Jeff Gordon was not an especially happy man when he left Kentucky Speedway, following his sixth-place finish in the Quaker State 400 on Saturday night.
On the one hand, he was pleased that his Hendrick Motorsports team recovered from a pit-road incident that could have cost him dearly.
One the other hand, he was considerably less sanguine about the fact that after qualifying third on Friday, in the race he had no speed to match the Team Penske Fords of winner Brad Keselowski or teammate Joey Logano.
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"It was a really strong, competitive effort, " said Gordon, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. "And that’s why we’ve been so good week in and week out — really good cars, good team. And when we get down, we fight back, so I’m proud of that with our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet."
"But I’m disappointed," Gordon said. "I thought we were going to be better than that, to be honest. And I take back what I said about the 2 (Keselowski) and the 22 (Logan0). I said they hadn’t been backing up their speed from qualifying, but they seemed to find it this weekend. Wow, they were fast."
It could have been much worse for Gordon and his No. 24 Chevrolet team.
Gordon was running seventh when he pitted on Lap 127 of the 267-lap race, only to have an air gun that loosens and tightens the lugnuts on the wheels malfunction. That dropped him all the back to 23rd — and from there, it was a fight to get back towards the front of the field during the second half of the race.
"We did have the issues and got behind and the car was pretty decent there at the end, but not enough to really move up through there," said Gordon. "It was pretty tough to pass."
The good news for Gordon is that he left Kentucky still in the points lead, 24 markers up on Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I thought we made the most of what happened to us tonight," Gordon said.