Jeff Gordon posted a 6th place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway to move within 6 points of the final Chase cutoff. Barring a victory at Richmond, Gordon would need to finish 6 spots ahead of Kurt Busch providing that Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr do not implode.
Gordon started 5th and dove to the inside to take 3rd by the end of lap 2. He bided his time and took 2nd place from Carl Edwards on lap 20. However, Joey Logano took a spot from Gordon prior to the competition caution on lap 25. Gordon picked up a spot on pit road and restarted in 2nd on lap 28. He struggled on the restart and fell to 5th before the caution waved for contact involving Kasey Kahne. After falling to 7th on the ensuing restart, Gordon regrouped and moved to 3rd place by lap 50. He took 2nd from Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 56 prior to a debris caution. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting with the race lead. He pulled away on the restart before a debris caution on lap 77. Edwards beat Gordon off pit road for the race lead. On the restart, Gordon struggled on the outside line and dropped to 5th. He quickly rallied back and took 3rd from Clint Bowyer by lap 83. Bowyer eventually tracked Gordon down and took 3rd on lap 103. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 122 and cycled through in 6th place. He took 5th from Brad Keselowski on lap 150 and moved to 4th when Joey Logano pitted one lap later. Gordon advanced to 3rd on lap 155 with a move around Jamie McMurray.
Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 164 and cycled through in 4th place. The complexion of the race changed when race leader Clint Bowyer blew an engine on lap 193. Gordon gained a spot and restarted in 2nd place. He tracked down Edwards and edged ahead on the backstretch on lap 202. However, Edwards fought back and kept the lead of the event. Logano then passed Gordon for the runner-up spot on lap 203 and took the race lead one lap later. The next caution waved on lap 206 for Denny Hamlin’s spin. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted in 7th place. He fell to 10th after the restart and soon rallied back to 9th with a move around Edwards and took 8th from Kyle Busch on lap 216. One lap later he took 7th from Dale Earnhardt Jr and advanced to 6th with a pass on Kurt Busch. He dropped to 7th when Earnhardt Jr went by on lap 227. Busch passed Gordon on lap 230 to send him to 8th place. Earnhardt Jr faded and Gordon took 7th on lap 236. After Keselowski dropped a cylinder, Gordon moved to 6th on lap 248. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 253 and cycled through in 4th place. Kevin Harvick went by to drop Gordon to 5th on lap 258. Gordon fell to 6th when Earnhardt Jr went by on lap 264.
Loose handling hindered Gordon’s efforts and he slipped to 9th on lap 272. A caution for Jimmie Johnson’s spin slowed the field on lap 287. Pit stops followed with Gordon opting for a track bar adjustment. He exited pit road in 8th place. Gordon fell to 10th on the restart prior to Brian Vickers’ spin to bring out the caution on lap 294. Gordon lost two spots on the restart and ran 12th when the caution waved for Jeff Burton’s wall contact on lap 298. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted in 16th place. On the restart with 21 laps to go, he moved from 16th up to 12th. He re-entered the top-10 with 19 laps to go and took 8th from Harvick with 16 to go. Gordon passed Marcos Ambrose for 7th with 12 laps to go. With 3 laps to go, he took 6th from Juan Pablo Montoya.
Loose handling after lap 250 sent Gordon from 4th place back to 9th. He was unable to make significant headway until the final stages when he had fresher tires to finish 6th.
“We had an excellent car and it just got away from us a little bit. The track changed quite a bit and we just couldn’t battle up front for the lead and the win like I thought we could have. I was a little disappointed in that. But it was a great effort by the whole team all weekend long. We’ll take the momentum of these last two decent finishes with solid runs and fast race cars and take it to Richmond and see what we can do. I’m having fun. These last couple weeks we’ve been battling and passing and having a great time out there. That’s all we can ask for. We didn’t do enough of that earlier in the year. That’s why we’re in the position we’re in.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
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