The Lugnut Report: Jeff Gordon Unable To Exploit Texas-Size Opportunity
It took Jeff Gordon 12 years and 17 attempts to win at Texas Motor Speedway, the sight of his only win in 2009.
Sitting 192 points behind teammate Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Gordon's drive for five looked virtually dead in the water before he even took the green flag for the Dickies 500.
The weekend, though, started off to a promising start for Gordon. He and the DuPont No. 24 team were solid in practice and on Friday he was able to win the pole for Sunday's race—the 17th straight year he's done so.
Sitting on his 67th career pole, Gordon led the field to the green flag at 2:34 local time, as he and Kasey Kahne raced side by side all the way around the 1.5 mile track for the lead. Neither driver backed down but Gordon just barely passed the No. 9 to take the lead lap.
After he was able to clear both Kahne and the No. 2 of Kurt Busch he was able to pull away from the field. On lap 12, though, Busch was able to pass the No. 24 for the lead. Eight laps later, the younger Busch passed Gordon, sending his DuPont Chevrolet to third.
Battling a loose car, Gordon continued to fall back. He had fallen back to fifth by the time he came on pit road on lap 56, making a track bar adjustment. After a dropped lugnut on the right rear, Gordon fell back into the teens once pit stops cycled around, but was 11th by lap 74.
Continuing to struggle with his Hendrick Motorsports machine, Gordon brought his car down pit road along with the other leaders on lap 87. They decided to go back on their earlier track bar adjustment, and gained two spots to take the green flag on lap 91 in ninth.
Despite the No. 48 having early struggles, Gordon failed to capitalize and, by lap 128, had fallen back to 14th .
When he made his third pit stop of the day he complained of the car “plowing”, so along with four tires and fuel, the DuPont crew gave the car a wedge adjustment. Once stops cycled around, Gordon was 15th , but was quickly passed by Newman on lap 152 to lose yet another spot.
Things were going from bad to worse for the No. 24—156 laps in, Gordon was on the verge of going a lap down as he continued to lose track position.
The third caution of the day on lap 167 was another break for Gordon, who was just half a car length away from being lapped by leader Kyle Busch.
Near disaster came on lap 174. Juan Pablo Montoya got loose and tapped fellow Chaser Carl Edwards, causing a big wreck that involved Gordon and Keselowski. Luckily for the No. 24, he didn't hit anything, but did have to go to the back of the pack after pitting for tires before pit road opened. He restarted 18th .
Gordon would stay in 18th for the rest of the race, and dropped a lap to the leader with 29 laps remaining.
Thanks to fuel mileage, though, Gordon was able to make up spots and ended his night in 13th. With two races left in this 2009 season, Gordon is 112 points out of the championship lead in third.
"I think more than anything it was a missed opportunity," Gordon said after the race. "I'm just terrible at this place. I can qualify, but I just don't really have a feel for this place."
For Carl Edwards' Texas Lugnut Report, click here.
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