’t work out too well, did it?” Ambrose said. “Again, we were pretty good for 10-odd laps, but we couldn’t hold it on the long run. I’m not sure whether I’m too aggressive on the tires or whether I just can’t get the car underneath me, but we just really struggle on the long runs around this place. We have for three years now.”
Before the field of 43 took the track, officials from NASCAR and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a partnership intended to promote safety on America’s roads.
The two organizations announced a five-year memorandum of understanding Sunday morning, forming a partnership designed to increase awareness of safe driving. The campaign is scheduled for a late-summer, early-fall rollout, according to Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR Vice President of Public Affairs.
“Safety obviously is a huge priority for NASCAR, both on and off the racetrack, for our competitors and certainly off the racetrack for our fans,” Jadotte said. “NHTSA really sets the standard. They define safety on our roads and highways across the country, and we're excited for the partnership and the opportunity to work with the administrator and his team.”
NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said the proposed campaign will target not only distracted driving but a significant amount of other hazards on public roads. The two organizations previously collaborated on a successful “Click it or Ticket” initiative for seatbelt safety, so the extension of the partnership was a natural fit, Strickland said.
“The natural nexus between NASCAR's audience and frankly NHTSA's core audience we need to address are really one and the same,” Strickland said, “so we've been working on a number of conversations, and frankly we found the right Venn diagram for us to be able to have a fantastic campaign.”