Jeff Gordon earns season-best finish at Texas, takes over Sprint Cup points lead; teammates don’t fare as well

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Jeff Gordon thought he had a pretty good chance to win Monday’s rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Gordon continues to seek his first Sprint Cup win of the season, but he can’t be too disappointed after recording a season-best second-place finish to race winner Joey Logano.

“That was a great battle,” Gordon said. “At one point, I didn’t think we had a shot at all.

“We had a pretty good restart (on the final restart). Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose in (turns) one and two. I wish I would have gone a little bit higher in three and four, but he got that run off four.

“Then he got into the back of me, and I thought I was going to wreck. At that point, I was like, ”Second will be good.'”

But even better, Gordon leaves Fort Worth atop the Sprint Cup standings, jumping up three places in the rankings.

“I so badly wanted to get this Texas A&M Engineering, maroon and those Aggies a win today here in Texas,” Gordon said after the race. “That was an awesome race all day. I have to thank all the fans that came out and all those watching at home.”

In the last pit stop before a green-white-checker finish, Gordon’s crew chief Alan Gustafson decided to call for only two tires on the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Logano had four tires on his Penske Ford.

While it helped Gordon get back on the track in the No. 1 position, there just wasn’t enough time or laps left for him to hold off Logano, who charged to the front on the backstretch and held on for his fourth career Sprint Cup win.

“No, we didn’t,” Gordon said when asked if he didn’t have enough to hold off Logano. “We were real strong in the first half of the race and when the sun came out, some guys came to the front and we just kind of lost the handling and got real tight.

“Great call by Alan Gustafson. Everybody on this No. 24 team did an awesome job in the pits.”

Gordon had the best day of all HMS drivers, by far.

Kasey Kahne finished 11th, but the news wasn’t as good for six-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt wrecked on lap 13, just two laps under green flag conditions after the first ten were run under a yellow/green caution.

Earnhardt made a mistake and drove off the track with his left front wheel into the water-logged infield grass on the edge of turn one. The grass slam did severe damage to Earnhardt’s front end and splitter, but that wasn’t all.

Earnhardt lost control and the car abruptly went up the racetrack and slammed head-on into the outside retaining wall, catching fire at the same time.

Earnhardt eventually got his car to the bottom of the track and exited. He was uninjured and attempts to get his car back on the track failed, leaving him last in the 43-car field.

Johnson, meanwhile, was right behind Earnhardt when the incident happened and a chunk of the grass, as well as rubber from the left front tire of Earnhardt’s car slammed into Johnson’s windshield, requiring three pit stops to fully repair.

Johnson then had tire issues that caused another unscheduled pit stop, ultimately leaving him with a 25th-place finish, two laps behind the winning Logano.

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March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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