Jeff Gordon Scores Monster Win In Dover

Jeff Gordon Scores Monster Win In Dover

by September 28, 2014 0 comments

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

DOVER, Del. – Jeff Gordon captured his fourth win of the 2014 season on Sunday afternoon during the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, while Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne edged his way into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Gordon is now one step closer to sealing the deal on his fifth series championship. He entered this weekend’s race above the 12th place cutoff position in the Challenger Round, however, the win solidified his position in the next round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The win was his first at the Monster Mile since 2001, and it was also his 19th top-10 finish of the 2014 season.

“We came in here with a little bit of extra pressure because we weren’t guaranteed to be in,” Gordon said. “If we hadn’t finished where we were running at New Hampshire last week, it would have been kind of an easy day for us. But all we did was focus on executing as a team and trying to win this race and nothing else. It wasn’t about the points; it wasn’t about just squeezing by to get to the next round. It was about making a statement. I don’t know how you make a bigger statement than what this team just did right there.”

The race only saw five cautions with the most notable one coming out on lap 255 when Kevin Harvick’s left front tire blew out due to a broken inner valve stem while leading the AAA 400. He was already battling a bad-handling car after a shock failed, and the flat tire just added insult to injury. He finished a disappointing 13th place; however, he led 223 laps, most of any driver on Sunday afternoon.

“It knocked the inner valve stem out of the left front,” Harvick said. “A lug nut got in between the wheel and the brake rotor and knocked the valve stem out. Crazy. Just handing out early Christmas presents to people for winning races that we should be winning. But all in all, the Budweiser guys did a great job. It’s just crazy luck. It’s just unbelievable that it can happen. The shock broke first and we could beat them on three shocks, but we couldn’t beat them on three tires.”

Kasey Kahne solidified his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup after winning at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, and Sunday, he yet again, just barely moved on to the Contender Round by a mere two points over AJ Allmendinger after finishing 20th one lap down. Kahne had a loose wheel and thanks to the lap 255 caution and strategy from his crew chief, everything worked out. Kahne will start off the Contender Round in the final 12th position.

“Early we drove to fifth and then we fell back a few on pit road, then drove back to sixth,” Kahne said. “We fell back a few, and then we had a loose wheel. From that point on it was just hoping the cautions didn’t come out or that they came out at the right time. Really they just didn’t come out and we just had to race, race, race. I never really got nervous at all and I just raced real hard the whole time. Kenny started telling me we were tied for 12th and this was with 30 to go. Then he would tell me we were one point in and then maybe two points in, and then he wasn’t positive. Then I started getting a little bit worried, so it was intense inside the car.”

AJ Allmendinger, the Cinderella story of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup missed out on the Contender Round by a mere two points as he finished a disappointing 23rd on Sunday. He just barely stayed within the top-30 all afternoon. Even though the team won’t advance to the next round of the Chase, they still accomplished quite a feat and have shown great improvement this year compared to seasons past. Allmendinger punched his ticket to the Chase after capturing JTG Daugherty Racing’s first win at Watkins Glen International back in August.

“We didn’t give up,” Allmendinger. “It was an awful day, but I have to thank my whole team. My pit crew kept giving me good stops. We kept throwing the kitchen sink at it every stop. My crew chief Brian Burns did everything he could to keep trying to make it better. We just missed it all weekend. It’s disappointing to miss it by two points, but we didn’t deserve to be in it with the run that we had. We have to look at it – I’m not going to take a moral victory out of it to miss it by two points, it’s disappointing, but we know we are making steps in the right direction. We beat some good cars, but we have seven races to go. Just because we didn’t make it doesn’t mean our season is over with.”

Kurt Busch missed out on the Contender Round after crossing the line in 18th. Despite moving up one spot in the points to 14th, he was still six points shy of the transfer spot. Busch ran just outside of the top-10 all day long. Back in March, Busch won at Martinsville Speedway and that win guaranteed him a spot in this year’s edition of the Chase.

“It was just tight the last 100 miles,” Busch said. “I felt like we were in good position to advance, but you just can’t expect to advance by running 15th. You have to be more competitive. We gave it a good run, you know? We put this team together pretty late. Gene Haas believed in me to come in here and do this and thanks to Haas Automation and Chevrolet and great associate sponsors like Mobil 1 and State Water Heaters and Monster Energy. We don’t get to advance to the championship, but we can still run for pride and run for wins.”

Greg Biffle missed out on the Contender Round by seven points after finishing a disappointing 21st. Biffle and Roush Fenway Racing are usually strong at Dover, however, Sunday’s performance mirrored the struggles the entire organization has experienced this season.

“This is the way it’s gone all season,” Biffle said. “We’re just searching for speed and struggled all day today. We’ve worked hard trying to fix our problems, but it just hasn’t come together yet. It’s frustrating because part of you wants to just pull it and put it in the garage and the other half is racing as hard as you can to get in the Chase. It’s pretty frustrating. I’ve won races my whole career, but to be struggling like this all year is disappointing at best.”

Aric Almirola was also another great story heading into the Chase. He also missed out on advancing to the next round by 18 points. The Richard Petty Motorsports organization as a whole have been strong all season, but after a 41st place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in the opening race of the Challenger Round and a 28th place finish on Sunday, the team was in too deep of a hole to move on to the Contender Round.

“It just didn’t work out for us,” Almirola said. “I hate it. We picked a bad day to run the way we did and we can’t blame anybody but ourselves. My car didn’t have any grip. You can’t go fast without grip.”

For the 12 drivers that will now move on to the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway lay ahead until the next elimination.

The Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway will be live on ESPN and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 5.

AAA 400 Results:
1.) #24 Jeff Gordon
2.) #2 Brad Keselowski
3.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
4.) #22 Joey Logano
5.) #20 Matt Kenseth
6.) #42 Kyle Larson
7.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
8.) #31 Ryan Newman
9.) #15 Clint Bowyer
10.) #18 Kyle Busch
11.) #99 Carl Edwards
12.) #11 Denny Hamlin
13.) #4 Kevin Harvick
14.) #14 Tony Stewart
15.) #55 Brian Vickers
16.) #27 Paul Menard
17.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
18.) #41 Kurt Busch
19.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20.) #5 Kasey Kahne
21.) #16 Greg Biffle
22.) #1 Jamie McMurray
23.) #47 AJ Allmendinger
24.) #3 Austin Dillon
25.) #10 Danica Patrick
26.) #9 Marcos Ambrose
27.) #13 Casey Mears
28.) #43 Aric Almirola
29.) #51 Justin Allgaier
30.) #26 Cole Whitt
31.) #34 David Ragan
32.) #36 Reed Sorenson
33.) #38 David Gilliland
34.) #23 Alex Bowman
35.) #40 Landon Cassill
36.) #37 Mike Bliss
37.) #33 David Stremme
38.) #83 Travis Kvapil
39.) #32 JJ Yeley
40.) #66 Mike Wallace
41.) #7 Michael Annett
42.) #98 Josh Wise
43.) #44 Timmy Hill

Contender Round Point Standings:
1.) #2 Brad Keselowski
2.) #22 Joey Logano
3.) #4 Kevin Harvick
4.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
5.) #24 Jeff Gordon
6.) #18 Kyle Busch
7.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8.) #20 Matt Kenseth
9.) #31 Ryan Newman
10.) #99 Carl Edwards
11.) #11Denny Hamlin
12.) #5 Kasey Kahne

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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