For Jeff Gordon, Bristol is one of his best tracks with five career wins at the track. Gordon has found ways to win whether it was with bump and run on Rusty Wallace to pull off a win or just dominating the race.
Tonight though would not be easy for this team.
The weekend though started off strong for Gordon with sitting 11th fastest on the speed charts on Friday and then in final practice they were sitting in the top five in speeds.
Gordon had an early draw for qualifying but a very tight race car that relegated them to a 33rd starting position.
Gordon dropped back early, struggling with a tight race car. On the first caution Gordon came in they changed tires and made adjustments.
The car was still too tight, and Gordon would be good for a few laps on a restart but would tighten up as the run went on.
The team used every caution to come in and work on the car, making tire pressure adjustments and on the fourth caution for Bobby Labonte, Gordon came down pit road and they continued to make adjustments on the car.
With fresher tires they quickly made their way into the top 10. On the fifth caution for debris, he lost a couple positions on pit road.
Gordon unhappy with the adjustments quickly began to drop back in the field. Gordon went down a lap to the leader Jimmie Johnson and needed a caution to make a massive adjustment on the car.
The car though just would not handle well; the team was struggling just to keep positions. They got lapped again on lap 405 and systematically there day was over.
Gordon was not happy with the car he said the car was nothing like the car they had at the beginning of the race. They went back on adjustments on the car, but still nothing would help with the handling.
Crew Chief Steve LeTarte decided to stay out and use the wave around rule and hope for a quick yellow. After numerous yellows, Gordon was racing to get back on the lead lap late in the race.
They never did get the lucky dog.
LeTarte did mention that when they got back to Charlotte and tear down this car, they will look for something mechanically wrong with the car. With every adjustment they were unable to correct the handling.
Tonight wasn’t easy and with their place in the standings a rough race like this didn’t hurt them as much as they had been father back in the standings.
For Gordon he couldn’t catch a break both for a caution or to have a better handling racecar.
The only highlight for this team is they clinched a spot in chase but slipped back to third. The one thing they are lacking is bonus points, sitting with only 10 when the chase reseeds.
In 2009 the short tracks have what has been this team’s biggest issue. They have struggled with setups, although Gordon has been able to have decent finishes.
On Saturday though all they could muster was 23rd.
With Richmond and Martinsville still ahead, Gordon and his team need to regroup and try and find the missing piece that has cost them at the short tracks with this new car.
Gordon looks to Atlanta to not only rebound from a rough night at Bristol, but to get 10 more bonus points for the Chase.