Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all wrecked during rough day for Hendrick Motorsports at Watkins Glen.
By Lee Spencer FoxSports
Hendrick Motorsports wasn’t up to its traditional championship form at Watkins Glen on Sunday.
The problems for the organization began 14 laps into the race when four-time Sprint Cup champion and four-time Watkins Glen winner Jeff Gordon lost control of the No. 24 and went plowing into the wall in Turn 4.
Gordon qualified 28th and was battling Denny Hamlin for 26th prior to the wreck.
“We’re going to need a wrecker,” Gordon warned the team after the car came to a stop.
Gordon returned to action on Lap 37, 23 circuits off pace. He restarted 42nd and finished 36th. Although Gordon entered the weekend ninth in the point standings, he left 13th. With four races to decide the Chase for the Sprint Cup, how does Gordon come back?
“Just fight hard,” said Gordon, who trails 10th-place Martin Truex Jr., by 15 points. “Just keep working to go to the next race and qualify better and execute better and not make mistakes. That was my mistake. That (wreck) was on me today. We can’t have stuff like that happen."
Gordon’s Hendrick teammates, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, remained among the top 15 for most of the afternoon – until nine laps to go. After Matt Kenseth and polesitter Marcos Ambrose tussled, Kahne got a piece of it and collected Earnhardt Jr. in the process.
“It looked like the 20 (Kenseth) was upset with the 9 (Ambrose),” Earnhardt said. “He was trying to show him his displeasure and Kasey was just a victim of all that. I was behind it all. But the 9 made the 20 mad. It happens. There’s nothing illegal about it. He didn’t like the way the 9 was racing him and it just kind of got ugly at the top of the hill.”
Kahne’s day was finished with a 34th-place finish. He dropped from eighth in the point standings to 12th place, though he still leads the wild card standings with two wins.
The wreck didn't end Earnhardt's afternoon. Crew chief Steve Letarte organized the No. 88 crew into action. With major repairs – and another caution two laps later – Earnhardt returned to the track and limped through three laps for a 30th-place finish. The result cost Earnhardt just one position in the point standings. He left the Glen sixth with a 45-point cushion on Truex.
“I probably could have lifted and see where the 5 (Kahne) was going to go but I just went where there wasn’t a car,” Earnhardt said. “He was in the throttle real hard, kind of John Force’d it across the race track in front of us there. We had a good car. We ran hard and worked for everything we got. It’s just unfortunate that it ended that way.
“I was surprised we ran as good as we did. We didn’t run any better position-wise but normally we're in the way. Today, we were making moves, passing guys and working hard around everybody we was around. I was happy about that. I knew, you get a late caution like that and you’re just drawing a pill in the lottery to make it through the rest of the race at that point. So, I’m not too upset what happened happened because it was going to happen to somebody.”
Johnson started 18th, salvaged an eighth-place finish and clinched at least a wild card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with his 15th top 10 of the season. He holds a 75-point lead over second-place Clint Bowyer, who finished sixth, and 80 points over third-place Carl Edwards, who finished fourth.