After an abysmal start to the season that includes a mechanical DNF at Daytona, a team mate spurred DNF (don’t even get me started) at Bristol and a couple of mediocre finishes in Phoenix and Vegas, it was AMAZING to see Jeff Gordon’s terrific run at AutoClub Speedway this weekend. After qualifying 21st for Sunday’s race, he quickly moved up the leader board finding himself firmly in the top 5 by the time the race reached its half-way mark. The Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was strong and Jeff was able to take positions seemingly at will. It truly was AMAZING…amazing right up until it got messy!
With rain imminent and only green flag laps, cars were reaching their fuel window and had to pit. Jeff stayed out on track the longest leading a few laps before coming down pit road for his scheduled stop. This is where it got MESSY (to say the least). After receiving the GO signal from his crew, Jeff pulled away dragging the gas man and the still engaged gas can out of the stall with him, resulting in a pass through penalty that left him a lap down in P19. Even so, his car was fast and strong; he quickly passed some lap down cars and moved up to 16th. His lap times were equal to and at some times quicker than the dominant leader, Stewart. In fact, it looked as if Jeff had a decent shot of racing his way back to the lead lap until Mother Nature intervened and opened her skies over Turn 3, bringing out the Yellow.
Now had the 24 stayed on track and taken the wave around the bleeding could have at least stopped there, but oh no! A poor decision to pit under caution (did the team not have access to the same report we in the stands had? Once the rain started it wasn’t going to let up until Monday, so there was absolutely no chance the race would go back GREEN).
Another pit stop resulted in another penalty when the tire changer lost control of the front tire and went bouncing across pit road. I sat in the stands watching in horror! I could not believe this kind of epic fail from a team of this caliber.
Sure enough within a few laps the race went Red and was shortly called due to the torrential down pour, which everyone knew was coming! Jeff finished P26, and slid two more positions in the points to 25th! I hate to be Debbie Downer, but unless this team gets it together and quick they are not likely to recover from this atrocious start to the season and may just miss the Chase and that is more than enough reason for me to mess my unmentionables!