On a night where Jeff Gordon dominated at Bristol Motor Speedway, he came up empty in the final rundown as Brad Keselowski won a late race off pit road to take the lead. Gordon, who led more than 200 laps, fell to 5th for the final restart. He regrouped to finish 3rd, but was distantly behind Keselowski at the finish. Gordon led more than 60 laps at Bristol for the first time since August 2003 — a span of 16 races. In addition, he led more laps than he had in the previous 9 Bristol races combined.
Gordon started 4th and jumped to 3rd by the end of the first lap. He took the runner-up spot from Carl Edwards one lap later. Gordon took the race lead from Ryan Newman on lap 6. He led the race until the first caution flag for debris on lap 31. He came to pit road while others stayed out. As such, he restarted in 14th place. Gordon worked in race traffic and moved back into the top-10 on lap 60. He took 8th from Kevin Harvick on lap 65 and moved up to 6th by the 100-lap mark. A debris caution on lap 102 brought the leaders to pit road. He restarted 6th on lap 110 and quickly entered the top-5. Gordon took third place from Edwards on lap 116. He took the runner-up spot from Brad Keselowski on lap 124 and closed in on Jimmie Johnson for the race lead before a caution on lap 129. Gordon lined up along side Johnson for the restart on lap 138, but was unable to make headway to re-take the race lead while battling a loose handling condition. Gordon bided his time and passed Johnson for the lead on lap 183.
Gordon came to pit road on lap 239 for a green flag stop. He dropped to 2nd behind Matt Kenseth following the pit stop cycle, but eventally took the lead once again on lap 267. David Reutimann’s crash on lap 297 brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon exited in 2nd place behind Kenseth, but re-took the race lead on lap 326. Mark Martin’s wreck on lap 360 brought a caution flag pit stop sequence. Once again, Kenseth beat Gordon off pit road to take the lead. Gordon worked around Kenseth to re-take the lead on lap 372. A caution for Kyle Busch’s wall contact brought the field to pit road. Gordon dropped to 5th off pit road and was hindered by the inside line. He worked his way around Johnson with 62 to go, and took 3rd from Kenseth one lap later. Gordon is now tied with Kevin Harvick for 5th in the series standings — though the points will be resent following the Richmond race.
Road ahead: With just two races before the Chase for the Championship, the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday night’s 500-mile race. The Atlanta race provides the #24 team with an opportunity to fine-tune their intermediate track program since Atlanta has similar characteristics to Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway (Chase tracks).