News & Media

Happenstance brings strong Busch-Gordon run

July 04, 2011, Mark Aumann,

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Unlikely duo cuts through the field after both damaged in late Daytona incident

Talk about a reversal of fortune.

With two laps remaining in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch went from having cars that had the potential to win the race to considering themselves lucky to even be still in the race, let alone on the lead lap.

"I saw melee everywhere, man. I'm just thankful that we weren't in all of it. I think the best way to sum it up is go where they ain't."


Gordon spun and Busch hit the wall in an incident triggered by contact between Gordon and Kasey Kahne in the middle of a three-wide traffic jam, sending both the No. 24 Chevrolet and No. 18 Toyota to pit road for repairs during the ensuing caution flag. At the time, it seemed they were out of contention.

But thanks to a pair of restarts, the Coke Zero 400 actually went 425 miles. That gave Gordon and Busch the opportunity to team up at the back of the pack, dodge at least three multi-car accidents and make up more than two dozen positions in three laps of green-flag racing.

Amazement might be the best way to describe both drivers' emotions after the race ended.

"We kept our foot in it and drove right up through the bottom, man," Busch said. "There were some holes that parted ways and [I] just kept digging. Luckily he made it through and I made it through and we ended up with a fifth out of the deal."

Gordon called his spin "miraculous," mainly because he neither hit -- or got hit by -- anyone despite being sideways in the middle of Turn 3 with most of the field bearing down on him. And when it came to the last-lap evasive manuevers, Gordon gave all the credit to Busch -- since he couldn't really see where he was going at any point.

"There at the end it was just about getting to be on Kyle Busch's bumper and go," Gordon said. "He made some great holes. So we were able to come back somehow to finish sixth, pretty amazing."

Busch had partnered with teammate Joey Logano for most of the race, and Gordon had driven back to the front thanks to help from Mark Martin. However, they were both in the wrong place at the wrong time when push came to wreck on Lap 158.

But there was a saving grace: they were able to make repairs and even more importantly, get fresh rubber.

"When we got in the wall there, we come down pit road and we put four tires on it and fixed the fender damage and everything and got back out there," Busch said.

"We came in and got four tires and fixed the damage," Gordon said.

Still, as the race went into overtime, there were 31 cars on the lead lap. Busch and Gordon were not only looking at a lot of cars in the windshield, but trying to figure out new drafting partners. And it was Busch who made the split-second decision.

"I was already planning on being with Jimmie [Johnson]," Gordon said. "He was on my radio. But the lineup didn't work. We were talking about swapping over and stuff.

"[Tony Stewart] came and got in behind him and I was behind [Busch], and the next thing I know, Kyle's on my radio saying, 'Hey, do you want to go with me?' And the green flag was out. And we just went."

They somehow missed the 15-car pileup on the backstretch on the first try to finish the race, and stayed away from the carnage that ensued on the second.

"They wrecked again once we got through so I was like 'Whew. At least we didn't wreck on that one,' " Busch said. "I saw melee everywhere, man. I'm just thankful that we weren't in all of it.

"I think the best way to sum it up is go where they ain't."

When it came to trying to describe the final laps, Gordon was nearly at a loss for words.

"Pretty cool and pretty lucky, all at the same time," he said. "I'm just amazed we were able to come back to sixth. I mean, we were 30th, 31st or something, that second-to-last restart."