Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Up-and-Down Day Ends in Disappointment for Gordon
By Chris Owens – In a season where @JeffGordonWeb is off to his best career start, Sunday afternoon in California he was two laps shy of a race win and a Chase berth.
With an ailing tire of his own after teammate @JimmieJohnson fell by the wayside due to a flat left front, Gordon inherited the lead and looked to nurse his car to the finish.
The race’s final caution on lap 199 sent the leaders to pit road, again, for fresh tires. Leaving the Auto Club 400 to be settled through a late race restart, which Gordon has admitted to struggling with in recent years. After a frantic final two laps, in which he lined up seventh, Gordon had to settle for a 13th place finish, his first outside of the top 10 this season.
“The closing laps were pretty much typical restart for me,” Gordon said. “I got the inside lane which was absolutely the worst lane for me. I got actually a decent restart and it just didn’t go well. I went to the inside of the 18 (@KyleBusch) he swerved left that put him in the middle, me on the bottom three or four wide and it just went downhill from there.”
While many teams struggled with managing tires Sunday afternoon, Gordon and his Drive to End Hunger crew played the game the best of anyone. Only suffering from a vibration during the race’s final long green flag run before the green-white-checkered finish. The run that appeared Johnson was driving away with the victory as Gordon slowed his pace and backed off.
“I hate Goodyear was not prepared today for what happened. They are so good at what they do and that is just uncalled for. We were having a tire issue there on that last long run and I just backed off,” Gordon said.
“When I saw the 48 (Johnson) had issues I was just hoping we would make it to the end and I was just going as slow as I possibly could trying to maintain the lead and cars were just blowing tires left and right all around me. It’s unfortunate that was happening.”
Gordon was clearly the fastest car on Sunday. Following a speeding penalty on his first pit stop, Gordon charged from the rear to the top 10 in just 30 laps. Yet it was short lived as again Gordon would have to work his way through the field following a sequence of pit stops that saw him pit a lap later then everyone else.
While a 13th place finish is disappointing for the four-time champion, it’s nothing to be feared, if Fontana is any indication. Gordon, who continues to chase that elusive fifth title, appears in early championship form.
“I don’t know where to begin with the disappointment for this Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet team. They gave me the most incredible racecar today and it is just so disappointing for it to end like that,” he said. “But most importantly that the caution came out because we did not need that restart.”
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