It wasn’t a victory, but Jeff Gordon’s 3rd place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway moved him closer to Kyle Busch for the final NASCAR Chase wildcard spot. It was Gordon’s 7th top-6 finish in the last 10 races.
Gordon started 11th and moved to 8th by the end of lap 5. The first caution waved on lap 10 for Ken Schrader’s crash following contact from Jason Leffler. Gordon moved up to 6th shortly after the restart and held the position for the next 30 laps. He moved into the top-5 with a pass on Casey Mears on lap 49. He fell to 6th when Kasey Kahne passed on lap 55, and slipped to 8th by lap 75. A debris caution on lap 82 slowed the field and brought pit stops with Gordon back in 10th place. Gordon took four tires and restarted in 15th place. He dropped to 17th before the next caution for Sam Hornish’s wall contact on lap 122. Adjustments followed with Gordon restarting in 18th. He moved to 15th by lap 140, and ran in 13th when the caution waved for David Ragan’s spin on lap 149. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted in 4th place. He moved to 2nd on the restart, but dropped to 3rd when Brian Vickers passed on lap 176.
Ryan Newman’s wreck on lap 190 brought out the caution. Gordon came to pit road and restarted in 15th place. He was unable to move forward before the next caution for Aric Almirola’s wall contact on lap 223. Gordon stayed out and restarted in 8th place. At the halfway point, he ran in 5th place. Gordon took 4th on lap 255 before a caution for Brad Keselowski’s spin on lap 270. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted in 2nd place alongside Jimmie Johnson. A caution on lap 322 brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon beat Johnson off pit road and restarted in 8th place — behind the cars that stayed on the track. He moved up to 3rd when Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart crashed while racing for the lead.
However, Gordon fell to 10th on lap 346 after getting into oil from Dave Blaney’s car before a caution flag. Gordon opted for fuel only to ensure he could make it to the finish. He dropped to 14th on lap 360 and moved to 12th before a caution for Casey Mears on lap 412. Gordon stayed out and restarted in 5th place with 80 laps to go. He slipped to 8th before the next caution with 76 laps to go. Gordon moved to 6th with 67 laps to go before the next caution for Danica Patrick’s crash following contact from Regan Smith. With 45 laps to go, he took 4th when Brian Vickers slid backwards while trying to take the race lead from Carl Edwards. Gordon moved to 3rd with 33 laps to go and trailed Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson for the lead. He came across the line in 3rd — distantly behind race winner Hamlin.
Gordon never led the event but used pit strategy and caution laps to ensure he had enough fuel to make it to the finish with a solid effort
Source: Jeff Gordon Online
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