Febraury News

Tough Beginnings
FOLDS OF HONOR 500 - Atlanta Motor Speedway. Finish: 41st

For the first time since 1996, Jeff Gordon began a NASCAR season with consecutive finishes below 30th place. In his final race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Gordon was running 10th when he was caught up in a crash on lap 257. He slid toward the inside wall on the backstretch and made contact with a concrete wall. Gordon was credited with a 41st place finish, on the heels of 33rd place last week at Daytona.

Gordon started 35th and gained 10 spots in the first 10 laps of the race. His progress slowed as he moved to 23rd by lap 16. Gordon entered the top-20 on lap 21 and ran 18th when the competition caution waved on lap 25. Pit stops followed with Gordon restarting in 19th place on lap 30. He moved up to 15th within 5 laps of the green flag and ran in 13th when a debris caution slowed the field on lap 46. Pit stops followed and Gordon restarted 12th. He gained a spot and ran 11th when the caution waved on lap 61 for Austin Dillon's cut tire and subsequent spin. Pit stops ensued with Gordon exiting in 13th place. He entered the top-10 on lap 85 with a move around Ryan Newman, and took 9th from David Ragan one lap later. Landon Cassill's engine brought out the caution on lap 95. Gordon held the 9th spot through the round of pit stops. On the restart, Gordon used the inside line to his advantage and moved to 8th. He took 7th from Carl Edwards on lap 109, and dispatched of Kasey Kahne on lap 112. However, Jimmie Johnson went by to send Gordon back to 7th on lap 120. He faded back to 8th on lap 124 after Edwards passed. Three laps later, Kahne went by to send Gordon to 9th place. He slipped out of the top-10 on lap 131 prior to a round of green flag pit stops.

Following the cycle of stops, Gordon ran in 13th place. He was up to 11th when a debris caution slowed the field on lap 176. He held the 11th spot through the round of pit stops. On the restart, Gordon dropped to 17th before a debris caution on lap 182. He moved up to 15th, but handling issues prevented him from making headway during the next run. Gordon came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 225, and cycled through in 13th place. He was running 12th when a debris caution slowed the field with 73 to go. Gordon gained 3 spots on pit road and restarted in 10th. On lap 257, Denny Hamlin got loose and lost control coming off turn 2. He clipped Jamie McMurray who slid up the track into Gordon's path. The #24 car made contact with the backstretch wall, and slid into the retaining wall on the infield.

JG's comments
"I saw the 11 (Denny Hamlin) get sideways. I had him cleared. I stood in the gas and went by him. But I guess he clipped the 1 (Jamie McMurray), and that turned the 1 back into me. After that I was just along for the ride... sent me down the back straightaway. It wouldn't have been too bad, but I found that one spot where there's no SAFER barrier. I can't believe it. That's amazing to me. Anyway, hopefully soon that'll get fixed. It was a pretty big impact. I just hate it for this team. We were struggling. We didn't have the car I thought we were going to have. But we weren't giving up on it. We were going to make gains and we finally got ourselves in the top-10. I think we had a shot at getting in the top-5. But obviously not the way we wanted to start our season."

Strong Start, Bitter End
DAYTONA 500 - Daytona International Speedway. Finish: 33rd

Jeff Gordon led the most laps in the Daytona 500, but faded in the second half of the event. However, he was on pace for a top-10 finish before contact on the final lap sent the #24 car into a spin and a 33rd place finish. At the front of the field, Joey Logano held off a charge from Kevin Harvick to win the biggest race of his career,

Gordon started on the pole and led the opening lap before Jimmie Johnson passed on the high line to take the lead. With drafting help from Dale Earnhardt Jr, Gordon re-assumed the lead on lap 14. He held he lead through a round of caution flag pit stops on lap 19. The next caution came on lap 41 when Tony Stewart made contact with the frontstretch wall. On the restart, Joey Logan took the race lead on the outside line. Gordon rebounded with a push from Earnhardt Jr and a side draft in the corner to take the top spot on lap 52. He led until a round of green flag stops on lap 88, where Gordon's crew opted for four tires. Following stops, he re-assumed the lead on lap 90. At the halfway point, Gordon was leading ahead of his teammate Kasey Kahne. A debris caution on lap 105 slowed the field.

On the restart, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano drafted past Gordon. He slipped to 7th on lap 115, before dropped to 10th by lap 120. Gordon locked into a draft with Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne to move back up to 5th place on lap 145. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 153. He ran 8th when the caution waved with 40 laps to go for Brad Keselowski's engine. Gordon came to pit road to top off on fuel. He restarted in 13th place with 35 to go. Gordon locked into a draft with Denny Hamlin in the middle line and moved up to 7th place with 30 to go. A caution for Ryan Blaney's engine with 25 to go slowed the field. The leaders stayed out to hold track position. Gordon restarted in 7th with 19 laps to go. He locked into a draft with Martin Truex and moved into the top-5 with 15 to go. With 10 to go, Gordon moved to the middle line behind Johnson in 5th place. He slipped to 9th prior to a caution for Justin Allagaier's crash with 3 laps to go, which set up a green/white/checkered finish. He was running 10th in the middle line on the final lap when Austin Dillon tagged the #24 car coming off turn two. The subsequent spin and contact resulted in a 33rd place finish.

JG's comments
"For some reason, I'm still smiling and enjoying every moment of it. Obviously I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half. What an amazing car we had, out front controlling the race. We had just one restart where I was on the outside and couldn't get our line going. We got shuffled back and kind of played catch up from that point on. This was an amazing week. I'm just in a different place that's so foreign to me, but so incredible to be taking it all in and enjoying every moment. Right now, I'm a little bit sad that it's my final Daytona 500, but I'm more upset we didn't have a shot at winning there at the end. Congratulations to Joey Logano ... that's what it's all about. These types of moments in such a big race. It means so much to all of us and you want to share that with the people you're closest to that have been there along the way. I'm not going to miss those final laps. That was just crazy. But I certainly would have liked to have had a shot to win it."

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