In his 700th career Sprint Cup Series start, Jeff Gordon became the fourth driver in NASCAR history to attain 300 Top-5 finishes in its premier category thanks to his third-place finish in last night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Gordon joins NASCAR icons Richard Petty (555 Top-5s), Bobby Allison (336), and David Pearson (301) as the only men to reach that plateau in their careers. The statistic is especially impressive when you put it in the context of active Cup drivers; Gordon’s 300 Top-5 results is the top mark by a country mile over second-place Tony Stewart with 174 and third-place Jimmie Johnson with 168.
“We’ve known for some time that this should be where it should happen,” said Gordon, who led the Chevrolet camp at ‘The Lady in Black.’ “I thought that was very cool. I think, looking back throughout my career, this track has been one of the best for me, a very special place. [It] holds so much history for this sport. To have the seven wins here that I have, I couldn’t think of a better place to come to and get the 700th start here. Then to go out there [tonight] and have a strong performance, it felt great.”
Gordon climbed into the lead toward the midway point of the race and while he was unable to hang on to it, he was still one of the top drivers in the field throughout the night. He lined up sixth on a restart following the caution at Lap 302, and over the last 65 laps, he was able to move into the Top 5.
A battle with Denny Hamlin for second place on the last lap didn’t go his way, but third place was still a much-needed result for Gordon, who had gone without a Top 5 finish since Martinsville.
“I wanted the 700th to be a memorable one, and I’m glad it wasn’t like last year’s memory where we blew two left rear tires back‑to‑back,” he said. “This was much better than that. Top three, that’s fantastic. I mean, we needed this kind of performance, a gutsy performance, for the points as well as to make this one memorable.”
Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.
Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.
After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.
“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.
“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.
“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”
Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.
“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.
“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.
Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.
Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.
Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.
Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.
However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.
Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.
You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.