Gordon Gamble Comes Up Short
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on April 7, 2014 | 6:10 P.M. EST
Gordon has a four-point advantage on second-place Matt Kenseth heading into this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway after Gordon finished second to Joey Logano on Monday at Texas. (Photo: Getty Images)
Gordon has a four-point advantage on second-place Matt Kenseth heading into this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway after Gordon finished second to Joey Logano on Monday at Texas.
The gamble came on the pit stop before the green-white-checkered finish.
Gordon entered pit road sixth, as all the leaders stopped for fresh tires. While most took four tires, Gordon and Brian Vickers each took two tires. That put Gordon first and Vickers second on the restart. Fresher tires are so much better on Texas’ worn racing surface that Gordon could only hold off Logano for one lap before Logano zipped by on the final lap to win.
After the race, crew chief Alan Gustafson said on the team’s radio about his pit call: “We’re focusing on winning, focusing on winning.’’
Gordon was fine with that.
“That was a great call,’’ Gordon said after climbing from his car. “We weren’t a winning car. Joey was the class of the field the second half of the race. I think it was a great second-place finish.’’
In a similar situation two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway, the team changed four tires before the green-white-checkered but that left Gordon in sixth with little chance to win. He finished 13th.
Gustafson’s two-tire ploy might have worked Monday had more cars tried to take two tires. Denny Hamlin said his team planned to take two tires but when he overshot the pits, they changed all four tires.
With only two cars taking two tires, that put Logano - the first car with four fresh tires - behind Gordon on the restart.
“I was dreading that restart because I knew that I had a pack of wolves behind me,’’ Gordon said. “We got a good restart. I was worried about spinning the tires. We got into Turn 1 and Joey was all over me, and I was trying to figure out which way he was going to go. He kind of swapped over and hit me coming off (Turn) 4. I was just trying to save it and not wreck. At that point, it was, boy, I’d love to bring that home second.’’
By doing so, he leads the points. While that might not matter as much now, the points leader after the September Richmond race earns a Chase spot even if they don’t have a win.
Still, Gordon has 19 chances to get a victory.
“The pressure’s always there to win,’’ he said. “That’s what we are all out there to do. It’s important to be consistent because that helps you get in a position to win more often.’’
Consistency has not been an issue for Gordon. He’s finished between second (Texas) and 13th (Auto Club Speedway) this season. He’s also one of only three drivers - Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards the others - to complete every lap this season.
With Logano winning, he becomes the seventh different winner to open the season and likely taking another Chase spot.
“Every race that goes by that there’s a different winner, the pressure gets more intense,’’ Gordon said. “You just got to go look at that next opportunity and try to put yourself in that position to go win it.
“i’m real happy with the way our team’s performing this year. Feel like we missed a couple of opportunities, but we’re also running really strong. I know that opportunity’s going to come for us.’’