Jeff Gordon sees back-to-back wins slip away, finishes sixth at Pocono
For much of Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, it looked as if veteran Jeff Gordon was going to follow up his historic win of a week earlier at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with another visit to Victory Lane.
Clearly the best car in the field for much of the day, Gordon was forced to swallow a sixth-place finish as his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. celebrated the win.
Starting from the fifth spot, Gordon was able to take the lead for the first time of the day on Lap 44, and would go on to lead three times for a total of 63 laps, the most of any driver.
However, the fate of the race changed for the four-time champion when he brought the No. 24 Chevrolet to pit road from the lead on Lap 131 under green. After his Alan Gustafson-led crew completed service, Gordon left pit road, but fell in line behind both Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer once he made his way back to the track.
With pit strategies varying across the board, Gordon was mired toward the back end of the top 10 and fighting dirty air as he tried to work his way back to the front.
When a string of cautions set up multiple late-race restarts, Gordon's car struggled in the pack and could not recover to the prowess it showed earlier in the event.
"We had the dominant car, but you had to have track position and you know, there at the end we didn't have it," the six-time Pocono winner said. "I think if we had started outside lanes there at the end we would have had it. My restarts weren't terrible today, they weren't bad when we were on the outside and we could make up some spots. Unfortunately on those last couple ones, we were on the inside."
As Earnhardt Jr. score the win and extended the Hendrick Motorsports win streak at Pocono to five consecutive races, Gordon crossed the line in sixth.
"With Dale getting out in front of us there through that pit sequence, there was nothing we could do," he said. "He was really good. Whoever got out front, him or me, was going to win this race. I am still really happy with the way our car performed today. It's just so awesome and encouraging and has got my confidence sky high and I just can't wait to get to the next race."
Gordon continues to lead the regular-season points standings, and with two wins on the season is currently seeded fourth in the Chase grid.
VIDEO: A look back at Jeff Gordon's Victory Lane celebration in Indianapolis