June News

Circumstantial Evidence
QUAKER STATE 400 - Kentucky Speedway. Finish: 8th

After a bad mid-race break with an ill-timed caution flag, Jeff Gordon fought back from 25th place and seemed on the verge of a possible victory at Kentucky Speedway. However, he faded back from 3rd to 9th on the final restart with 17 laps to go before finishing in 8th place. It was Gordon's first back-to-back top-10 finishes of the season. He moved to 12th in the NASCAR standings, just 2 points outside the top-10.

Gordon started 12th and moved into the top-10 by the end of lap 2. He ran 9th at the competition caution on lap 30. Gordon opted for 2 tires and restarted 7th on lap 34. He moved to 6th prior to the next caution on lap 39 for Denny Hamlin's tire. Gordon entered the top-5 for the first time on lap 47 with a move around Dale Earnhardt Jr. Two laps later, Kurt Busch made another reckless move on the track and hit Brad Keselowski in the tri-oval. Keselowski spun onto the apron and collected three drivers including Greg Biffle when he came across the track. The event was red-flagged for track clean-up with Gordon in 3rd place. After a 20-minute delay, racing resumed on lap 55. Gordon fell to 4th on the restart and dropped another spot when Kasey Kahne passed on lap 78. He dropped t0 6th prior to a round of green flag pit stops on lap 88. A caution for David Gilliland's cut tire on lap 89 trapped Gordon a lap down. However, he took the wave-around to get back on the lead lap.

He restarted 21st and worked his way into the top-20 before a debris caution on lap 108. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted in 9th place. However, he faded to 18th within two laps of the restart. He steadily regained spots and ran 16th at the halfway point of the event. Gordon came to pit road on lap 148 for a green flag pit stop. However, Denny Hamlin's wall contact brought out the caution. The #24 crew changed two tires and received the free pass to get back on the lead lap. He restarted in 25th place on lap 153 and re-entered the top-20 within 10 laps of the restart. Gordon moved to 15th on lap 180 and ran 13th when a caution for debris slowed the field on lap 195. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted 12th. He took 10th from Kevin Harvick with 50 to go and passed Carl Edwards for 9th with 47 to go. Gordon took 8th from Jamie McMurray with 40 to go and took 7th from Kyle Busch three laps later. As the laps wound down, he passed Brian Vickers for 6th with 29 laps to go. A caution for Vickers wall contact with 26 to go brought the lead lap drivers to pit road.

Gordon gained two spots on pit road and restarted in 4th place with 21 to go. He moved up to 3rd when Jimmie Johnson spun in turn 2 after the restart. However, on the restart, Joey Logano dived to the inside of Gordon and dropped the #24 car back to 9th with 16 to go. He moved up to 8th with 11 laps to go, but ran distantly behind the top-5. Gordon posted his first back-to-back top-10 finishes of the season and moved up to 12th in the series points standings.

Turning point
Gordon was on the verge of a top-5 finish if the race stayed green to the finish. However, a caution flag coupled with a quick pit stop thrust Gordon into the top-4 for the restart with 21 laps to go. But on the restart, Joey Logano dove low on the track, which forced Gordon into the middle line resulting in a loss of positions.

JG's comments
"We had an awesome fast car that is for sure. I think we passed more cars than anybody. These pit stops just aren't going our way. If we try to stretch it doesn't work our way. If we try to pit early it doesn't work our way. I don't know, you just have to keep working hard at it and hope they fall your way eventually. Pit stops were great when we had them. The car was awesome on the race track. It took a little while for it to come in and that last restart I kind of timed it and the #18 (Kyle Busch) spun his tires and stacked us up, then cars were four-wide. That didn't certainly work out in our favor."

"I'm happy the way we are running. The last two weeks have been very promising. That is going to help us as we move forward. We are doing the right things. We've got to continue to qualify better, execute better, hope some things go our way and then I have to be able to get those restarts. The first one actually wasn't that bad. We were going to come out pretty good. The last one, yeah, I could have done a better job. I'm just happy with the way the car is working right now."

"I would rather it stay the way it is. I don't like repaves. I think a smooth new pavement that they are putting on these race tracks now is worse than that. Yeah, it's rough and it beats the cars all up. I don't think we should be going down on the apron here on restarts. I think that is pretty dangerous. Other than that I like everything about the track. It's just trying to find a tire that works well here. That is a challenging thing to do for this surface."

