Fifth straight DNF at Lowe's doesn't faze Gordon

Points leader Jeff Gordon hit his first speed bump of the season, getting knocked out of the Coca-Cola 600 early after a spectacular three-car wreck.

Updated: May 28, 2007, 12:42 AM ET
By Joe Breeze | ESPN.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Jeff Gordon's charmed season just took a turn.

Blame "The Beast in the Southeast," otherwise known as Lowe's Motor Speedway, where the Nextel Cup points leader failed to finish a race for the fifth consecutive time.

Jeff Gordon
Gerry Broome/AP PhotoJeff Gordon walked away from the wreckage. His No. 24 Chevrolet wasn't so lucky.
And it wasn't pretty.

Gordon was just 61 laps into the Coca-Cola 600 when his luck changed just past the start-finish line. Tony Raines' car clipped Gordon into the grass, and the No. 24 Chevy slid sideways across the track before getting broadsided by A.J. Allmendinger.

The result? Gordon's car caught some air -- and hit the wall nearly head on.

"I think it looked worse than it really was," Gordon said after his wild ride. "I was gearing up for it to be a really hard hit, but it wasn't as severe as I thought. ... It looked nastier than it really was when the No. 84 [Allmendinger] was right there because it sent the car airborne, but I'm fine. ... Spectacular wreck."

The wreck was almost as spectacular as it was unfortunate. While a number of crashes plagued the 43-car field early Sunday night -- eight cars were in the garage by the 100-lap mark -- Gordon had found a groove after starting the race 32nd on the grid.

"Man, that was an awesome race car we had," Gordon said. "I was so proud of [crew chief] Steve Letarte and the guys. When we bring race cars like that to the track, it just makes me have a whole lot of fun.

"I was having a blast out there and I hate [that] we are out of it. But I am OK."

Allmendinger said he couldn't avoid T-boning Gordon.

"We hit pretty good," Allmendinger said. "It was a hard hit, but luckily it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be."

What does this mean for Gordon's season?

Say goodbye to his 231-point lead in the driver standings.

But after racking up three victories, six poles, nine top-5s and 10 top-10s in 11 starts, Gordon isn't too concerned about this rare misfire.

"This will be that one bad race we haven't been hoping for or looking for, but we had such a great car," Gordon said. "We have a lot of clawing back to do, because of the points thing, but we will be OK."

Gordon's love-hate relationship with Lowe's will be on hold until Oct. 13, when the series returns to Charlotte's 1.5-mile quad-oval. Gordon had won this event three times before embarking on his string of five straight DNFs.

"I was falling in love again [with Lowe's] out there today," Gordon said. "I tell you what, when the car is driving like that, you drive from 32nd to top-5, the way we did, I was liking it. ... Hopefully [we'll] come back here in the fall and win it -- we know we are capable of it."

Joe Breeze is a motorsports editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Joe.M.Breeze@espn3.com.

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