For most of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, it was déjà vu all over again for four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon.
Last year, Gordon came into this race outside the top 10, just as he did this year. And just as he did last year, handling problems dropped him two laps off the lead midway through the race, and again he rallied back to get back on the lead lap and, briefly, into the top 10 in points.
But when a late caution jumbled the field, allowing Joey Logano to pass three cars in the final three laps to finish 22nd, that combined with Gordon’s eighth-place finish gave Logano 10th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings by just a single point.
And it was that one single point over 26 races in the Cup regular season that will cause Gordon to miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup for just the second time in his career.
It was that kind of night. The second wild-card wasn’t even decided by a single point – Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman tied, with Truex getting the nod over Newman on the basis of a tiebreaker.
Afterward, Gordon was surprisingly even-keeled about missing the Chase by the narrowest of possible margins.
“We haven’t had the kind of year that this team is capable of, and that’s where our focus is these next 10 races is just to know that we put in every bit of effort we possibly could,” said Gordon. “We fought through a lot of things. It wasn’t pretty but we were getting it done until that caution came out, and you know, we still could have made it in. The restart just didn’t go the way we needed it to, so that’s unfortunate.”
Still, it was a disappointing end and a difficult near miss to accept.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Gordon said. “I’m just bummed for this team. They worked so hard, and I don’t know why we’ve had the kind of rough year that we’ve had. We’re going to do everything we can to go these next 10 races and step it up and get ourselves in position to be more competitive. Hopefully, we can win a race or two and get ourselves in position to go be in a better position when it comes to Richmond at this time next year.”