LOUDON, N.H. (September 20)- - Nobody said it would be easy. Despite a seventh place finish in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, Jeff Gordon dropped to third in the series standings as the chase for the championship began with a few twists. Kurt Busch claimed his third win of the season in dominating fashion to move into a tie with Dale Earnhardt Jr for the series lead. Earnhardt Jr finished third and took the points lead by virtue of having more victories than Busch. Gordon is 9 points behind, with Matt Kenseth trailing by 10 points. Gordon's day took a major turn following a competition caution period on lap 35. He struggled with the handling of the DuPont Chevrolet when he was in race traffic. Due to not stopping on the first round on stops, Gordon restarted in 18th place on lap 38. He moved up to 11th on lap 64, when the championship chase was altered. Robby Gordon, in a move to pay Greg Biffle back for an earlier incident, hit Biffle in the center of the corner. Biffle's spin collected Jeremy Mayfield and Tony Stewart. However, for Jeff Gordon, the race remained an uphill struggle. Track position hindered his efforts as he gambled on two tires during a pit stop on lap 97 to move up to fifth. Gordon passed Elliott Sadler for the third spot on lap 133, but that would be as high as he would get for the remainder of the day. He slipped to sixth on lap 143, and fell back to 12th on lap 152 as his battled a loose handling car getting into the corners. A pit stop on lap 176 brought chassis adjustments and Gordon moved up to 10th by lap 200. The final pit stop was under green on lap 261. A caution for debris bunched the field on lap 275. However, Busch was simply too strong. He drove away on the final restart to sweep both Loudon races in 2004. Gordon passed Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip in the closing stages to claim 7th place. "We didn't have a very good run going," Gordon said after the race. "We started out great, but it just went away from there. We never could really get a handle on it. We were very fortunate for that last caution and pulled out a 7th place finish. I'm happy with that, but I'm not happy with getting beat as bad as we did today. But I knew Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth were going to be really strong today. So it's no surprise that they were where they were. We stayed close to them. This wasn't our best track and that's why we tested here. Now we're going to go to the next one and see what we can pull out of there." When you look at those guys and their troubles and they have a long hard battle ahead of them. But for us, we needed a top 10 and to get up there and get a 7th in the end, I was very happy. I wasn't happy with our performance today, but I was happy with 7th at the end."
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