June 21 – – The picturesque rolling hills of Northern California saw some of Jeff Gordon’s fiercest racing of the season as he posted a battle-tested 5th place finish. Gordon had several dust-ups with competitors on the track in a race that came down to Marcos Ambrose’s mental error under a late race caution. Ambrose slowed on the track and failed to maintain pace car speed, which allowed Jimmie Johnson to take the lead and his fourth win of the season.
Gordon started 5th and held the spot in the opening laps, save for a damaged rear bumper due to Marcos Ambrose’s aggressiveness. Gordon ceded the spot to Ambrose on lap 6. He then followed Ambrose past Kasey Kahne at the exit of the chute. The first caution waved on lap 10 after Clint Bowyer spun in the esses and Jamie McMurray was caught in the chain-reaction. Gordon slipped to 7th on the restart, but regrouped to take 6th from Martin Truex on lap 17. Three laps later he moved to the inside of Kevin Harvick to re-enter the top-5. Gordon then closed in and passed Tony Stewart with an inside move in turn 11. Gordon took 3rd from Kurt Busch on lap 25 by outbraking him into turn 11.
Gordon moved into the runner-up spot on lap 26 when Ambrose came to pit road for a green flag stop. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 33 and was passed by Juan Pablo Montoya exiting the pits — lending credence to a misjudgement on the tachometer in the #24 car. After the stops cycled through the field, Gordon ran in 7th place. He took 6th from Kurt Busch on lap 47 as his best lap times came on older tires. He moved back into the top-5 one lap later with a move around Montoya. Gordon ran 4th when Mattias Ekstrom in the 83 car came to pit road. He took 3rd when Ambrose came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 53. The second caution waved on lap 58 for Dave Blaney’s car stopping on the track. Gordon came to pit road since he was 13 laps short of making it on one more stop. He was the 3rd car to exit the pits and restarted in 9th due to 6 cars staying out.
On the restart, Gordon was tapped in the right rear by Montoya who made an aggressive move at the exit of the chute. Gordon gained 2 spots but complained of a potential tire issue. One lap later at the exit of the chute, Gordon pushed into Ekstrom, who spun David Ragan. Gordon lightly hit the front of Ragan’s car going by. In turn 11, Gordon moved to the inside and spun Truex entering the corner. He fell to 8th when Montoya went by. On lap 64, the caution waved for Brad Keselowski’s off-course excursion in turn 10. Gordon had body damage on the left side of the car from the Ekstrom contact, and nose damage from hitting Truex. The restart created a chain-reaction mess and resulted in a red flag after six cars stacked up in the middle of the field. Truex, Denny Hamlin, Max Papis, Sam Hornish, and Regan Smith were among those collected in the melee. Truex vowed fire and brimstone revenge on Gordon next week at Loudon while being interviewed by the media. Gordon turned off the engine in 7th place for the red-flag delay. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted 5th on lap 67.
Gordon moved to 4th on lap 70, but was distantly behind Jimmie Johnson, Ambrose, and Kevin Harvick at the front of the field. He came to pit road for his final green flag stop on lap 79. A caution for Joey Logano’s spin (off of Montoya’s front bumper) slowed the field on lap 86. Gordon restarted 9th with 24 laps to go. He moved to 7th before a caution with 18 to go for Ekstrom’s spin. A jam on the restart sent Gordon from 7th back to 10th. With 12 laps to go, Gordon bumped Elliott Sadler in turn 11, which sent Sadler into Bowyer. Gordon then moved up to 8th in the running order. Keselowski’s spin with 8 laps to go necessitated a caution after fluid was dropped at the exit of the chute. On the restart with 6 laps to go, Gordon eased his way around Kurt Busch to take the 6th spot exiting turn two. With 4 to go, Gordon moved to the inside and took 5th from Greg Biffle. He crossed the line in 5th and moved from 7th to 5th in the series standings.
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