Jeff Gordon led 173 laps and finished 2nd in the Toyota 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Gordon had the dominant car on longer runs, but a series of late race restarts hindered his efforts. He dropped to 4th in the closing stages before moving up to 2nd behind race winner Joey Logano following contact on the track in a battle between Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. It was Gordon’s 7th top-10 finish in 9 races this year. He remains the NASCAR points leader.
Gordon started 25th and moved into the top-20 by lap 10. He ran 13th at the competition caution on lap 40. He gained four spots on pit road and restarted 9th on lap 44. He took 7th from Jimmie Johnson on lap 55 and advanced to 6th with a move around Joey Logano by lap 60. Gordon passed Dale Earnhardt Jr and Clint Bowyer to run 4th on lap 65. He took 3rd from Kasey Kahne on lap 68 and moved into the runner-up position around Kevin Harvick on lap 91. A debris caution on lap 99 brought the lead lap cars to pit road. Gordon gained a spot in the pits and restarted with the race lead on lap 104. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 161. Gordon held the lead through the pit stops. However, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano went by on lap 174 to send Gordon to 3rd place. He regrouped and took 2nd from Logano on lap 188, and re-assumed the race lead on lap 210.
A caution for debris on lap 226 brought pit stops. Gordon again held the lead through the round of stops. Logano took the lead from Gordon on lap 244 as the #24 again struggled early in the green flag run. Gordon passed Logano for the lead on lap 252 and set things on cruise control until a caution on lap 296 for Ricky Stenhouse’s wall contact. Dale Earnhardt Jr beat Gordon off pit road to claim the race lead. On the restart, Gordon dropped to 4th on the outside line before the tire pressures came up. With 80 laps to go, Gordon took the 3rd spot from Earnhardt Jr. He passed Keselowski for 2nd with 68 to go and re-assumed the lead from Logano with 65 to go. With 39 to go, Matt Kenseth ran down Gordon and took the lead. A caution for Jimmie Johnson’s cut tire with 33 to go brought the final pit stops of the night. Gordon left pit road in 3rd place as he slowed near the exit of the pits to allow Earnhardt Jr to depart in 2nd, which gave Gordon the inside line behind Kenseth for the restart with 25 laps to go.
On the restart, Logano got past Gordon prior to a caution for Denny Hamlin’s spin with 23 to go. Gordon started on the outside of the second row with 18 laps to go. He moved to 3rd when Logano spun his tires. A caution for JJ Yeley’s engine slowed the field with 15 to go. On the restart, Gordon moved to the runner-up spot behind Kenseth. With 6 to go, Keselowski moved along side Gordon on the outside line. Gordon held the line but lost a spot to Logano. After Keselowski tapped Kenseth, Logano moved to the lead with Gordon in 2nd place.
A four-way battle in the late stages between Gordon, Keselowski, Logano, and Kenseth was altered when Keselowski and Kenseth made contact, allowing Logano to open a healthy lead en route to the victory.
“The restarts are something we’re really adamant about this year, because it was definitely hurting us last year. Tonight we really didn’t have a good short run car. We had a really good long run car. About 40-50 laps [into a run], it was the best car out there. I had a blast tonight. Great short track racing at Richmond. To have a race car like that to drive from 25th up to the front was so much fun. Joey was in the right place there. He had a good short run car. We were battling it out. Matt was making his car really super-wide, which you have to do to try and win. It just didn’t come down the way that we needed. We needed a little bit longer run. We’re showing up at the race track with cars capable of winning. It’s just a matter of time before we do win.”
ON MATT KENSETH
“He was making his car real wide. I ultimately thought that might have cost him not just the win, but more positions. But as good as the 2 car was at the end, the 2 was probably going to win. The 2 was so much better than him. Had he just run his line around the bottom, then the 2 was going to get the outside and go right on by. All night long I had to let the 2 and the 22 go by me because they were so fast for 10 laps and then I’d reel them back in. You can’t do that at the end when you’re leading the race. So, I think Matt did what he felt like he needed to do. He made his car really wide and probably didn’t make the guys behind him very happy.”
ON THE TIRES
“I’m not a fan of the dual tread zone. We had it at Texas and the cars just slid the front getting in the corner. That was the same case here. It just has no grip in the front getting in the corner. But I also think we’re doing a great job with this tire and making our car go fast. So, while I don’t like the way it drives, I also think we’re very competitive with it. I’m not going to say a whole lot. I will just second what Kyle Busch said. I think the idea behind this is to make it more durable. And that does not seem to be the case. So there needs to be more research that goes into it to try to perfect it.”
ON THE POINTS LEAD
“We’re running really good and I’m excited about that. Anytime you’re running this good consistently week in and week out on all different types of race tracks, it gives you confidence as a driver and a team. But you also know this year more than ever, you have to close that out. If you’re going to lead that many laps and have that good of a car, you have to close it out. You have to get the win. This confidence will build if we keep running like this. But eventually it can also fall off if we don’t put a win or two together.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
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