Vicious Wreck Leaves Gordon Hurting
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Watkins Glen, N.Y. – There was a moment Monday afternoon when Jeff Gordon, a bonafide NASCAR road-racing ace, admitted he was glad the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup is an all-oval affair.
Gordon and his tender lower back took the physical brunt of a vicious six-car accident on Lap 64 of Monday’s rain-delayed Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen. Triggered by contact between Kasey Kahne and Sam Hornish Jr. in Turn 9 of the 11-turn layout, the mechanical carnage prompted NASCAR officials to red flag the action to a halt for a clean-up that took for 19 minutes, 35 seconds.
Gordon, a four-time Cup champion and winner at Watkins Glen International, indicated the residual effects could go on for weeks.
“I’m hurting. Everything feels good except my lower back, where I’ve already had issues,” said Gordon, NASCAR’s all-time leader in road-racing wins with nine. “It wasn’t that hard of a hit, it’s just my back can’t stand too many hits. It will just take a couple of weeks for it to heal. By then we’ll go to Bristol (Aug. 22) and get through that, then we’ll be alright.”
The high-banked, concrete, half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway is NASCAR’s most notorious bull ring, but wrecks there are relatively tame in comparison to Monday’s grinder.
Kahne said he was fighting a loose condition in his No. 9 Budweiser Dodge Charger when he shoved Hornish off the pavement exiting Turn 5. Hornish caught grass and then plowed into the tire-wall in front of the Armco barrier. That impact bounced Hornish’s car onto the track, where it started spinning. One of those spins caught Gordon’s car in the left front fender, close to the driver’s side door. Both cars spewed parts like an IndyCar, with Hornish’s Dodge wadded-up at both ends. The crash also swept up the cars driven by Jeff Burton, Joey Logano and rookie Andy Lally.
“He (Kahne) got loose and had to correct and got me sideways,” said Hornish, driver of the No. 77 Mobil 1 Charger. “I thought the tires were probably going to hurt a little bit, but I didn’t think I was going to get hit by two more cars (Gordon and Burton). It was a pretty big hit but the cars are safe. I’ve got a couple bumps and bruises, but all in all, I’m pretty good. You never want to make highlights like that.”
Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet Impala SS, said he had seen this movie only a couple of days ago and didn’t want any part of the sequel.
“On Friday in Nationwide practice, Jason Leffler spun in front of me and hit the barriers, hit the tires, and came back right in front of me,” said Burton, who avoided contact with Leffler’s car. “When I saw Sam go out, I knew he was coming back. There was nothing I could do. I eyed him and I knew where he was coming and I tried to get slowed up. So I wasn’t real sure which one I hit or if I hit both of them, but it was a bigger hit than I want to have for a while.”
In addition to his back, Gordon said he initially was concerned about Hornish, the former Indianapolis 500 and three-time IndyCar Series champion.
“He took a heavy hit into the wall, a heavy hit by me and Jeff Burton,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevy. “I saw him go off into the grass and I knew he was going to come out in front of me and I was just hoping to squeeze by and didn’t make it. Actually I sped up a little bit. I saw him slide off there and I was trying to get off the corner as fast as I could to get by before he got out there. But as soon as I saw him bounce out I knew I was going to hit him. I just braced myself and got on the brakes and waited for the impact.
“Man, I nailed him and spun him around like a top and my car just came to a halt and it really took a toll on my back again. It just made a rough weekend even worse.”
Gordon started a disappointing 31st and finished 37th. He remained third in points behind leader and race-winner Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate. But Gordon’s deficit to Stewart grew from 199 to 342 points with four races remaining before the start of the 10-race Chase.
Additionally, Stewart’s fifth victory at WGI broke him out of a tie with Gordon for most NASCAR wins at the historic, 2.45-mile road-course in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.
The tour’s next stop is at Michigan International Speedway, a 2-mile oval noted for its multiple racing lanes.
“Michigan is pretty easy,” said Gordon, who along with eighth-place Kahne is gearing-up for the postseason. “If we were going to Bristol next week I’d be concerned. So we’ve got a couple of weeks to hopefully heal. We went through this at Dover when I hit and hurt my back there as well (on May 31). This is a little bit different angle and it’s hurting. Every time I hit something it takes a toll on my back, but it seems to recover. But when you’re braking that hard it’s already pretty tight and then you hit like that and it spasms a bit.
“The only saving grace is that there are no road-courses in the Chase. You want bonus points. You want a good run. You want momentum. We just haven’t been good here in quite some time. I think our car was actually decent today; we just didn’t qualify good enough to show for it.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments