Gordon's runner-up effort lost in Stewart's hoopla

Updated: October 12, 2009, 1:43 PM ET

Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Jeff Gordon served notice Sunday at Kansas Speedway that he's still a factor in the 2009 Chase.

Maybe, as Mr. Lincoln said of his Gettysburg Address, this will be little noted nor long remembered.

Then again it might be recalled, at the end of this Chase, as Jeff Gordon's great turning point, his moment of launch.

Gordon was catching Tony Stewart by a hefty tenth of a second a lap in the waning minutes of Sunday's Price Chopper 400. This was little noted, except by ESPN TV announcers, who moved on to celebrating Stewart once he had the race won.

Nor is it much remembered a day later. Second place is, as they say in NASCAR, the first loser. The story coming off the Kansas Speedway stop in the Chase is that Stewart is back in the hunt.

Gordon never said postrace, at least to the media, what drivers usually say in such situations: that he simply ran out of laps.

"We were better than Tony there at the end, but not enough," he told reporters at the track. That is, not enough to run down Stewart in the 27-lap sprint that followed the final caution.

Also, in the last handful of laps, "as I got closer to him, my car ... started getting tighter and tighter and tighter," Gordon said, "and at that point I tried searching around a little bit, but there just really wasn't anything I could do."

It was the dreaded "aero push" that has foiled many a pass for the lead in NASCAR for more than a decade.

"He had clean air," Gordon said of the leader. "As long as he didn't make any big mistakes, I wasn't going to catch him."

But at one instant, "he slipped coming off of [Turn] 4 and I gained on him." That was more than half a second -- huge in NASCAR. "But after that I couldn't gain any more."

But the big thing was, Gordon -- obviously, for the first time in a while -- was on the scent again, "trying to put down the best laps that I could ..."

Even more importantly, Gordon had begun the race with a car that handled so fitfully that "I was a bear on the radio because I was so mad about it," and yet crew chief Steve Letarte had kept his cool and adjusted the car all race until it was the best one at the end.

Gordon had said brightly last week that his great awakening in the Chase could come at Kansas, the first of six intermediate-size tracks in the playoffs. That was the 24 team's forte, he'd said.

Thus his enormous disappointment when "I thought we were going to get lapped" soon after the race started.

But the race turned out to be better than any lengthy testing session -- the kind NASCAR hasn't allowed this season -- for the 24 team. They worked and worked and found the optimal adjustments, some of which might even apply to the other intermediate tracks.

Next week's venue, Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, Calif., is 2 miles, as opposed to 1.5-mile Kansas -- but the banking in the turns is almost identical, 15 degrees at Kansas and 14 at Fontana.

So maybe they've found something that will close their 103-point deficit to their Hendrick Motorsports teammate, the Chase leader, Mark Martin.

Then again, this might have been just a late gasp from an aging four-time champion who has never won a title in the Chase format, a one-day surge where the team guessed right on a setup. Maybe it won't be followed up.

Maybe it will be little noted nor long remembered. That's what Mr. Lincoln feared for his little speech.

Nationwide Series: Another 1-2 finish for Logano and Busch

If this pattern ever escalates to the Cup series, then Kyle Busch's legions of detractors may adopt a new hero. Just call Joey Logano the Kyle Snuffer.

For the fifth time this season, the two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates finished 1-2 in a Nationwide race. Saturday made the fourth time Busch has finished second to the late-charging Logano.

Busch thoroughly dominated the race until Logano blew by him on the outside with three laps to go to take the lead for keeps. After they'd taken the checkered flag, the radio traffic on the cooldown lap, broadcast by ESPN, said it all.

"Joey, he had a better car; you just beat him, man," Logano crew chief Dave Rogers told his driver.

By stark contrast, Busch's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, was the listener as Busch said, "I'm so tired of finishing second to them -- god, it sucks."

Out of his Toyota on the pit road, a stone-faced Busch told ESPN, "He outdrove me. We had a car that should have won the race, but I guess I'm just not due today."

Busch had been running away all afternoon until a caution forced a double-file restart with six laps to go, and even then got a jump at the start, but Logano kept after him.

"I knew I wasn't gonna get him on the bottom," Logano said. "I'd just get real aero push. All day, I couldn't pass someone on the bottom."

