Tony Stewart won his first race of the 2013 season after passing Juan Pablo Montoya with 3 laps to go. Jeff Gordon might have been able to run down the top-2 with a few extra laps, but came in 3rd after a pit gamble paid off. It was Gordon’s second consecutive top-5 finish and the 301st of his career — tying him with David Pearson in career top-5’s. The finish propelled Gordon up to 11th in the series standings.
Gordon started 20th and gained 4 spots in the first 20 laps. He moved to 15th on lap 30 while complaining about handling issues. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 73. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 79 with Gordon in 14th place. He pitted for tires and restarted in 13th place on lap 85. However, Gordon faded on the restart and ran 17th on lap 90. As the air pressures came up in the tires, Gordon gained back spots and ran 15th at the 100-lap mark. The handling fell off on the longer run and Gordon fell to 17th on lap 120. The second debris caution brought pit stops on lap 127. He gained 2 spots on pit road and another 2 on the track to run 13th on lap 150. The next caution waved for Matt Kenseth’s blown engine on lap 160. At the halfway point, Gordon ran in 12th place.
Gordon moved to 11th after the halfway mark, but dropped to 12th when Tony Stewart went by on lap 220. Following a green flag pit stop on lap 238, Gordon ran in 15th place in danger of going a lap down. He moved to 14th prior to a caution on lap 280 for Martin Truex’s engine. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 13th place. Gordon ran 14th at lap 300 when the caution waved for Ryan Newman and David Gilliland’s wreck on the backstretch. Gordon restarted 14th on lap 306 and dropped to 15th by lap 310. Kasey Kahne’s spin and subsequent wall contact brought out the caution on lap 317. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted in 2nd place — the high water mark of his day.
On the restart, Gordon fell to 4th within one lap. However, on the long green flag run, Gordon needed to stop one more time for fuel. He received a much-needed break with 24 laps to go when Denny Hamlin cut a tire and hit the wall. The crew changed four tires and Gordon restarted 7th with 20 to go. He took 6th from Brad Keselowski with 17 to go and entered the top-5 when Jimmie Johnson was penalized for jumping the restart. Gordon took 3rd from Kyle Busch with 13 to go and posted his second straight top-5 finish at Dover.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson kept Gordon on the track during a caution period on lap 317. That allowed him to move from 14th to 2nd. A well-timed caution flag with 24 laps to go clinched a top-5 finish.
“We needed some things to go our way and that’s something that’s been hit or miss for us this year. Finally things went our way. We made a call to stay out, which obviously paid off and gave us some good track position. The car drove pretty good up front there. We needed a caution. You hate to see what happened to Denny, but it certainly paid off for us. Then we had a car with 4 tires that really took off. I was able to get by Kyle, but it started getting really loose on me as I caught the other two. All I could do was watch at that point. We almost got Montoya on the last lap, but it almost cost us another position. It’s a great top-3.”
“It was a fantastic finish for us. We battled hard all day long in 13th/14th — I think we got up to maybe 10th at one time. It’s frustrating when you think that you have a better car than that. You’re trying to make adjustments on the pit stops and play the right tire strategy, but you’re just not making any ground up. We just got fortunate there where we only had a few laps on the tires and we decided to stay out. Right away on the restart I knew that clean air made a huge difference. We were able to stay up there in 3rd or 4th for that entire run. We knew we needed the caution to come out. You hate to see it happen the way it did. But it paid off for us to be able to come in and get four tires and have a good restart there to get 3rd.”
IS THIS A TURNING POINT FOR YOUR SEASON?
“It’s certainly a great feeling. We’ve been running good. We just have had some things happen to us. Kind of like last year some were self-inflicted and some things were out of our hands. We just have to fight. We fought hard today. This is a tough place because it’s hot and slick. It wasn’t an easy race and this team just never gave up. That’s what got us in the Chase last year. That’s what’s going to get us in there this year. It’s so hard. Everytime we have a finish like we did at Darlington or a finish like today or even a good run at Charlotte, it’s just never over until it’s over. We just can’t ever seem to get momentum. All I can tell you is that our pit crew has definitely improved. We made a little change there and it’s paying off for us. Our cars have improved so that always makes life a little easier. Now I just have to make sure I don’t make any mistakes. I think Alan will probably second that. We just have to be really solid and get the results that we’re capable of getting. Today was a great race for us just because we were sitting there 12th, 13th, 14th. We stay out and all of a sudden here we are 3rd. So that’s a great lesson for us somewhere when we go to other tracks as well.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
Run Time: 7:01
File Size: 830k
MP3 Download – with spotter chatter
Run Time: 12:10
File Size: 1.4mb