Jeff Gordon overcomes tough start to put himself in solid Chase position
For the second straight weekend four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon took an ill-handling car at the start of the race and brought it home for a solid finish.
On a day when several other Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders encountered troubles, Gordon’s eighth-place finish put him in a favorable position heading into the final two races of the Contender Round of the Chase.
Starting 22nd for Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon had his work cut out for him from the drop of the green flag. Running the deepest of the Chase drivers in the opening segments of the race, Gordon finally broke into the top 10 on Lap 228 of 334.
Continuing to move forward, the five-time Charlotte winner ultimately finished the day eighth in his final drive at the 1.5-mile speedway. In 46 career starts at the 1.5-mile track, Gordon recorded five wins — including his very first — 17 top fives, 25 top 10s and led 788 total laps. Gordon already has announced he is retired as a driver at the end of this season.
By coming home in the top 10 and ahead of four other Chase drivers, Gordon heads to Kansas Speedway for the second race of the Contender Round seventh in the standings.
"That’s very solid," Gordon said after Sunday’s race. "The pit crew was amazing. We’ve been working really hard on that and it certainly paid off for us today. We just put ourselves in such a hole starting 22nd. It was so hard to pass. I’m glad it was a day race because it widened the groove out and made passing more doable."
Gordon admitted he was "really nervous" about not starting off great at the beginning of the race and commended crew chief Alan Gustafson for continuing to adjust on the car throughout the duration.
"The way we started I thought we were going to be in big, big trouble today," he said. "Alan is just so good at this stuff. I know we missed it at the beginning of the race, but he knew exactly how to get the car better. We talked about it, we communicated well, they made great adjustments, and we found something that was in the right direction and as soon as we found that we got a little bit more of it and were able to continue on and be a really solid top-10 car."
While he was unable to score his first victory of the season, Gordon was pleased the team was able to overcome their struggles Sunday and bring the car home in a solid position both on the leaderboard and in the Chase standings.
"(That’s) half the battle on this whole thing," he said. "Of course you want to be where (race winner) Joey Logano is and be secure over the next couple of weeks and move on to the next round. The other part is you’ve just got to fight, fight, fight and not make big mistakes and keep yourself in it. That’s exactly what we did today, and I’m really proud of that."