Road Course Warrior
SAVE MART 350 - Sonoma Raceway. Finish: 2nd

Martin Truex snapped a long winless streak with a victory on the road course in Sonoma, California. Truex used fuel strategy to his advantage to take the lead. In the closing stages he held a comfortable lead over Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon en route to the win. Gordon posted a runner-up finish after an early race error when he came to pit road when it was closed. Gordon rallied back to finish 2nd -- his best effort of the 2013 season.

Gordon started 10th and dropped to 11th on lap 2 after Juan Pablo Montoya went by at the end of the chute. He dropped to 12th when Tony Stewart passed, but regained two spots after Montoya spun Kyle Busch in turn 11 on lap 3. He moved to 9th with a move around Joey Logano on lap 5 prior to the first caution for Paulie Harraka's wreck. On the restart, Gordon took 8th from Stewart but fell back to 9th when Montoya passed on lap 11. He regained the 8th spot with a pass on Greg Biffle on lap 21. Gordon came to pit road for tires on lap 24 just as a caution flag waved for rain. However, pit road was closed when Gordon had committed to pit road and received a penalty to start at the end of the line. Gordon came to pit road to top off the fuel and restarted 38th on lap 31. He moved up to 36th prior to the next caution on lap 32 for Alex Kennedy's crash. Gordon steadily worked through backmarkers and ran 26th on lap 40. His forward march continued as he gained four more spots by lap 46 to run in 22nd place. He re-entered the top-20 on lap 51 with a pass on Ryan Newman and ran 18th at the halfway point.

By lap 60, Gordon had advanced up to 15th place. He had moved to 13th prior to a caution on lap 63 for Danica Patrick's cut tire. Gordon came to pit road for tires and restarted in 20th place. He gained five spots within a lap of the restart before a caution for Denny Hamlin's spin on lap 67. Gordon opted to stay on the track and restarted in 4th place on lap 71. He moved to 3rd on the restart prior to a caution for Victor Gonzalez's crash at the rear of the field. Gordon took the runner-up spot from Dale Earnhardt Jr on lap 78 and closed in on Joey Logano for the race lead. Gordon passed Logano in turn 11 on lap 80 to take the lead. He opened up a two-second lead before Kyle Busch spun into a tire barrier to bring out the caution on lap 82. Gordon came to pit road for fuel and tires and restarted in 18th place -- assured he could make it to the finish on fuel. He moved into 15th place within a lap of the restart and took 14th after David Stremme spun on lap 87. Gordon gained three spots in the next three laps and ran 11th on lap 90. He re-entered the top-10 on lap 91 after Jeff Burton and Tony Stewart spun in turn 11.

Gordon took 8th from Jimmie Johnson with 18 laps to go and took 7th from Greg Biffle with 15 to go. One lap later he passed Kevin Harvick for 6th and then took 5th from Marcos Ambrose. After passing Matt Kenseth for 4th he set his sights on Carl Edwards for the 3rd spot. An inside move in turn 11 with 10 laps remaining pushed Gordon up to 3rd place. He took 2nd from Montoya on the final lap after the #42 car ran out of fuel. His runner-up finish was his best effort of the 2013 season.

Turning point
Crew chief Alan Gustafson made the call to take four tires during a caution period on lap 83. The fresher tires allowed him to move from 18th into the top-5 in the closing stages.

JG's comments
"This is one of those crazy types of races where pit strategy goes all over the place and you never know what might happen. We were on a three-stop strategy and that's why we wanted to come in when we did. I hate it for Alan because I'm right there and I couldn't turn away. At the time, I was thinking, 'Gosh, I don't know who has it worse right now, me or him?' Because the way things have been going on the track for me haven't been great and the way things have been going with the calls haven't been going his way either. But finally we had a race car that was fantastic. The pit crew and Alan the rest of the day were just spot-on with great adjustments. We had a lot of fun out there. I knew that we could probably never get to the 56 (Truex), but we sure were having a lot of fun coming up through there."

"It was extremely exciting for us. We had a pretty decent car at the beginning. It didn't take off very good and we lost a couple of spots. Then we started gaining them back and we were in the top-10. The rain was coming in and out. We were going to try to make a three-stop race out of it and try to keep fresher tires -- which we still ended up doing. We were trying to beat the caution (on lap 24) and just missed it by a split second. Right as I committed to come to pit road, I saw the red light come up and I knew that was going to cost us a lot. But this team has been faced with a lot worse adversity than that. Luckily we had a fast race car and stayed with our pit strategy and things went our way. There were a bunch of wrecks that happened right in front of me that I was able to avoid. We had a really good race car and we were able to drive up through there. That part was a lot of fun."

