News & Media

Battery problems don't drain Gordon at Loudon

July 18, 2011, Dave Rodman,

LOUDON, N.H. -- Four-time champ has alternator issues, flat tire but still smiles after race

With only two laps left in Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, it looked like Jeff Gordon was going to score a comeback as unlikely, but equally as spectacular, as those executed by teammate Jimmie Johnson and championship rival Denny Hamlin.

At that point Gordon -- who had led earlier in the race while appearing to have a winning car -- was running fourth behind eventual top-three finishers Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin.

"It was a pretty crazy day for us, but certainly a lot to smile about with how great our car was. My goodness, the car was so good."


But then the massive electrical system issue that had put Gordon's good finish in jeopardy midway through the race delivered a coup de grace in a most unlikely way. On the last lap, Gordon's right front tire deflated, sending him to an 11th-place finish.

While Gordon was nonplussed to remain seventh in the standings, seven races away from the Chase, he was absolutely thrilled at his car's -- and his team's -- performance.

"Oh, my goodness -- what didn't happen [Sunday]?" Gordon said. "It was a pretty crazy day for us, but certainly a lot to smile about with how great our car was. My goodness, the car was so good."

Gordon had started seventh, but ran almost entirely in the top 10 until he took the lead from future Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne at Lap 126.

"I could tell at the beginning of the race that we just had to be patient and try to get track position," Gordon said. "I thought that Alan [Gustafson, crew chief] made some great calls there when we took four [tires] and others took two.

"It was a little risky but it really paid off for us. That got us a big lead. I think all we really had to do was maintain that towards the front and I think that the results might be a little bit different."

But that isn't what happened. Gordon started seeing some anomalies on his electrical voltage gauge. It was an alternator problem that ultimately led to extended pit work to replace a battery that cost him a lap. Luckily, due to few cars being a single lap down, Gordon quickly regained the lap via a free pass on one of the race's 10 cautions.

"That's what you have to do -- you have to survive these races in a lot of different ways," Gordon said. "We had a lot of obstacles thrown at us with the alternator issue."

The amusing side of that was Gordon's dash panel "lighting up like a Christmas tree." That wasn't all bad, Gordon said.

"That's what I love about these new gauges," Gordon said. "They have warning lights on them; the whole gauge lights up. When things start to happen, you're able to pay attention to it and react before everything goes wrong.

"So we knew that we were losing the power to the engine from an alternator standpoint, a battery standpoint. We had one battery in there that has an automatic shutoff when it gets to a certain volt, and it shut off on us. So that's why we had to come in and change the battery.

"But when I switched over to the other battery, yeah, everything was lighting up and flashing and going crazy. Sometimes we only run one battery, so I was pretty happy to have two batteries [Sunday]. But yeah, these gauges give you a lot of information that's very valuable and that can help you in these types of situations."

Ultimately, the information didn't help Gordon, who said he had to disengage a lot of his electrical accessories to save power. That ultimately did his hopes in.

"[The electrical issues] caused me to have to turn my [air conditioning] off and brake blowers, which probably ultimately blew that right front tire there at the end," Gordon said. "So it was a challenging day in a lot of ways. But it was certainly something. And we're excited about coming back here later in the year to this race track. Our car was fast."

Like many other competitors, Gordon was forced to play a pit- and fuel-strategy game, with a couple late stops costing him track position. But his car showed each time it was certainly capable of coming back to the front.

"From a performance standpoint I think we showed everybody what we're capable of doing; and for that I'm very excited," Gordon said. "I know the guys feel really bad about the issues that we had, but it was a great lesson for us to go through this and understand how to deal with it and how we reacted to it.

"I thought they did a great job getting the batteries in the car and switching back and forth to get through the rest of the race. There was no alternator basically and we still had a fast race car. We were still capable of driving to the front and I think it was a very valuable lesson to us.

"Plus, we had some issues with alternators, I think last year, and we thought we had them solved. And so now we've got to diagnose that issue to make sure that doesn't happen again, which can be a big plus for us. You want to go through all your checkmarks for preparing for the Chase for the championship to make sure when you get into the Chase, if you do, you don't have these kinds of issues."

Based on pure speed, Gordon said that his team, which has already won twice this season, certainly reinforced what they've already proven in 2011.

"Well, [to contend for a championship] you've got to have fast race cars and we had a fast race car," Gordon said. "I think we've shown that we can put fast race cars out on these one-mile race tracks, especially the flatter tracks and we've got to back that up with effective performances on the 1.5-miles as well, which we're closing in on, but we've got to get a little bit better.

"And so, I think fast race cars always help your chances for a championship and we seem to be putting that together right now. But we also have a very strong team. [Sunday] could have been disastrous for us with all the things that went wrong. We still came up 11th."

At the time the tire went down, Gordon said he had no warning. But in hindsight, and given the high temperatures Sunday, he said he could have predicted it.

"Again, we had so many issues thrown at us that the one that I wasn't really thinking a whole lot about was what kind of temperature we were putting into the brakes when those blowers were off -- or having to cycle them and turn them on and turn them off," Gordon said. "That long of a run on tires, I would have been a bit more conservative."

But remember, Gordon was going to the front.

"I thought Hamlin was starting to check up, trying to save fuel and we had a shot at getting to him," Gordon said. "So I started charging the corner a little bit harder and so I think we put too much temperature on it and that blew the right front tire."