Costly Victory

Brian Vickers' win in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500 was the 148th NEXTEL Cup victory for Hendrick Motorsports.

However I doubt they'll be much celebrating going on Monday.

Whether you think Vickers took a cheap shot at teammate Jimmie Johnson and leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the last lap or it was just another example of what happens during restrictor plate racing, the net result of the day was not good for Hendrick.

While Vickers was standing in victory lane doing his post-race interviews over a healthy chorus of boos from most of the 170,000 fans at Talladega, two of his Hendrick teammates were shaking their heads over the hit they took in the championship standings.

Johnson seemed poised to climb out of the eighth place hole he held in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" standings with at least a second place finish Sunday.

Instead his crumpled Lowe's Chevrolet was credited with a 24th place finish and Johnson no further up the standings than when the day began.

"I can't believe it, here we went all day long and had a great chance to make up some points and got crashed by a teammate," Johnson said.

"I'm just bummed out that we can't take advantage of a day when we can really close up in points. That's the way this Chase has been for us. We've had cars worthy of a championship, but crazy things have happened at the end. I'm just really disappointed."

Gordon's day had a similar ending after a first half that held a lot of promise. The DuPont Chevrolet was strong from the start and Gordon was in the lead pack until encountering the day's first "Big One" on lap 138, which the four-time champion felt was the result of over-aggressiveness.

"The thing I don't understand is that NASCAR has been talking about bump-drafting for I don't know how many times we've come here and to Daytona, and they said it in the driver's meeting and they weren't doing a thing about it out there," Gordon said.

"I mean guys were just bump-drafting. And the more they do it, the more they get away with it, the less they seem to care. I know they care, but they're just not doing anything about it. You've got to stop it when it starts. And guys were slamming into one another and hitting each other in the corner and yeah, we're in control - it's a great race track and it's got a lot of grip and the banking and everything is wonderful, but eventually just what happened is going to happen."

With six races to go, Gordon and Johnson face an uphill battle if there are any championship hopes still alive.

In Gordon's case, it doesn't sound like it.

"You know what, I've said all along if it's meant to be, it's meant to be," Gordon said. "And it just doesn't seem meant to be for the DuPont Chevrolet. We'll just go out and race now. We've got some great tracks coming up.

"We can win races. You never know what can happen, but right now I'm not even thinking about it because I'm so bummed out that I know that our chances are pretty slim to win this championship if not completely done."

Brian Vickers may have won Sunday's battle, but as the "Chase" nears the halfway mark, Hendrick Motorsports may have indeed lost the war.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2006

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