"There's no guarantees at this place. Those double file restarts are just so crazy at this place. I've actually seen it worse than what we had today. This was sort of the strategy Alan went with was making sure we were on the offensive instead of the defensive on those restarts where we had fresh tires and could attack and manuever around some of the slower cars. It could have gone either way. There were times when we were racing tight with somebody and we bumped and banged a little bit. But that's normal and is going to happen throughout a race here. And then there were times when other guys had incidents right in front of us. Unlike last week where I felt like I chose the wrong direction, today I was able to choose the right direction and then follow that up with a race car that just drove really well to be able to come up there. I know some of those guys had a little bit older tires than us, but that's what our advantage was. It was attack, attack, attack. We had plenty of fuel and we could just go hard on the new tires at the end."

"Unless you're eliminated from competition, you never stop trying. Over the years I've had a lot of success. But I've also had my failures as well. You learn from both of them. Sometimes you learn from your failures more than you do from your successes. While the successes help build confidence and the failure breaks the confidence down, I think one of the things me and this team are good at is leaving that behind and going and starting clean at the next race and just focus on that race. That's what we did here. Some of having a break and coming to a road course was a nice way for us to focus on something a little different than going to another 1.5 or 2-mile oval with a rock hard tire that I've been struggling qualifying on. Instead, we get to come here to a place I have confidence at. The car worked well. We weren't a rocket ship qualifying but I knew if we were in the top-10, we had a shot to compete with them.

"Not necessarily. With these fenders, you have to be really careful. They actually can get damaged fairly easily. They have the flares on them so there are some aerodynamic advantages to that. You don't want to mess those up at all. In some ways I feel like you have to take care of this car a little bit more. There's one thing I'm going to talk to NASCAR about with this car. We don't have the body in the right position for the road courses to turn right. When we go to Watkins Glen -- as fast as those right handers are -- we're going to have some issues. There's nothing to lean on. You have plenty of grip on the lefts because the body still has a little bit of rake on the rights. It has nice side force for the right side of the car for those left turns, but on the right turns the car is just so out of control. I'd like to see if there's something they can think about for that. But other than that, I love the Gen-6 car everywhere we go. It has good grip, drives well, and looks great. Other than those fast right handers I think it was the same here today."

"We shouldn't be giving up all of our strategy secrets but because the teams know what we did I can't hide too much of it. Some guys decided to go on a two-stop strategy and some went on a three-stop strategy. We were going to mix it up a little bit based on where our positioning was and how the speed in the car was. When we took off and were 8th or 9th and had a decent car but just couldn't pass, I think at that time it was pretty clear that we were going to try to do the three-stop strategy. Unfortunately, we also tried to push it just one step further and beat that caution when we knew rain was coming. That caused us to get behind. Luckily we stayed with the strategy of three stops. Once we knew we could make it to the end and get four fresh tires on, that's what we did. I think we were the second or third car. The 22 was the first one with four, the 48 had two tires that he came out with -- I'm not sure rights or lefts, I guess lefts. We were able to get ahead of those guys and be the car that could have fresher tires and put the pressure on."

"One of the things we've learned but we need to do more, me personally, is to stop looking at the points. It seems like everytime we get close to the top-10, something happens. I'm just going to stop thinking about the points and start focusing on putting good finishes out there. We need to stop leaving the race track and going, 'Where are we and what do we have to do next week?' We're just going to go and push hard and perform and try to put more finishes like this together. If we live up to our potential and we don't get caught up in some of these silly things that we have been caught up in this year, there's no doubt in my mind we could work our way to the top-10."

Downhill Run
MICHIGAN 400 - Michigan International Speedway. Finish: 39th

Jeff Gordon's arduous season took another downward turn with an early crash at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon was collected when Bobby Labonte spun in the early going. He fell to 16th in the series points standings.

Gordon started 29th and moved to 23rd by lap 5. However, he had nowhere to go when Labonte spun in turn 1 on lap 6. Gordon hit Labonte's car and then bounced off the retaining wall. The #24 Chevrolet was too damaged to continue and garage repairs were needed. Gordon spent nearly 2 hours in the garage and returned after the halfway point to try and gain a few spots. He pulled behind the wall after moving up to 39th place. On the day, Gordon ran 52 laps -- the fewest laps he's run in a NASCAR race since Dover in June 2005.

Turning point
Friday. Poor qualifying effort put him deep in the field at the start of the race.

JG's comments
"Bobby Labonte just lost it over there in Turn 2. He just did one of those slow spins where I couldn't tell which direction he was going to go, so I had to guess and I guessed the wrong way. I didn't really have anywhere to go. But I just can't believe the way this season is going for us. It seems like we can run all day long when we can't get the car right but when we finally get the car right, something like this happens. At Charlotte, I thought our car was awesome and I was really pleased with the way the car took off right there. We were really going to march up through the field. It's unfortunate. This team just continues to have to face adversity and I appreciate how strong they are during it, but I just wish we didn't all have to be tested quite this much."

