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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”