Gordon and Truex advance to the penultimate round of the Chase

Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. could not have started Sunday’s CampingWorld.com 500 further apart.

Gordon and Truex advance to the penultimate round of the Chase
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolt and Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Brad Keselowski, Team Penske Ford and Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Polesitter Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Jeff Gordon with Rick Hendrick
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Western Union branding on the Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet of Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet

But after 196 laps both Chevy drivers transferred to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. 

Gordon started from the pole and led twice for a total of eight laps. Secondary to moving on in the Chase, Gordon’s mission was to help his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., advance to the third round. 

Despite pushing Earnhardt to the lead on multiple occasions throughout the race, the Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski split up for the final restart forcing Gordon to line up behind the No. 22 Ford and the No. 88 Chevy to rely on the No. 2 Ford for a push on the restart. 

I am so proud of this race team. They never quit, they never give up and I can't believe we are going to round three. I said all along that if we got to round three, we have an excellent shot to get to Homestead.

Jeff Gordon

The race barely got up to speed before Kevin Harvick triggered a multi-car wreck midway through the pack. When NASCAR called the third and final caution on Lap 196, Gordon’s effort was for naught. Logano won. Earnhardt and Gordon finished second and third, respectively.

"Oh my gosh, that was intense,” Gordon said. “That was wild. That was crazy. I hate it that I didn't have Dale Jr in front of me on that last restart. I got kind of excited about pushing him there at the end and get both him and me in the next round. 

“That was pretty smart of the Penske guys to split themselves up. It is unfortunate that we had those two wrecks on those restarts. The restarts are so crucial. Everybody is trying to get all that they can and banging one another. I loved my race car today. My 3M Chevrolet was awesome. I would have loved to have a shot at them there and finish this thing out.” 

Hendrick's final bullet in the gun

For the second season under NASCAR’s new Chase format, Gordon was the only Hendrick car to advanced to the third round. However, with this season being last opportunity to win the title, the four-time champion focussed on his own self-interest. 

“I had too much on the line, so all I could do was get a good restart and not lose spots,” said Gordon, who is currently third in the standings and had just an 18-point cushion over ninth-place Ryan Newman. “We were still in jeopardy too. I thought maybe we could push Joey a little bit and then go to the middle and go three wide and try to find a way to help Junior. But we just could never got a chance to see it unfortunately. 

“I had a lot of fun out there. It is fun having a race car that strong.  I am so proud of this race team. They never quit, they never give up and I can't believe we are going to round three. I said all along that if we got to round three, we have an excellent shot to get to Homestead.” 

Moving on

Barring something catastrophic, Martin Truex Jr. will enjoy a career-best finish in the Sprint Cup point standings this season.

But moving on to the Eliminator Round was far from easy for the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy.

Truex’s weekend at Talladega Superspeedway soured quickly after he was disqualified for dipping below the double-yellow line during time trials on Saturday

It was still nerve-wracking down to the end

Martin Truex Jr.

Truex was forced to start 43rd on Sunday. He lost the draft early in the CampingWorld.com 500 and fell of the lead lap after 68 circuits. But Truex remained patient.

“I felt like I was on the seesaw today,” Truex said. “My head was under the back of it. It’s crazy how fast things can change and how much is out of your control. We were sitting out there riding a lap down for about 100 laps thinking that we were going to need an act of God to get back on the lead lap and have a fighting chance.” 

Fighting back from a lap down

On Lap 139, he received the lucky dog and restarted 20th, then worked his way through traffic over the final 56 circuits to finish seventh — his 20th top-10 finish, a career-best for the driver. 

“We kept fighting and fighting, and had a good sequence of green-flag stops to establish ourselves in that front single-file line ahead of the guys we were racing,” Truex said. “Then we got lucky and got a caution. Once we were back in the game, we felt good about it.”

Truex’s finish was not without incident. He plowed into the back of Kevin Harvick, when the No. 4 Chevy was slow to get up to speed at NASCAR first attempt to restart the race on Lap 190.

“It was still nerve-wracking down to the end,” Truex said. “The first one, I spun the 48 slap out in front of me, and I was never on the gas pedal. I was on the brake as hard as I could without locking up the front tires. I was getting hit over and over. The 48 got spun and luckily we didn’t get spun out or our day would have been over.”

Truex enters Round 3 sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings.

shares
comments
Logano wins in controversial finish at Talladega

Previous article

Logano wins in controversial finish at Talladega

Next article

Dale Jr. eliminated from Chase after nearly winning at Talladega

Dale Jr. eliminated from Chase after nearly winning at Talladega
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Event Talladega II
Sub-event Sunday race
Location Talladega Superspeedway
Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Jeff Gordon
Author Lee Spencer
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020