"It's not surprising because I expected it. When you have these fast practices in the mornings and then it loses a little grip in the next practice, you know when the sun comes out on race days it's going to be pretty slick. So, I just wasn’t surprised."

TELL US WHAT HAPPENED: “Bobby Labonte lost it off of turn two in front of me. It was just such a slow spin that I didn't know which way he was going to go, so I had to guess. I tried to go around him on the outside and that was not the right way. I don't know if I would have missed him even if I went to the inside. It's unfortunate this season we are having is just unbelievable to me. We are at times struggling to get the speed then when we get the speed we struggle to finish because of stuff like this. I thought we were being tested last year, boy we are really being tested this year. Nobody has more fight in them than this team."

"It's not like we have any choice. You have to just deal with it and move on. You feel for the guys that are working so hard. There are some guys that are doing their job perfectly and things are out of their control and they don't deserve this. There are other guys that, like myself, we contribute to being back there starting 29th. That is something we have to do better. I was really happy with the way the car was running. I'm happy with the way this team is sticking together, but boy I tell you these moments when they add up they really can be frustrating. That is the thing we have to work through the most. We are a great organization, a great team and we can rebound, it's just we have to get the finishes."

"For years I've always said I don't believe in good luck or bad luck that you make it. Just in that instance right there I call that being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I also know that we contribute to where we started. We started back there and we were moving forward which I'm proud of, but the fact that we are back there. I put as much blame on myself. I really struggled this weekend when we went into qualifying trim. I've struggled all year. Shoot, the last two years with qualifying and I don't know what it is, but we have to get it better. Starting back there you are only putting yourself into those positions to have those kinds of things happen."

"I'm a pretty patient person, but it's testing my frustration level and my confidence that is the biggest thing. We all know how big confidence is in this sport, any sport really. I don't want to see the team get down and I don't want to see myself get down. I have a lot of fight in me and so does this team. I'm looking forward to going to Sonoma."

Handling The Mountain Road
POCONO 400 - Pocono Raceway. Finish: 12th

Jimmie Johnson dominated the Pocono 400 after leading 128 of the 160 laps in the event. Johnson scored his 3rd win at Pocono and the 63rd of his career. Jeff Gordon battled handling issues for the balance of the day and finished in 12th place.

Gordon started 11th and fell to 16th within two laps. He gained one spot back by lap 10 to move into 15th place while battling handling issues. However, as the green flag run progressed, he dropped to 17th while complaining of a lack of rear grip. Gordon ran in 18th place following a green flag pit stop on lap 28. He slowly made headway and took 17th from Mark Martin on lap 35. The next green flag stop came on lap 57 and Gordon moved up to 14th place. The first caution waved on lap 65 for debris on the track. The caution allowed Gordon to make up the 35 second gap that he grown between race leader Jimmie Johnson and the #24 car. Gordon gained three spots by changing two tires and restarted 12th on lap 70.

On the restart, Gordon dropped to 17th in turn 1 and was forced to battle for lost positions. He moved to 14th by lap 90 while battling a loose handling condition. He came to pit road on lap 100 for a green flag pit stop and returned to the race in 15th place. He moved to 14th on lap 122 when Ryan Newman came to pit road. A debris caution on lap 124 brought the field to pit road for fuel and tires. Gordon gained 4 spots on pit road and moved to 11th place for the restart with 31 laps to go. He fell to 15th within 2 laps of the restart. A caution for Matt Kenseth and Juan Pablo Montoya's spin came with 28 laps to go. Gordon cautiously went low on the track to avoid the spinning cars. He stayed out on the track during the caution and restarted in 12th place.

After Brad Keselowski got loose in the tunnel turn with 23 to go, Gordon went low and moved into the top-10 for the first time. One lap later the caution waved for Dave Blaney's spin. Gordon restarted 9th with 19 laps to go, but lost two spots just after the restart. A caution for AJ Allmendinger's cut tire slowed the field with 13 laps to go. Gordon slipped to 12th on the restart before a caution for Blaney's wall contact with 7 to go. The restart came with 4 laps to go and Gordon finished the day in 12th place. He remained 11th in the series standings -- 2 points outside the top-10.

Turning point
A caution flag with 35 laps to go allowed Gordon to make up positions on pit road. He gained 4 spots to put him in position for a top-10 finish.

