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Gordon’s Hopes Are On The Ropes

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 17 2010

Things looked good for Jeff Gordon early on Saturday night, but horrible later on. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is, basically, a process of elimination. As the 10-event playoff wears on, drivers begin to be dropped from contention.

On Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it looks like it was Jeff Gordon’s turn to get dropped as car problems and head problems relegated him to a 23rd-place finish.

That sends him to Martinsville 156 points behind leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson.

“All I can tell you is that it doesn’t make us race any different,” Gordon said of his fade from contention. “We race to win every weekend. So that’s all we can continue to do going forward. Things are not looking good, but we’ll just keep going and get to the next one and see what happens.”

Gordon started the race, which marked the halfway point of the 10-race Chase, from the pole. And he started it just 85 points behind Johnson.

But it didn’t take long for Gordon to begin falling backwards.

First, his car had handling problems. Again.

“We’ve been trying to fix a loose middle-off the corner all year long here at Charlotte, so I don’t feel like that was preventable,” Gordon said.

Finally, a dead battery sealed his fate.

“Yeah, it was not a lot of fun,” he said. “We had about everything go wrong that could go wrong. Track position being crucial at this place. I’ve never seen it so sensitive. We lost a little bit of track position and then we had the battery issue which took me a little while to figure out. I’ve never had that happen before. I’ve had them stumble, but I’ve never had them just shut off. So, it took me a few seconds to figure that out. We lost a lap; and then speeding (on pit road) and a tire coming loose; we had it all happen.”

Johnson looked vulnerable early in the race. The four-time and defending champion had a car so loose that it spun without help from any of his competitors.

For a moment, some Chase hopefuls had to thinking warm thoughts. Not Gordon, who is also looking for a fifth championship.

“Ah, that was just to get (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) to tighten the car up,” Gordon joked. “Chad wasn’t listening to him. He thought he needed to keep it loose and so Jimmie showed him how loose it really was and they tightened it up and he went to the front.”

So now it’s on to Martinsville with his hopes on the ropes.

“I’m looking forward to going to Martinsville,” Gordon said. “I think Martinsville is a great track for us. When we had track position tonight, I don’t want to say we were as good as anybody, but we were good. I’ve never seen track position be so important as it was tonight because we just fell back to like sixth or seventh that one time after coming in and getting the gas-and-go and couldn’t do anything. It was just so important to keep that track position.”

Gordon’s job at Martinsville will be to keep cool and bounce back.

“That’s what great drivers and teams and championship caliber teams do. They (Johnson and team) amaze you at how they fight through problems and issues and those guys obviously have a great chemistry. They’ve won four championships and that’s what’s going to make them really tough this year again.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 17 2010
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  • Miller says:

    Another race we watch the crew fail to dial the car in, in fact they seem to always make it worse….