A fuel mileage gamble in the mid-stages of the Save Mart 350 effectively ended Jeff Gordon’s chances for his first road course win since 2006. Gordon was running 3rd when he ran out of gas on the track. By the time the pit stops cycled through, he was back in 15th place. He rallied for a 6th place finish — the first time he’s posted back-to-back top-10’s since October/November 2011.
Gordon started on the outside of the front row and ran 2nd to Marcos Ambrose for the first 11 laps. Gordon took the lead from Ambrose in the esses and pulled away. He led until lap 25 when Clint Bowyer passed. However, during the sequence with the lead, Gordon led the 23,000th lap of his NASCAR career — good enough for 7th on the all-time list. Gordon slipped back to 5th place before a pit stop on lap 35. He cycled through the stops and ran in 6th place. He moved up to 4th by lap 50, but was distantly behind race lead Clint Bowyer due to the lack of caution flags. Gordon took 3rd place from Jimmie Johnson on lap 68.
After crew chief Alan Gustafson elected to keep Gordon on the track for an extra lap during a pit stop sequence, Gordon ran out of fuel on the track. He made it to pit road on lap 73, but fell to 15th in the running order due to the extended time getting to pit road. On lap 80, Gordon moved up to 13th with a pass on Carl Edwards. The first caution waved on lap 82 for Tomy Drissi’s crash. Gordon came to pit road to ensure he could make it to the finish on fuel. He restarted in 14th place and moved to 13th with 20 laps to go. Gordon took 12th from Matt Kenseth with 18 laps to go. Gordon entered the top-10 with 16 laps to go and moved to 8th around AJ Allmendinger with 13 to go. Gordon battled Martin Truex for 6th place before a caution with 4 laps to go. On the green/white/checkered restart, Gordon took 6th from Truex.
Gordon was running 3rd when he ran out of fuel on the racetrack. Crew chief Alan Gustafson opted to keep the #24 car on the track for an extra lap to get into a fuel window. He crawled to pit road and dropped out of the top-10, thus ending any chance at a victory.
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