It was a day to forget for Jeff Gordon at the reconfigured Phoenix Raceway. He battled handling issues in the first half of the race, and brake problems in the second half. Gordon finished off the pace in 32nd place, six laps down. It was Gordon’s fifth finish lower than 20th in the 9 Chase races. Gordon was mathematically eliminated from the title picture with the finish, though he was realistically eliminated several weeks ago.
Gordon started 23rd and moved to 18th in the opening 10 laps which were sandwiched around two early cautions. He moved to 15th by lap 25 and passed Jimmie Johnson for 14th before the competition caution on lap 40. He gained three spots on pit road and restarted 11th on lap 44. However, he faded to 14th on the restart and spent the bulk of the second run mired outside the top-10. A caution on lap 93 brought the leaders to pit road with Gordon exiting in 14th place. The restart provided an adventure as Gordon was shuffled back to 21st. He was running 19th when a green flag pit stop sequence began at the halfway point of the event.
A caution flag trapped Gordon a lap down on lap 160. Gordon came to pit road to fix a brake issue during the next caution flag on lap 167. After the pit stop, Gordon ran in 29th place. The next caution waved on lap 177 when Brian Vickers intentionally wrecked Matt Kenseth in turn three. Gordon’s brake problems continued when the race resumed and he went a second lap down on lap 212. An extended pit stop under caution on lap 220 focused on the brakes. It took just 20 laps for Gordon to lose a third lap to the leaders. He ran the rest of the event at least 10 miles per hour off the pace and finished 32nd — six laps down.
Road Ahead: The 2011 NASCAR season concludes at Homestead-Miami Speedway — just one of two tracks on the NASCAR circuit where Gordon has not scored a victory in the Cup series.
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