Gordon's promising day ends with blown engine
Jeff Gordon had hoped for a strong finish at Kansas Speedway to put him among the contenders in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Instead, he had to settle for providing the fans with a green-white-checkered finish - while Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet sat behind the wall with a blown engine.
Gordon ran in the top five for much of the day but went out with three laps to go, finishing 34th and dropping one spot to 10th in the Chase standings, 47 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
After dropping out of the top 10 in a late restart shuffle, Gordon had reconciled himself to finishing in the mid-teens - and then things got worse.
''Right after that, we started getting smoke,'' he said. ''We thought it was tire smoke, but it wasn't. It was under the hood, and obviously it ended our day.''
Team owner Rick Hendrick could tell right away that Gordon was in trouble.
''The oil temperature pegged the gauge,'' he said. ''There's nothing you can do at that point. I feel for those guys. They had some really good momentum, but parts are going to break.''
GOODBYE, GROOVES: With two wins and a third-place finish this year at Kansas Speedway, Brad Keselowski was just getting comfortable on the track's well-worn surface.
And now it's all going away - because it has to.
The surface, in use since the track opened in 2001, is scheduled for a multimillion-dollar reconfiguration in the offseason because of cumulative damage from the harsh Midwestern freeze-thaw cycle.
''This track in particular has become very racy,'' Keselowski said after finishing third in Sunday's Sprint Cup race. ''There's as much side by side racing as you're going to see in this type of racecar, here at Kansas. Hopefully when they do go through that process, they'll be able to get the track to mature quickly and get back to those multiple grooves.''
Track President Pat Warren said that while he understood racers' and fans' concerns, the reconfiguration - which will include variable banking on the 1.5-mile tri-oval - can't wait.
''The notion that you would spend your dollars resurfacing, and risking the quality of the racing, if you didn't have to is crazy,'' Warren said.
The track has already begun to fail in spots, Warren said, pointing to an asphalt patch high in the third turn.
''A year ago, about a month before our Cup race, our guy who walks the track every day, one day he's seeing a few things but everything's the way it's supposed to be,'' he said. ''The next day, he goes out and the bottom three lanes have dropped 4 inches down. There's a gap the size of my fist, all the way laterally along that thing.
''If that happens on the Saturday night of a Cup weekend, that's a really bad day - and we can't take that chance.''
NARROWING THE FIELD TO FOUR: The NASCAR Foundation announced the four finalists for its first Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award on Sunday, with the candidates ranging in age from late teens to early 80s.
The winner will receive $100,000 for his or her chosen charity.
The youngest finalist is 17-year-old Jake Bernstein of St. Louis, who co-founded the website stlouisvolunteen.org and averages 100 volunteer hours per month for Autism Speaks, which will receive the prize money if he wins. His work was cited earlier this year in a speech by President Obama.
Robert Weaver, 83, of Talladega, Ala., is the oldest of the final four. Weaver is a longtime volunteer for organizations which serve people with visual or hearing disabilities, and for more than 50 years has delivered ice cream to deaf students. If he wins, he will donate the $100,000 to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind Foundation.
The other finalists are Brenda Doner, 52, of Columbus, Ohio, and Patty Aber, 44, of Middletown, N.J.
Aber, who also volunteers for the NASCAR Foundation and driver Kasey Kahne's foundation, has donated more than 1,000 hours in the past two years to her chosen charity, the Bridge of Books Foundation. The organization provides books for underprivileged children in New Jersey.
Doner's chosen charity is PBJ Connections, which uses equestrian activities to help children with emotional and behavioral issues. In addition to her longtime work with that organization, Doner also volunteers extensively with several current and retired drivers' foundations.
SPARK PLUGS: Billionaire Warren Buffett watched the race from atop Kyle Busch's pit road stand. ... A.J. Allmendinger was penalized twice Sunday. He had to start from the back after missing driver introductions and had to make a pass-through after coming too fast into pit road in the 131st lap.