With 20 laps to go at Talladega Superspeedway, Jeff Gordon found himself in 2nd place. However, as is usually the case at Talladega, things can change drastically in an instant with one move in the draft. Gordon faded outside the top-20 with 16 laps to go and rallied back slightly to finish 14th. He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by 34 points with 4 races remaining in the season. Gordon’s 9th consecutive top-15 finish is a study in consistency, but he was hoping for more at Talladega.
Gordon started 19th and played it conservative at the outset by dropping to 33rd place behind the lead draft. On lap 10, he dropped to 35th place while running with Kevin Harvick and others distantly behind the 20-car pack at the front of the field. At the 100-mile mark, Gordon ran in 30th place in conservative mode more than 3 seconds behind the leader. He stayed out during a cycle of green flag pit stops and led a lap before coming to pit road on lap 46. Following stops he ran in 25th place on lap 50. Gordon drafted up to 20th place behind David Reuttiman on lap 73, but slipped to 26th by the end of lap 74. The next caution waved on lap 76 when Marcos Ambrose and Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked in the tri-oval. Gordon took four tires during the round of pit stops and restarted in 25th place. At the halfway point, Gordon ran in 33rd in single file toward the rear of the drafting pack.
Gordon ran near 30th for the balance of the next fuel run. He stayed out during a green flag sequence to lead two more laps before coming to pit road for a two-tire stop on lap 125. He cycled through in 22nd place toward the back of the lead drafting pack. He then opted to join the competitive battle for position and moved up to 18th on lap 130 using the middle line. Drafting behind Michael McDowell he moved into the top-10 on lap 133. On lap 140 he moved to the high line and ran 7th behind Joey Logano. He ducked to the low line on lap 148 to draft in front of Jimmie Johnson. He advanced to 2nd place behind Dale Earnhardt Jr on lap 152. Gordon came to pit road with 27 to go for right side tires and cycled through in 3rd place behind Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle. He moved to 2nd place with 21 to go when Biffle moved to the high line. However, he was caught in the middle of a drafting line and slipped to 4th with 19 to go. Gordon moved to the low line with 13 to go and got a drafting push from Casey Mears to make a charge for 3rd place. However, the line struggled and Gordon dropped to 7th. He fell outside the top-20 with 9 laps to go and ran in a draft behind Clint Bowyer. With 3 to go, he moved into a drafting line behind Johnson in 18th place. After a crash on the final lap involving Mears and Austin Dillon, Gordon was credited with a 14th place finish.
Gordon was shuffled from 2nd place outside the top-20 with 19 laps to go. That effectively ended his hopes for a solid finish.
“It was a good day. I thought that the car was fantastic. I thought the team did an awesome job of executing our plan and we were in perfect position. And it just didn’t work out. I got kind of shoved on the back straightaway and was trying not to wreck and that got me out of a really good position and then we were kind of a sitting duck at that point and just went to the back and wanted to see what we could do with them on that final lap. And of course you know, a wreck is going to happen. I hope Austin (Dillon) and Casey (Mears) are okay. That looked pretty nasty.”
source: Jeff Gordon Online
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