Jeff Gordon seemed to be in position for a top-5 finish — if not a victory — at Martinsville Speedway, but a late-race speeding penalty on pit road sent him to the rear of the field. He rallied back in the closing stages to finish in 9th place. It was his 3rd consecutive top-10 finish, which moved him up to 16th in the NASCAR points standings.
Gordon started 4th and ran there when the first caution waved on lap 11 for Trevor Bayne’s spin. The second caution waved on lap 22 for Ricky Stenhouse’s spin. On the restart, Gordon got hung on the outside line and slipped to 8th before getting in line behind Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon battled handling issues as Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick passed on lap 36. Loose handling hindered the #24 car as Gordon dropped to 13th on lap 42. He ran 15th when the next caution waved on lap 54 for JJ Yeley’s wall contact. Pit stops followed with Gordon gained 2 spots and restarting in 13th place. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 74. Gordon gained a spot after Earnhardt Jr came to pit road. He moved to 11th on lap 90 when Ryan Newman was caught on the outside line. Matt Kenseth took a position from Gordon prior to a caution on lap 94 for Alex Kennedy’s spin. Gordon came to pit road and restarted in 18th place. He fell to 19th on the outside line on lap 112, before regrouping to move back to 18th on lap 114. He patiently worked race traffic and moved up to 15th on lap 130. Gordon’s forward march continued as he took 11th from Jamie McMurray on lap 150. A caution for Stenhouse’s second spin on lap 164 brought pit stops. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted in 9th place. He used the inside line to his advantage and took 7th from Carl Edwards on lap 180.
He took 6th from Matt Kenseth on lap 190, but dropped the spot on lap 193. Gordon battled loose handling and slipped to 9th on lap 200. Gordon ran in 15th place when Stenhouse hit the wall to bring out a caution on lap 206. Pit stops followed with Gordon restarting in 18th place. He quickly moved into top-15 prior to a caution on lap 218 for Michael Annett’s loss of control which collected Joey Logano. Gordon gained two more spots and restarted in 13th place on lap 223. He ran 12th when the next caution came on lap 228 for a chain reaction crash that collected Earnhardt Jr, Paul Menard, and Casey Mears. He restarted on the inside line in 11th place after David Gilliland came to pit road. On the restart, he took 10th from Trevor Bayne and moved to 9th at the halfway point. Denny Hamlin took a spot from Gordon on lap 253. As Hamlin cleared a path on the inside line, Gordon followed him past Martin Truex and Jamie McMurray. He took 7th from Clint Bowyer on lap 260. Gordon re-entered the top-5 on lap 267 when he passed Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth. A caution for Justin Allgaier on lap 270 brought pit stops. Gordon exited pit road in 6th place. He held 6th on the restart before the next caution for Regan Smith’s spin in turn 3.
On the restart, Bowyer took a spot from Gordon who restarted on the outside line. Gordon fell in line in 7th behind Bowyer on lap 296. He regrouped and took the spot back from Bowyer on lap 302. Five laps later he re-entered the top-5 by passing Matt Kenseth. Gordon took 4th from Carl Edwards on lap 310 and closed on the top-3 of Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick. He took 3rd from Keselowski on lap 318, and passed Hamlin for the runner-up spot on lap 328. However, he was passed by Kenseth on lap 329 and dropped to 5th as Keselowski and Hamlin went by. Two laps later, he followed Hamlin past Keselowski to take 4th place. The next caution came on lap 346 for Annett’s wall contact. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 4th place. He fell to 5th after the restart on the outside line before Kasey Kahne eased up to let him in line. The next caution came on lap 367 when Paul Menard spun in turn 4. Gordon restarted on the inside line and held onto 5th place. He closed in on Carl Edwards for 4th place on lap 400 and took the spot 4 laps later. With 80 to go, he moved around Kevin Harvick to take 3rd place. A caution on lap 433 for Edwards’ spin brought the leaders to pit road.
Gordon exited in 2nd place for the final run to the finish. Kenseth opted for the outside line, which allowed Gordon to take the inside for the restart. Gordon took the race lead from Kenseth on lap 442. A debris caution with 41 to go slowed the field. Gordon came to pit road for tires and was 3rd coming off pit road. However, Gordon received a penalty for too fast entering pit road. After the penalty, he restarted in 21st place. He re-entered the top-20 with 25 laps to go. He gained 5 more spots to run 16th with 20 to go. He took 15th from Trevor Bayne on lap 483 and advanced to 12th with 10 to go. Gordon took 11th from Clint Bowyer with 5 to go, and re-entered the top-10 with 3 to go.
“I’m so disappointed in myself. I knew I was pushing the limit. I didn’t think I had done anything different than I had all day long when I was behind other guys. I’m very, very disappointed. I felt like we finally got the car in a position to win that race. It was a struggle. We were battling with tire wear and the car getting really loose. I thought Denny Hamlin had the best car, but I thought with our track position at the end we had a shot at it. I’m so disappointed, I don’t even know what to say right now. But, of course, then the car is like the absolute best it’s been all day when I drive up from the back.”
ON RESTART AND MAKING A PRIOR DEAL WITH MATT KENSETH TO HAVE THE INSIDE LINE:
“He and I have been through so much over the years. That was like my gift for this year — my going-away gift. We were racing earlier and I let him go to the inside and he kind of body-slammed me. So, on that restart, I was just pulling at straws because I wanted the inside. I asked (my spotter) if he’d ask Kenseth if he’d let me. That’s the least he could do for body-slamming me. Somehow the message got across. That was way cool and it worked out pretty good for us.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
MP3 Download – with spotter chatter
Run Time: 64 minutes
File Size: 7.3mb