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With high stakes, no brakes for Gordon's Chase

November 14, 2011, Mark Aumann,

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Finishes six laps down at Phoenix, mathematically eliminated from championship

When it came down to it, Jeff Gordon couldn't buy a brake.

Fighting an issue with overheating brakes for much of the second half of Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500, Gordon finished six laps down in 32nd place, which mathematically eliminated him from the championship.

Gordon, who won at Phoenix in the spring and had a dominant summer -- including wins at Pocono and Atlanta -- never seemed to get untracked after running out of gas in the Chase opener at Chicagoland. Things then went from bad to worse for Gordon with three consecutive finishes outside of the top 20.

A couple of top-10 finishes at Martinsville and Texas allowed him to keep pace with Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, but Gordon knew even before taking the green flag Sunday that his chances of winning a fifth title were down to slim and none.

"We knew we were out of it but you still want to close your season on a positive note," Gordon said. "You want to carry some momentum into the offseason, as well as moving up as high in the points as you can.

"It hasn't been our Chase at all and not the kind of year we wanted, the way we wanted to close out the year. But this is a very good team and we've got a lot to look forward to in the future."

Gordon pitted several times under caution to allow his team to cut larger openings in the front valance where the brake ducts are located, to no avail. The harder he tried to run, the worse his situation got.

After climbing from his No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon peered into the open hood, hoping to see something that might explain why he struggled with overheating brakes on a day when the temperature barely reached 70 degrees. After surveying the situation, Gordon could only shrug his shoulders and answer in the negative when asked if there was a physical problem with the equipment.

"I had brakes. I just didn't have enough to go fast," Gordon said. "Every time I'd try to go a little faster and use a little more brake, then all of a sudden the pedal would go down to the floor. And I'd have to just back them down and let them cool off.

"It's just something we have to look into. We had a lot of [brake duct] opening to cool them, so they shouldn't have gotten hot."

Gordon said his trip to Phoenix seemed to sum up what has gone wrong over the past two months.

"A disappointing day and a disappointing weekend," Gordon said. "We weren't good here in the test, we weren't good when we got here [but] we made a little bit of gains there and worked our way up there a little bit."

Gordon started 23rd and moved into the top 10 within the first 50 laps. But he steadily dropped back after that as the handling on his race car got progressively looser, most noticeably on the side-by-side restarts.

"The restarts were hurting us really bad," Gordon said. "It was really slick out there. We were fighting and battling but then the brake problem happened and that pretty much ruined our day."

Watch Gordon's season highlights: