Jeff Gordon laments Chase elimination, holds Keselowski and Texas incident as main reason

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Despite falling short of the championship round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Jeff Gordon has nothing to be ashamed of.

In his quest for the fifth Cup championship of his career, the so-called “Drive For Five” – in what would have been his 13th try at it since his last title in 2001 – Gordon had arguably his best season in close to a decade.

That’s why Gordon is understandably disappointed to have come so close, and yet ultimately fell short.

“I’m disappointed,” Gordon said. “I thought if we came out of here second, even if it was to Kevin or (Brad) Keselowski, I thought we’d still make it in.

“That’s pretty disappointing to do all of that. It just makes last week (at Texas) that much more disappointing and I’m going to be thinking about that one for a while.”

Even so, Gordon and the No. 24 team, who were the only remaining hope for Hendrick Motorsports to win the championship, have nothing to be ashamed about for falling just one point – ONE POINT! – short of reaching the championship round.

“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but we have a lot to hold our heads up high about – the way that we raced this race and this whole Chase and the whole season,” Gordon said. “We raced hard. We raced together as a team.

“But I hope we taught somebody (Keselowski) that you can race clean and still go out there and give it your best. You don’t have to wreck people to make it in the Chase or win the championship.”

That’s why even if he had been able to catch Harvick in the closing laps and likely would have had to wreck him to win the race himself, Gordon said he would not have done so in much the same fashion that Ryan Newman forced Kyle Larson into the wall to earn the one extra point for Newman to make the Chase – and Gordon to be eliminated.

“I’m not going to wreck a guy that’s racing me clean all year long just to make it into the Chase,” Gordon said of Harvick. “That’s not what it’s all about for me.

“You’re not going to go win the championship next week by doing that. So, it’s just unfortunate. It’s just unfortunate. We did everything so good this year.”

But if there’s anyone Gordon is going to blame for falling short, it won’t be Newman, but rather Keselowski.

“That one race, that one race (last week at Texas) is going to stick with me for a little while,” Gordon said. “I got over it this week, knowing that we could come here and compete like this. Now it makes it sting that much more.”

Perhaps what makes the Chase elimination pill even more bitter to swallow is that Gordon finished second to race winner Harvick, yet still was eliminated.

“We did everything right, in my opinion,” Gordon said. “We did everything that we could control. We ran smart races. We were aggressive when we needed to be. We had great race cars. When we needed to qualify up front, we qualified up front.

“Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) called a great race today. We fell back; had some issues on a pit stop, and fought our way back up there and held on for second there at the end. We gave it everything. I’m proud of that.”

There had been speculation that Gordon might call it quits after this season, whether he won the championship or not.

But he allayed those fears totally after Sunday’s race.

“I certainly will (return in 2015) because of this race team,” Gordon said. “They have inspired me this year. They’ve given me great cars and great confidence.

“They’ve given me such great cars, and pit stops and pit strategy and it’s been a lot of fun this year. I think nobody is more deserving and has worked harder to be at Homestead battling for this championship than this No. 24 team. But some things are out of our control.”

To his credit, even though he didn’t reach the championship, Gordon still tried to find something to smile about.

“I told my wife when the day started that no matter what happens today, we have a lot to smile about and be happy about,” Gordon said. “We have two wonderful children. We’ve worked our guts out this year as a race team and we’ve won races and showed everybody what kind of race team we are.

“And for that I’m extremely proud. I knew if this moment happened and we had that kind of performance today, it would be very tough to take. But that’s the reality of it.”

While Gordon still has a chance to win the season-ending race, he called Sunday the most empty feeling he’s ever had after driving a great race – but with a caveat.

“Yeah, it is,” Gordon said, then adding with a laugh, “Besides last week (after his run-in with Keselowski).”

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”