Jeff Gordon: M’ville penalty, not Texas run-in with Keselowski, hurt title hopes the most

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After Jeff Gordon’s elimination from the Chase for the Sprint Cup with one race to go in the 2014 season, many of his fans have cited his late-race contact with Brad Keselowski at Texas as the moment where his “Drive For Five” was derailed.

And while Gordon was ruing the Texas incident in the immediate aftermath of his elimination, the NASCAR icon now apparently finds himself haunted not by that race, but another.

In the Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway, Gordon was leading after a round of stops under caution at Lap 188 only to be penalized for speeding on pit lane.

The four-time Cup champ fought back valiantly to finish second behind winner and teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., but if not for that penalty, Gordon may have scored the win that would have propelled him into the Championship 4 for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Instead, Gordon finished 29th at Texas after his run-in with Keselowski, which caused him to suffer a tire failure that eventually led to you-know-what.

One week later, he was then knocked out in the Eliminator finale at Phoenix after Ryan Newman shoved Kyle Larson aside to finish 11th and beat Gordon for the final transfer spot to the championship race by one point.

“The incident at Texas got obviously intense and lot of drama and led to more than I wish it ever led to,” Gordon said per Dustin Long of MRN. “I’ve put more attention on the mistake that I made at Martinsville on pit road.

“I think that would have given us as good or better chance of winning that race to move us on to Homestead as the incident at Texas. What I did at Martinsville, that was a big mistake.”

Gordon’s elimination from the Chase put a damper on an otherwise successful season for him and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team. Carrying momentum from their strong 2013 Chase, Gordon scored four victories (including a fifth career triumph in his beloved Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis) to fuel a late-career renaissance.

Still, even though he’s surely feeling confident in regards to the big picture after a strong 2014, it would seem that not being able to compete for the title gave Gordon some pause.

“You have to move on,” he added to MRN. “You have to learn from it. You have to let go. It’s not easy. I’m fairly good at moving past things like that. It depends on the sting.

“Some take longer than others and that was a big sting…”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III