Jeff Gordon's title hopes take hit at Texas
November 03, 2013, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Devastated. That's how Jeff Gordon described his emotions as he watched his team work furiously to repair his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet in the Texas Motor Speedway garage only 74 laps into the 334-lap event Sunday.
Gordon, who came into the race ranked third in the Sprint Cup Seres standings -- 27 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, blew a left front tire and crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall badly damaging the entire right side side of his car. And even though he managed to return to the race an hour later, Gordon only gained a handful of positions. He ended up scored 38th, which dropped him three spots in the championship standings to sixth -- a hefty 69 points behind the new leader and Sunday’s race winner Johnson.
"Just had a left front tire go down, not really sure why yet, trying to figure that out, but that's a shame," Gordon said from his garage as the crew worked behind him to at least the make the car drivable enough to collect what championship points he can. "I don't know if I ran over something or we just had a failure. I felt it go down and even had time to go on the radio and say, 'Oh you-know-what' because I knew I was getting ready to hit the wall hard."
"It's a shame. This team has worked so hard to get ourselves in this position and we can't have things like this happen. This is going to hurt."
Gordon said the team hadn't had a chance to determine what exactly caused the tire problem but that he was happy with the car following an eighth-place qualifying effort and looking forward to a long run where he was confident in showing some of the speed.
"We had something similar to this happen to the 5 car (Kasey Kahne) in Homestead testing (last week) so we were very conservative with camber and air pressure, but it puts so much strain on the left side tires to make these cars work these days," Gordon said. "It doesn't matter now though, it happened. We're going to take a huge hit in the points and all we can do is get as many points as we can and go to the next two races."
Gordon's fall in the standings was the largest shakeup among the 13-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. It was particularly disheartening for him because he was the final driver who qualified for the Chase, added by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France at the last moment because of a controversial outcome in the regular-season finale.
"It's devastating," Gordon said. "You know how things have to go your way to stay close to those guys or even make up a gap. We had a fast car on the long runs, we just got stuck in the outside lane on every restart so we kept losing positions after we had gained them all back. I was looking forward to getting a restart on the inside and having a couple long runs because I really thought we could make some ground up.
"We have to put this behind us and go race hard the next two weeks."
Team owner Rick Hendrick was equally as dejected for his veteran driver even as he had celebrated Sunday's race win with Johnson moments earlier.
"Jeff was leading this race earlier this year and had a bearing failure, which we never have," Hendrick said. "You know Jeff was just really pumped up about being in the Chase and winning Martinsville last week. I hate it for that team because they have really come together. You just can't help stuff like tire problems or things that happen to you.
"I feel for Jeff because he had really shown what that team can do, I hate it for him."