Weekend Road Rage

Jeff Gordon looked at the Watkins Glen race as a prime opportunity to gain ground in the points standings. He tested at the track in late July and won the pole position for the race with a new track record on Friday.

However, the race proved to be an uphill endeavor which culminated in an unmitigated disaster. Heading into the first turn on lap 1, Greg Biffle locked up his brakes battling Mark Martin side by side and hit the right rear of Gordon's Chevrolet sending him into a spin. He stayed in the throttle during the spin and kept the car out of the gravel pit.

"I got a great jump and went down into turn one," Gordon said after the race. "It's the first lap, there's no reason to blast the thing down in there. I don't know if Biffle was racing (Martin) and they both drove in there real hard or what happened. He just blasted me."

Gordon rejoined the race in 43rd position-- hardly the start he expected. As the day progressed, Gordon made his way through race traffic driving with a sense of urgency as the laps clicked away. He moved up to 23rd by lap 19 and was up to 13th just twenty laps later. The complexion of the race changed on lap 50 when Rusty Wallace got off course to bring out a caution flag.

A number of drivers came to pit road before the caution to allow them to restart ahead of drivers who pitted under caution. Dale Earnhardt Jr was leading at the time of the caution, but couldn't take advantage of the situation. Robby Gordon was able to make his final pit stop before the caution waved to give him valuable track position for the restart.

Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon was mired back in 24th after the field was shuffled due to the timing of the caution. He made his way into the top-10 with 22 laps remaining and passed Earnhardt Jr for the fifth position with 11 laps to go. With seven laps remaining, he closed in on Kevin Harvick for third and took the position with a bump pass in turn nine. Gordon closed in on Scott Pruett for the runner-up spot with two laps remaining but lost fuel pressure heading into turn one on the final lap. Earnhardt Jr passed Gordon for position soonafter.

"(The team) told me I was good to go all the way on fuel and I wasn't," Gordon said. "I ran out a lap early and I started saving fuel on that last lap. Dale Jr had a run on me and I was just trying to get out of his way. He hit me and luckily I held it straight."

He made his way around and coasted off turn 11. At the front of the field, Robby Gordon outdistanced Pruett to score his second win of the season and sweep the road course races in 2003. Kevin Harvick, battling Jimmie Johnson for fourth place, hit Gordon from behind sending the DuPont Chevrolet spinning sideways into the inside guardrail. Since the car was out of fuel, Gordon was unable to restart the engine and was credited with a 33rd place finish, the lowest of his career at Watkins Glen. A hard fought top five finish was ruined less than 500 feet from the finish line.

"It's our fault for running out of gas but (Harvick) was fighting a little bit too hard, because it was easy to pass me," Gordon said. "I was just trying to coast back to the line and he thinks I'm racing for position. It sucked that I ran out of fuel and the car stopped. All he had to do was drive right by me- it's pretty simple."

Harvick contended that Gordon was in the racing groove and contact was unavoidable. "You come to the checkered (flag) and he runs out of gas. I got into the back of him and he's zigging and zagging and I gassed it up again and spun him out," Harvick said. "There wasn't much I could do about it. Usually when you're out of gas, you get out of the racing groove."

It was Gordon's second DNF in the past three races. His sense of frustration heightened by a delayed response from the "local track safety crew" and an obligatory post-race ambulance ride that became a traffic jam fiasco. "A hundred people could have gotten there before they got there," Gordon said of the safety crew. He dropped 396 points behind Matt Kenseth who finished eighth at Watkins Glen.

As far as championship hopes for 2003, this race might have been the dagger.

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