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Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports’ Last Bullet Entering Eliminator Round

Jeff Gordon Hendrick Motorsports’ Last Bullet Entering Eliminator Round

by October 20, 2014 1 comment

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images

TALLADEGA, Ala. — And then there was one.

Hendrick Motorsports entered the Chase’s Contender Round with all four of its drivers in contention to move on to the Eliminator Round. Exiting the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the cutoff for the Eliminator Round, only one Hendrick driver will move on – Jeff Gordon.

Gordon finished 26th in today’s GEICO 500 and would end the race three points from the round cutoff with the eighth seed.

Hendrick teammates and fellow Chasers, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would not be as lucky as their respective Chase bids would end after each driver respectively finished in the 12th, 24th, and 31st positions.

Following his comparatively dismal day against the rest of the drivers to advance to the Eliminator Round, Gordon spoke about seeing his teammates fall to the wayside

“It’s very difficult,” Gordon said. “Great teams, great drivers, and great friends of mine. I hate to see them not in there, but we’re going to try to make Hendrick proud and go out there and get ourselves to Homestead.”

Gordon was just able to hold on to a transfer spot into the Eliminator Round himself after getting shuffled back in the concluding stages of the race. The race’s second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish provided the four-time series champion with two laps

“I’m just mentally drained right now,” Gordon said. “It’s always tough racing here at Talladega trying to put yourself in position to win. But when you have that much on the line and you know that your championship hopes are right there in that final moment, it’s nerve wracking. I’m proud of this team for the job they did. We had a great strategy. Unfortunately the caution hit us at the absolute worst time and put us behind there.”

“We fought hard that last restart. The inside lane just didn’t go anywhere. I was just sitting there going backward and couldn’t do a thing. I’m just glad we made it. I can’t wait for Martinsville. I can’t wait for Texas. I can’t wait for Phoenix. All are great tracks for us. The team has done some amazing work this year. These next three are where we are really going to shine and show it.”

Other than Gordon, Kahne was the only other Hendrick driver to enter the GEICO 500 in a ‘safe’ position and would be knocked out of the Chase by Brad Keselowski grabbing the win today at Talladega. Johnson and Earnhardt Jr. entered today’s race needing a win to advance their teams into the next round of the Chase.

Earnhardt Jr. was looking strong until a Lap 189 accident with Greg Biffle on the first green-white-checkered restart would knock a big dent (literally) into the driver of the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet’s hopes of contending for a strong finish.

“I still really don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to look at it,” Earnhardt Jr. said of his accident just after climbing out of his car. “Got with the No. 16 [Biffle] a little bit. I don’t know if I came down on him or what it. I thought I was holding my line, but we were all kind of tight back there.

“We worked real hard all day long trying to run up front. I knew we need to be up front all day long. We got shuffled to the back. I made a move trying to get up front and it didn’t work out. So, we lost a lot of track position and never got it back.”

Johnson’s day wouldn’t end after being involved in an accident, in fact, the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet looked clean following 194 laps of hard racing. A late restart with no drafting help did in the defending series champion’s race after starting fourth on the first of two green-white-checkereds and quickly getting shuffled to outside of the top-10 less than two turns later.

The six-time champion talked about his performance in the last two races at Kansas and Charlotte that put himself in his win-or-miss the Chase position entering today’s race and stated that with his struggles in those two races, he wouldn’t be in title contention even in a previous Chase format.

“It’s kind of an interesting thing because after the last two races in any Chase format, I wouldn’t have been able to win the championship,” Johnson said. “So last week and the week before the frustration and emotions that went with those weeks that was really the peak of it. Today we had a fast car. Today we ran up front. Had awesome pit stops. Had a shot to win. Just didn’t get the golden ticket to go on to the next round. Definitely disappointed but we’ll dig in deep and finish up the year strong and look forward to 2015.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick also spoke of his team’s overall effort of the day – attributing most of his team’s Talladega woes to the nature of the 2.66-mile beast.

“It’s just Talladega,” Hendrick says. “We have been up front all day and I don’t know where we are going to end up. You just can’t avoid it down here when you are running that close together. It’s just what you have to get used to accept it and move on. It’s not easy.”

Hendrick and Gordon will move on to a track that they’ve won at together eight times over the past 18 years – Martinsville Speedway – for next Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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  1. Racing Rhino
    #1 Racing Rhino 20 October, 2014, 17:27

    It may have been a gloomy day for Hendrick, but it was a banner day for Jeff.

    He has three team mates who no longer are part of the chase. They can help Jeff at every opportunity without the conflict of trying to win the championship for themselves.

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