So after the final restart, "I started working the top, and driving my guts out, for everything I was worth," Logano said. "Driving it in and stopping and [then] frigging right on the gas. I was driving my brains out."

This was the 13th time this season Busch had led the most laps in a Nationwide race, but he has won on only four of those occasions.

Camping World Truck Series: Convoy moves to Martinsville

The Trucks were off this week. Their next stop: Oct. 24 at Martinsville, Va.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn3.com.


Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?

ESPN Video

Racing Resources Says …

Sprint Cup Series

Tony Stewart

Stewart

  • Tony Stewart won the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway.
  • This was the 20th straight Chase race won by a Chase driver.
  • Stewart scored his 37th career victory in his 385th start. He tied Bobby Isaac for 18th on NASCAR's all-time wins list. It was Stewart's fourth victory in 2009. This is the 11th consecutive season in which Stewart has won a race.
  • Stewart scored his second Cup win in nine races at Kansas.
  • Stewart led five times for 37 laps, including the final 30.
  • Greg Biffle led the most laps (six times for 113 laps).
  • Chevrolet clinched the 2009 manufacturers' championship. Chevrolet has scored 15 wins in 2009, leading all manufacturers. Toyota has nine while Dodge has three and Ford has two.
  • Jeff Gordon (second) extended a three-race streak of top-5 finishes at Kansas.
  • Biffle (third) extended a seven-race streak of top-15 finishes at Kansas.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (fourth) posted his best finish in three races at Kansas. It marked his first lead-lap finish there. Montoya is the only driver to score top-5 finishes in all three Chase races. He is 51 points behind leader Mark Martin.
  • Denny Hamlin (fifth) posted his first top-10 finish in five races at Kansas.
  • Martin (seventh) scored his sixth straight top-10 finish. He remained the points leader by 18 over Jimmie Johnson. Johnson finished ninth. His worst finish in the past 29 Chase races is 15th at Texas and Homestead in 2008.
  • With his lead in today's race Johnson has led in 40 of the 53 Chase races. He has led in 24 of the 29 races this season, the only diver to do so. Johnson is the only driver to lead in all 19 superspeedway races this season (restrictor-plate races excluded).
  • Casey Mears (15th) has finished in the top 15 in his past five races at Kansas.
  • Ryan Newman (22nd) ended a streak of six straight top-15 finishes.
  • Jeff Burton (23rd) has finished 16th or worse in the past 15 races, since Michigan in June.
  • Scott Speed (27th) was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender.
  • Brian Vickers (37th) was the lowest-finishing Chase driver at Kansas.
  • Elliott Sadler (20th) and Stewart have each been running at the finish in the past 52 races, the longest current streak.
  • The top 10 consisted of six Chevrolets, two Toyotas, one Dodge and one Ford.

Nationwide Series

Joey

Logano

  • Joey Logano won the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway. It was his fifth victory, his 37th start and his fourth win in 2009.
  • Logano scored his first win at Kansas in his second start there. He became the ninth different winner in nine races at Kansas.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing scored its 38th series victory and 10th of 2009.
  • Toyota scored its 11th win of 2009.
  • Logano led once for four laps.
  • Kyle Busch (second) scored his 15th top-2 finish of 2009. It marked the fifth 1-2 finish in 2009 for Gibbs.
  • On Lap 94, Busch broke the record for most laps led in a single season. The previous record was held by Sam Ard, who led 2,127 laps in 1984. Busch has led 2,226 laps in 2009 with six races to go. Busch led five times Saturday for 173 laps, the most laps led in a race for the 13th time in 2009. He has won only four times when leading the most laps.
  • Busch has a 249-point lead over second-place Carl Edwards and a 307-point lead over third-place Brad Keselowski.
  • Keselowski scored his 11th straight top-10 finish, extending a streak that began at Gateway. He has scored top-5 finishes in the past seven races. Keselowski has been running at the finish in his past 61 series races, the longest current streak. His most recent DNF came for an accident at Las Vegas in March 2008, when he finished 23rd.
  • Parker Kligerman finished 16th in his series debut after winning the pole. He led the first seven laps.
  • Justin Allgaier (sixth) was the highest-finishing rookie of the year contender.
  • The top 10 consisted of three Chevrolets, four Toyotas, two Fords and one Dodge.

-- Racing Resources