News & Media

Three-wide at RIR leaves Gordon nowhere to hide

May 02, 2011, Mark Aumann,

RICHMOND, Va. -- A combination of conflicting pit strategies, a little bit of impatience and three-wide racing on a short track led to a multi-car, chain-reaction accident during Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway, ruining the evenings of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, David Reutimann and others.

"I hate it with the pit sequence and the pit strategy that was going on there that we lost all that track position," Gordon said. "With 100 [laps] to go and everyone was just getting so impatient, you had to dive in there three-wide. I don't know what happened behind me but somebody shot up and got my left rear and around we went."

"I don't know what happened behind me but somebody shot up and got my left rear and around we went."


The race to that point had been relatively unblemished, with Gordon and Kenseth running up front at different times. But following an incident involving Brad Keselowski and Landon Cassill on Lap 280, the field was shuffled as some teams chose to pit while others stayed on the track.

That put Gordon and Kenseth in the middle of the pack on the ensuing restart, and as the field tried to sort itself out on the backstretch on Lap 301, Gordon was in the center of the track with Kenseth off his left rear bumper, Menard to his right rear and Clint Bowyer between Kenseth and Menard.

Just before the pack reached Turn 3, Bowyer and Kenseth touched, turning Kenseth's No. 17 Ford sideways and setting off the melee. Kenseth clipped the rear of Gordon's Chevrolet and bounced off the left front of Menard's car while Bowyer took evasive action and dipped inside. Behind that, Reutimann and Mark Martin made contact, with Martin winding up backwards on the track.

Gordon spun completely around and slammed hard into the inside retaining wall, a spot where the track had not installed SAFER barriers. After climbing from his car, Gordon was checked and released from the infield medical center. He was credited with a 39th-place finish.

The accident was reminiscent of one Gordon had at Las Vegas in 2008, where he hit an unprotected area of the wall hard enough to send the radiator of his car flying several hundred yards.

"I'm not trying to teach anybody anything," Gordon said. "I really am not. I think it is pretty well known we need SAFER barriers everywhere.

"You think it is a short track and everything but man, I hit a ton and hit right on the corner where you don't want to hit. It definitely got my attention. That is for sure. It rang my bell."

Kenseth blamed the accident on too many cars racing for too little track.

"I still don't really know what entirely happened on the wreck we were involved in, but everyone was racing hard tonight for position and we just didn't have anywhere else to go," Kenseth said.

The others involved made multiple stops during the caution to repair the damage and continue on. Bowyer was able to rebound to finish sixth.

"Even though we got caught up in one of those typical short-track incidents, the guys never gave up," Bowyer said. "We led some laps and got out of here seventh in the points."

Martin, Kenseth, Reutimann and Menard weren't as fortunate. Martin wound up 14th, Kenseth 21st, Reutimann 31st and Menard 37th, all running various laps down to eventual winner Kyle Busch.

"We looked like we were going to get a decent finish in tonight," Kenseth said. "I was tight in the middle and loose off for much of the race, but [crew chief Jimmy Fennig] and the guys kept working on adjustments early on in the race to help our handling."

For Gordon, losing an opportunity for a win -- and three spots in the standings -- added to the frustration of seeing his race end 100 laps shy of the finish.

"Any time you have cars that stay out, cars that take two [tires], cars that take four, they are going to be diving in there, taking it three-wide," Gordon said. "I was having to do it too. I'm sure not blaming anybody else. Just kind of the circumstances when we're like that. I just think that we got the bad end of it."