After a disappointing finish at Chicagoland Speedway, Jeff Gordon needed a solid effort at New Hampshire. Although he led the most laps and seemed to be in position to claim the victory with under 100 laps to go, a mistake on pit road forced Gordon to conserve fuel in the final laps. He finished a solid 4th — after leading 79 laps in the race — and moved from 11th to 5th in the points standings. It was Gordon’s fifth top-6 finish in the last six races.
Gordon started 7th and moved to 4th within four laps. He took 3rd from Brian Vickers on lap 6, but was unable to make significant headway closing on Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne at the front of the field. As the leaders came upon lapped traffic, Gordon closed in on Kahne’s rear bumper. The handling on the DuPont Chevrolet became tighter later in the run and Gordon maintained 3rd place. He stayed on the track to lead a lap during a cycle of green flag pit stops on lap 64. Gordon took the runner-up spot from Brian Vickers on lap 68. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 86. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 3rd place after taking two tires. He restarted 5th due to Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya staying on the track.
At the 100-lap mark, Gordon ran in 4th place. He took 3rd from Newman on lap 112 and moved to 2nd when Martin pitted on lap 140. Gordon re-took the race lead when Kahne pitted on lap 147. A caution for Landon Cassill’s wall contact brought out the caution on lap 155. After pitting, Gordon restarted on the outside of Kahne on lap 161. He moved ahead of Kahne in turn 1 to take the lead. Matt Kenseth’s spin on lap 173 slowed the field and erased Gordon’s lead. Gordon once again pulled away on the restart and led comfortably at the 200-lap mark. He came to pit road during a cycle of green flag stops just as he ran out of gas on lap 231. Gordon cycled through in 4th place. He took 3rd from Kahne on lap 253 and closed to within 2 seconds of Clint Bowyer for the race lead. However, a problem on the final stop during the gas can exchange forced crew chief Alan Gustafson to ask Gordon to save fuel. He backed off the throttle and dropped 10 seconds off the race lead into 6th place. Gordon moved into the top-5 with 15 laps to go when Kahne pitted. He moved up to 4th when Bowyer ran out of gas.
Road ahead: The series visits Dover Speedway for the second time in 2011. Gordon tested at the track in April, but has failed to contend for a Dover victory in the last few years. He has just one top-10 finish in the last 5 races at Dover. Gordon will be in the Drive To End Hunger car at Dover — the first time in his Cup career that he won’t have the DuPont oval on the hood at the 1-mile track.