October 31 – – If Jimmie Johnson wins his fifth NASCAR title in three weeks by less than 20 points, he can credit his teammate Jeff Gordon for an assist with a push in the final stages at Talladega Superspeedway. As Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick dueled for the race victory, Gordon stayed glued to Johnson’s bumper and pushed him through traffic to ensure a top-10 finish.
Gordon started 31st and moved to 24th by lap 2 with drafting help from Kyle Busch. However, he dropped out of line and fell to 36th on lap 5. Gordon drafted with Jimmie Johnson distantly behind the lead back in 27th place for nearly 15 laps. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag pit stop on lap 40. Gordon cracked the top-10 for the first time after the stops as he ran in 9th place. He moved to 7th with drafting help from Busch on lap 44. Gordon soon faded back with Johnson to avoid the tight drafting pack. Gordon ran in a line with Johnson and Denny Hamlin for 5 laps as the trio ran in the mid-20’s. The first caution waved on lap 70 for AJ Allmendinger’s spin following contact from Brad Keselowski.
Gordon gained 6 spots on pit road and restarted 19th on lap 74. Within a few laps, he dropped back to 26th in a drafting line with Johnson and Busch. At the halfway point, Gordon ran 27th in a line behind the lead drafting pack. He pitted under green for right side tires on lap 114 and returned to the drafting line in 9th place. Once again, he dropped back into the mid-20’s before the second caution waved with 55 laps to go. Dale Earnhardt Jr bump drafted Jeff Burton in turn 3, which resulted in Burton getting loose and taking both himself and Earnhardt Jr into the wall. Pit stops followed with Gordon opting for four tires. He restarted 24th after topping off the fuel before the green flag with 50 to go. Two laps later, Marcos Ambrose spun and collected Kevin Harvick and Bill Elliott. Gordon held his line on the low side of the track to avoid the wreck. He came to pit road for tires and restarted 8th with 43 laps to go.
He dropped back in traffic to run in the mid-20’s, within a distance to draft with Johnson in the closing stages. However, Gordon hooked up in a draft with Greg Biffle and moved up to 16th with 22 laps to go. He fell to 20th on lap 168 as Johnson lurked just behind him. With 16 laps to go, crew chief Chad Knaus ordered Johnson to make his move. On cue, Gordon dove to the inside with Johnson locked in a tight draft behind him. With 13 to go, Gordon and Johnson entered the top-5 on the low line. Gordon took the race lead on the backstretch with 12 laps to go — due entirely to Johnson’s drafting push. However, one lap later, Gordon slowed on the track with engine problems. A debris caution with 10 laps to go slowed the field with Gordon reporting the engine was running better. With 3 to go, Johnson fell back and Gordon provided drafting help thus allowing Johnson to keep his momentum. Johnson finished 7th — two spots ahead of Denny Hamlin which allowed him to extend his points lead. Gordon finished 8th after a wreck on the final lap slowed the field. It was Gordon’s first top-10 at Talladega since he won in October 2007. However, Gordon’s focus has now shifted to 2011 as he trails by 207 points with just 3 races to go in the season.
In Car Audio
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