It wasn’t a victory for Jeff Gordon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a solid 9th place finish was his third straight top-10 finish to begin the season. It’s just the third time in Gordon’s career that he began a season with three straight top-10’s (1997, 2007).
Gordon started 15th and moved up to 12th prior to the first caution on lap 18 for fluid on the track. Gordon took 2 tires and restarted in 10th place. He moved to 7th by lap 40 while battling a loose handling condition. The second caution waved on lap 44 for debris. Gordon again opted for two tires and restarted in 2nd place on lap 48. However, he got a poor restart and dropped to 5th within a lap. As the green flag run progressed, he gained ground and took 4th from Martin Truex on lap 70. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 93. Following the cycle of stops, he ran in 5th place. Brad Keselowski took a spot and dropped Gordon to 6th by lap 100. Gordon regained the spot 25 laps later to re-enter the top-5.
Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 141 and cycled through in 5th place. A debris caution on lap 155 brought pit stops for the leaders. Gordon opted for fuel only and restarted in 5th. He fell to 6th after Kyle Busch went by with 100 laps to go. He re-entered the top-5 after Kevin Harvick pulled off the track with a brake problem. Gordon made a green flag stop for tires with 58 to go and cycled through in 8th place. The next caution waved for debris with 47 to go. Gordon came to pit road for fuel to ensure he could make it to the finish. He restarted in 9th with 42 to go. Gordon dropped outside the top-10 with 32 to go as Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson went by. With 19 to go, he re-entered the top-10 by passing Denny Hamlin. Gordon advanced to 9th with a move around Kyle Busch with 12 to go.
Gordon’s car seemed best on longer runs, as it was during the practice sessions leading up to the race. However, he was unable to make significant headway on the final restart with 42 to go and finished (9th) in the position he restarted.
“You’ve got to put things in perspective and looking at this race last year and the way that we were in practice yesterday, I would have given anything to finish ninth today. But we also got our expectations up a little higher than that because we were in the top 5 most of the day. So, the way that the pit sequences went there, they definitely didn’t work in our favor. But it was a really solid effort by this Axalta Chevy SS team. I’m proud of them. To come out of here with a top 10 is something to be proud of. It just took so long for my car to come in. About the time it came in, it was time to pit. So, it was just like that same way there at the end of the race. As soon as my car came in, the race was over.”
HOW WAS THIS NEW RULES PACKAGE ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACK UNDER RACE CONDITIONS?
“I thought it was all good. There’s a high groove and a middle groove and a bottom groove; and that’s all we can ever ask for. I knew today was going to be one of the most challenging races that we were going to have, possibly all year long. And so, I feel like this team did an incredible job. I think we were much better than ninth, but at the same time, this I think is one of my worst tracks right now. We’re off to a fantastic start. We’re very motivated by that. We’re excited.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
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