Out of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers, Jeff Gordon was the only one to be on the good side of the Chase Grid going into tonight’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
However, with the Top 8 drivers advancing to the Eliminator Round, Gordon held the eighth spot by just eight points over teammate Kasey Kahne. The four-time Sprint Cup champion was still in a precarious position and needed a big result to put himself farther up the Grid.
Mission accomplished. Gordon couldn’t keep up with race winner Kevin Harvick on the final restart with two laps to go, but his second-place finish elevated him to sixth on the Grid and stretched his cushion over the cutoff to 18 points.
He’ll certainly take that momentum as he prepares to race his way into the Eliminator Round in next weekend’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
“Kevin got out there on us after that last green flag stop, and it looked like we were gonna be second,” Gordon said to ESPN. “I didn’t want to see another restart, because every time we start on the inside, we seemed to lose positions.
“But there at the end, and in the whole race, we were just trying to tune and make it better. We got off a little bit, lost some track position – I had some terrible restarts – but there at the end, four tires, good adjustments, and we were able to get right up in the thick of it. Kevin was tough. I knew when he got up front, it was gonna be hard to beat him.”
But while he has some breathing room now, he’s not out of the woods yet. Talladega still awaits.
“It doesn’t make us by any means very comfortable going into next week, but a lot better than it could be,” he said.
Gordon was especially strong during the first 100 laps of the race, when he took the lead from pole sitter Kyle Busch at Lap 14 and did the same again at Lap 38.
A cycle of green flag stops at Lap 79 ended with him up front once more, but while Gordon ceded the point eventually, he remained firmly embedded in the Top 5 at halfway.
Toward the end of the race, Gordon made another late charge. He moved into “podium” position with 38 laps remaining before taking second behind Harvick with 31 to go.
A final round of green flag stops with about 20 to go kept Gordon in second before Brian Vickers suffered an engine failure with seven laps to go.
Like Harvick, Gordon stayed out on track to prepare for the restart with two to go, which went Harvick’s way as he cleared Gordon off Turn 2 on their way to the white flag.