News & Media


Gordon's Chase hopes hit the wall at Chicagoland

September 16, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Gordon's Chase hopes hit the wall at Chicagoland
JOLIET, Ill. -- Driver does extensive damage to right side of No. 24 Chevrolet after throttle sticks

In one week, Jeff Gordon went from a miracle finish to perhaps needing a miracle to win his fifth NASCAR championship.

Eight days after grabbing the final spot in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup in amazing fashion, Gordon hit the wall on Lap 188 of the GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway after his throttle stuck heading into Turn 1 (Video).

"I let off the throttle, and it just didn't come all the way back. It was probably about half throttle, which is still enough to do a lot of damage."

--JEFF GORDON

After starting 19th, Gordon steadily had moved his way into the top five and was looking for a strong start to the Chase. Instead, he wound up with a 35th-place finish and finds himself 47 points behind Brad Keselowski with nine races remaining.

"We were having a good day," Gordon said while his crew worked to replace major damage to the right side of the No. 24 Chevrolet. "The guys did an awesome job in the pits and tuning on the car and who knows what we could have done with them at the end."

After the heavy hit, Gordon slowed on the backstretch and immediately brought the car down pit road and into the garage area. His crew hustled to meet him, began assessing the damage and started grabbing replacement parts from the nearby hauler.

The team wound up replacing both the right A-frame and front right hub assembly. Gordon made it back on the track with less than 10 laps remaining, but after circling the track at a reduced speed, he realized he couldn't make up any additional positions.

Gordon thought what happened was that the throttle return spring malfunctioned.

"It didn't stick wide-open," Gordon said. "I let off the throttle, and it just didn't come all the way back. It was probably about half throttle, which is still enough to do a lot of damage.

"We're looking at what the issue is there and what could have caused that."

Gordon came into the Chase with a tremendous amount of positive momentum, having finished third at Bristol, followed by back-to-back runner-up finishes at Atlanta and Richmond. That allowed him to overtake Kyle Busch for the final spot in the postseason field.

As soon as the green flag dropped, Gordon was on the charge, moving into the top 10 by Lap 30 and working his way into the top five by Lap 75. After Casey Mears hit the wall to bring out a caution just after the halfway mark, Gordon was one of the handful of drivers who hadn't stopped under green.

That put him fourth on the restart, and he remained in a battle with teammate Kasey Kahne and fellow Chevy driver Ryan Newman for a spot in the top five until hitting the wall 30 laps later.

Gordon said the setback doesn't mean the No. 24 is out of championship contention, but it will require digging out of an early hole.

"In this deal, you can't afford to have issues like that," Gordon said. "... I don't know if we had anything to win the race, but we certainly were giving it everything we had, and that's very disappointing."