Tony Stewart dominated the Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend by leading 174 laps en route to his 38th career victory. Jeff Gordon was never a factor for the race lead and struggled with handling for the last 200 miles before finishing 13th.
Gordon has driven plenty of special paint schemes on the #24 Chevrolet during his NASCAR career. But Sunday night’s paint scheme at Atlanta Motor Speedway might have topped the list. The Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation scheme was designed by his 3-year-old daughter Ella (with help from Sam Bass). The paint scheme highlight’s Gordon’s foundation during childhood cancer awareness month.
Gordon started 18th and moved up four spots in the opening 10 laps. He moved to 12th on lap 17 but a loose handling condition hindered his forward progress. Gordon fell to 14th on lap 30 and came in for a green flag pit stop on lap 52. He ran in 18th after the cycle of pit stops. Gordon moved up to 15th on lap 75. A green flag pit stop on lap 97 cycled through with Gordon holding 15th at the 100-lap mark.
The handling improved and Gordon took 12th on lap 114. The first caution waved on lap 133 for debris in turn 2 (ie. Dale Earnhardt Jr going a lap down). Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 11th place. Gordon entered the top-10 on lap 141 with a pass on Jamie McMurray on the restart. The second caution waved on lap 144 for Denny Hamlin’s blown engine. The leaders came to pit road with Gordon exiting in 6th place. One lap after the restart, Ryan Newman wrecked Greg Biffle in turn three. Biffle’s spinning car collected Elliott Sadler in the melee.
Gordon slipped to 7th on the restart when Kyle Busch passed. However, Gordon re-assumed the 6th position from Busch on lap 167. He moved into the top-5 with a move around Kasey Kahne on lap 169. Gordon passed Martin Truex for 4th on lap 184 as he closed in on Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson at the front of the field. The handling began going away as Kevin Harvick took a spot from Gordn on lap 194. A caution for David Ragan’s spin on lap 201 brought the leaders to pit road. Gordon picked up a spot on pit road and restarted in 4th on lap 209. However, almost like clockwork, he fell to 8th on the restart. However, unlike the previous restarts where Gordon’s car came to life during the run, he continued to fade through the field. He fell out of the top-10 on lap 223, and slipped to 12th on lap 226.
Gordon’s hopes for a victory faded on lap 230 when he dropped to 15th and complained of a complete lack of grip. Gordon came to pit road just before Kevin Harvick’s cut tire brought out the caution flag. Gordon rolled through pit road without stopping to stay on the lead lap. He came to pit road under caution for fuel, tires, and a chassis adjustment. He restarted in 20th place with 62 laps to go. Gordon stayed out during a caution period for Scott Speed’s blown engine and moved up to 2nd place. However, he was no match for the field on four tires and he faded to 7th within two laps of the restart. A caution for Brad Keselowski’s cut tire with 27 to go brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon exited in 10th place.
A debris caution with 22 laps to go brought Gordon to pit road for adjustments. He restarted in 12th place with 19 laps to go. He dropped a spot in the final laps and came across the finish line in 13th. He remained 2nd in the series standings with one more race before the season-ending Chase for the Championship begins in mid-September.
In Car Audio
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