After a long, rain delayed weekend at Pocono Raceway, Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR champion, celebrates a top 10 finish and his 38th birthday. Gordon got a great start to his birthday week by scoring an eighth place finish in the Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500.
Gordon, who started in the third position on points due to the rain out of qualifying, ran in the top 10 for most of the race in Long Pond, PA. Gordon advanced as high as second place, yet at two points in the race was a slow as 17th and 18th place respectively.
"It was a good car; definitely the best car we've had here in a while." said Gordon. "I'm really excited about that and that we've been able to make those kinds of improvements."
Gordon continued, "The strategy and the track position didn't go our way, so we ended up eighth. But it's nice when you're passing cars; good cars even toward the end of the race."
Gordon battled back throughout the race, especially on the double file restarts. The driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet got several great restarts, passing multiple cars at a time by diving low or climbing to the top of the track.
Gordon acknowledged that the double file restarts played a huge part in the outcome of the race. "Oh, I can't even explain to you how insane it was out there," said Gordon of the restarts. "I mean it was just nuts."
"I saw so many guys rubbing, banging, smokin' sideways, three-wide, four-wide, and I was right in the middle of it at times as well." Gordon summarized, "It's not the most fun, but when you make it out of it, you're like. 'whew'."
With his solid finish and his teammate Jimmie Johnson's thirteenth place run, Gordon pulled within two points of Johnson for the second place spot in the points standings.
Gordon admitted that he and crew chief Steve Letarte were going to be "a bit more aggressive", especially for the next few races prior to the beginning of the Championship Chase.
Gordon, Letarte and the No. 24 team will have the perfect track coming up to try their new aggressive set up and style. They will head to the road course in Watkins Glen for the upcoming Cup race weekend.
"Watkins Glen is a fast road course," said Gordon. "You have to get up through the esses really well."
Gordon currently holds the record for the most road course wins in NASCAR with nine victories. Gordon is tied with points leader Tony Stewart for the most wins at Watkins Glen, with both drivers having four wins.
At this particular road course, Gordon has secured two poles, six top five finishes and eight top 10 finishes in 16 starts. He has led 227 laps, the highest amount for any driver at the Glen.
Gordon admits that the keys to winning at Watkins Glen are managing fuel, running hard, and "not wheel hopping" as he did in 2007. That year, after leading most of the race, Gordon wheel hopped and spun out near the end of the race.
"I'd love to have a few more wins," said Gordon. "And the bonus points that go with them, heading into the Chase."
Gordon no doubt hopes that his birthday wishes will come true with a victory at Watkins Glen. But before leaving Pocono Raceway, instead of receiving birthday presents, Gordon gave the ultimate gift to many Pocono fans.
Gordon worked his way along Autograph Alley, sharing a present of his own, a Jeff Gordon autograph, with his rain soaked, but loyal fans.
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Buchanan