After a solid start in the STP 500 where he ran in the runner-up spot, Jeff Gordon battled through damage to the car and finished 12th. It was his 23rd consecutive top-20 finish at Martinsville, but it was only the third time in the last 23 races there where he failed to lead a lap.
Gordon started 5th and slipped to 6th before the first caution on lap 2 for Parker Kligerman’s crash in turn 3. On the restart, Gordon moved around Denny Hamlin to take 4th place. He took 3rd from Kyle Busch on lap 20 and advanced to the runner-up spot on lap 23. Gordon dropped to 3rd just before the competition caution on lap 40. Pit stops followed with Gordon restarting 2nd on lap 44. He dropped to 5th on lap 55 when Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, and Joey Logano went by. One lap later he ran 6th when Tony Stewart passed on the inside. Gordon battled a loose handling issue and fell to 7th on lap 60. As the run progressed, Gordon re-entered the top-5 on lap 70. He took 4th from Stewart on lap 74. The next caution waved on lap 103 for Ricky Stenhouse’s wall contact. Gordon lost 3 spots on pit road and restarted in 7th on lap 108. He moved to 6th prior to the next caution on lap 113 for Michael Annett’s spin. He came to pit road and restarted 26th on lap 119.
On the restart, Gordon got into the back of a slower car and damaged the nose of the Axalta Chevrolet. He battled handling issues as he worked race traffic and ran in 22nd place on lap 160. A caution for Casey Mears’ spin on lap 170 allowed Gordon to come to pit road for adjustments and repairs to the front of the car. He restarted in 26th place on lap 177. Jamie McMurray’s wreck on lap 200 brought out the caution and the lead lap cars came to pit road. Gordon restarted in 21st on lap 206. The seventh caution waved on lap 219 for Alex Bowman’s spin. Following a pit stop, Gordon restarted 20th on lap 226. A debris caution on lap 231 brought some drivers to pit road. Gordon stayed out and restarted 18th on lap 238. At the halfway point, Gordon ran in 19th place. After a caution and subsequent pit stops, Gordon restarted 18th. He gained two spots and ran 16th on lap 260, and took 15th from Tony Stewart on lap 266. Gordon steadily gained spots and ran 12th on lap 280. However, he faded to 18th by lap 300 as the handling went away.
A caution for Joe Nemechek’s crash on lap 315 brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon restarted 19th on lap 320 and gained two spots before the next caution on lap 342 for Kyle Larson’s crash. After stops, he restarted 16th on lap 347. He struggled as the run progressed and dropped to 20th by lap 380. Gordon’s handling woes continued and he fell to 23rd on lap 410. A caution for Martin Truex’s spin brought the field to pit road. Gordon restarted 21st with 84 laps to go. He advanced into the top-20 with 75 to go, and took 16th from Denny Hamlin with 65 to go. Gordon ran 15th when the caution waved with 40 to go for Carl Edwards’ spin. He held 15th through the round of pit stops. On the restart, he gained two spots and ran 13th with 25 to go. After taking a spot from Edwards, he crossed the line in 12th place.
Gordon dropped to 4th in the series points standings.
Gordon came to pit road during a caution period on lap 119 when few leaders followed suit. As a result, he re-started deep in the field and damaged the nose of the car in traffic. He never regained the handling or track position he had before the incident.
source: Jeff Gordon Online
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