An ill-timed caution flag at the end of the Coca-Cola 600 likely cost Jeff Gordon a top-10 finish. Gordon started 11th and moved to 8th within 5 laps. However, he dropped to 9th and stayed there for the next 30 laps. He slipped to 10th on lap 40 when Matt Kenseth passed. Gordon held 10th through a cycle of green flag pit stops just before lap 50. Two laps later he fell out of the top-10 when Dale Earnhardt Jr went by. Debris in turn 1 brought out the caution on lap 75. Gordon held the 11th position through the pit stops. At the 100-lap mark, he ran in 9th place just before a caution for Bobby Labonte’s spin. Gordon departed pit road in 19th place after a four-tire change while others opted for just two tires — although he was unable to make significant headway after the restart. He pitted under green on lap 146 while mired in 19th place. A debris caution on lap 170 brought the field to pit road with Gordon in 20th place. Another caution just before the halfway point for Jamie McMurray’s engine allowed Gordon to come into the pits to repair his radio. At the halfway point, Gordon ran in 23rd place as darkness began enveloping the track. He reported a “sluggish” engine issue on the straightaways and came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 229. Four laps later the caution waved for Mike Bliss who stopped on the track. On lap 250, Gordon moved up to 19th but remained mired in race traffic. Gordon led a lap during a pit stop sequence when the caution waved. He restarted in 10th on lap 284 and moved to 9th prior to Landon Cassill’s crash on lap 294. Gordon stayed on the track during the caution and restarted in 5th place. He moved to 3rd before Ryan Newman and Mark Martin wrecked in turn 4 on lap 301. Gordon inherited the lead by staying on the track during the caution period. He came to pit road with 80 to go under caution while most of the other lead lap cars stayed on the track. He restarted 16th and moved up to 11th within 20 laps. Kyle Busch’s spin with 58 to go brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon changed two tires and restarted in the lead with 53 to go. He lost the lead within two laps of the restart and dropped to 3rd with 45 to go. With 30 laps to go, Gordon dropped to 7th place. Gordon came to pit road for fuel with 6 laps to go. A caution for Jimmie Johnson’s engine trapped him one lap down. He finished the event in 20th place.
Road ahead: The series heads to Kansas Speedway for the first time in early June. The Kansas race was traditionally in October. The second race at Kansas was put on the schedule for the first time in 2011. Based on the 1.5-mile improvement the #24 team has shown of late, there is reason for optimism as the schedule turns to the summer stretch.
[audio:http://www.scannerbytes.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Jeff-Gordon-2011-05-29-Coca-Cola-600-Charlotte.mp3|titles=Jeff Gordon – 2011-05-29 – Coca Cola 600 – Charlotte]
MP3 Download – with spotter chatter