Gamble Pays Off
FEDEX 400 - Dover International Speedway. Finish: 3rd

Tony Stewart won his first race of the 2013 season after passing Juan Pablo Montoya with 3 laps to go. Jeff Gordon might have been able to run down the top-2 with a few extra laps, but came in 3rd after a pit gamble paid off. It was Gordon's second consecutive top-5 finish and the 301st of his career -- tying him with David Pearson in career top-5's. The finish propelled Gordon up to 11th in the series standings.

Gordon started 20th and gained 4 spots in the first 20 laps. He moved to 15th on lap 30 while complaining about handling issues. He came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 73. A debris caution slowed the field on lap 79 with Gordon in 14th place. He pitted for tires and restarted in 13th place on lap 85. However, Gordon faded on the restart and ran 17th on lap 90. As the air pressures came up in the tires, Gordon gained back spots and ran 15th at the 100-lap mark. The handling fell off on the longer run and Gordon fell to 17th on lap 120. The second debris caution brought pit stops on lap 127. He gained 2 spots on pit road and another 2 on the track to run 13th on lap 150. The next caution waved for Matt Kenseth's blown engine on lap 160. At the halfway point, Gordon ran in 12th place.

Gordon moved to 11th after the halfway mark, but dropped to 12th when Tony Stewart went by on lap 220. Following a green flag pit stop on lap 238, Gordon ran in 15th place in danger of going a lap down. He moved to 14th prior to a caution on lap 280 for Martin Truex's engine. Pit stops followed with Gordon exiting in 13th place. Gordon ran 14th at lap 300 when the caution waved for Ryan Newman and David Gilliland's wreck on the backstretch. Gordon restarted 14th on lap 306 and dropped to 15th by lap 310. Kasey Kahne's spin and subsequent wall contact brought out the caution on lap 317. Gordon stayed on the track and restarted in 2nd place -- the high water mark of his day.

On the restart, Gordon fell to 4th within one lap. However, on the long green flag run, Gordon needed to stop one more time for fuel. He received a much-needed break with 24 laps to go when Denny Hamlin cut a tire and hit the wall. The crew changed four tires and Gordon restarted 7th with 20 to go. He took 6th from Brad Keselowski with 17 to go and entered the top-5 when Jimmie Johnson was penalized for jumping the restart. Gordon took 3rd from Kyle Busch with 13 to go and posted his second straight top-5 finish at Dover.

Turning point
Crew chief Alan Gustafson kept Gordon on the track during a caution period on lap 317. That allowed him to move from 14th to 2nd. A well-timed caution flag with 24 laps to go clinched a top-5 finish.

JG's comments
"We needed some things to go our way and that's something that's been hit or miss for us this year. Finally things went our way. We made a call to stay out, which obviously paid off and gave us some good track position. The car drove pretty good up front there. We needed a caution. You hate to see what happened to Denny, but it certainly paid off for us. Then we had a car with 4 tires that really took off. I was able to get by Kyle, but it started getting really loose on me as I caught the other two. All I could do was watch at that point. We almost got Montoya on the last lap, but it almost cost us another position. It's a great top-3."

"It was a fantastic finish for us. We battled hard all day long in 13th/14th -- I think we got up to maybe 10th at one time. It's frustrating when you think that you have a better car than that. You're trying to make adjustments on the pit stops and play the right tire strategy, but you're just not making any ground up. We just got fortunate there where we only had a few laps on the tires and we decided to stay out. Right away on the restart I knew that clean air made a huge difference. We were able to stay up there in 3rd or 4th for that entire run. We knew we needed the caution to come out. You hate to see it happen the way it did. But it paid off for us to be able to come in and get four tires and have a good restart there to get 3rd."

"It's certainly a great feeling. We've been running good. We just have had some things happen to us. Kind of like last year some were self-inflicted and some things were out of our hands. We just have to fight. We fought hard today. This is a tough place because it's hot and slick. It wasn't an easy race and this team just never gave up. That's what got us in the Chase last year. That's what's going to get us in there this year. It's so hard. Everytime we have a finish like we did at Darlington or a finish like today or even a good run at Charlotte, it's just never over until it's over. We just can't ever seem to get momentum. All I can tell you is that our pit crew has definitely improved. We made a little change there and it's paying off for us. Our cars have improved so that always makes life a little easier. Now I just have to make sure I don't make any mistakes. I think Alan will probably second that. We just have to be really solid and get the results that we're capable of getting. Today was a great race for us just because we were sitting there 12th, 13th, 14th. We stay out and all of a sudden here we are 3rd. So that's a great lesson for us somewhere when we go to other tracks as well."

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