Martinsville Notebook: Jeff Gordon Rallies From Penalty, But Disappointment Lingers

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Jeff Gordon  (Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

Jeff Gordon (Photo: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

MARTINSVILLE, Va.—Exiting pit road after his final stop on Lap 462 of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon got the bad news.

Gordon had entered the pits as the leader under the 16th and final caution of the race and was fourth off pit road, but the news was much worse than that.

NASCAR had flagged Gordon for speeding in Sector 5, the stretch of pit road immediately before his stall. With his chances for a victory dashed, Gordon restarted from the rear of the field on Lap 467 of 500.

“Oh, my gosh, I’m so disappointed in myself,” Gordon said after the race. “I know I was pushing the limit. I didn’t think I had done anything different than I had all day long when I was behind other guys, so we’ve got to look at that. I’m very, very disappointed. I felt like we finally got the car, got ourselves in a position to win that race.

“It was a struggle. We were really battling with tire wear and the car getting really loose. I thought Denny (Hamlin) had the best car, but I thought with our track position there at the end, we had a shot at it. Oh, my gosh, I’m so disappointed. I don’t even know what to say right now. Of course, then the car is the absolute best it had been all day when I drove up from the back.”

Indeed, Gordon put forth a yeoman effort in the closing laps, driving from the rear to a ninth-place finish before Hamlin took the checkered flag.


Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth in Sunday’s race, posting his sixth straight top 10 to start the season, but the performance of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team was anything but routine.

In the first tire run of the afternoon, Truex lost the power steering in his Chevrolet because of a fluid leak and plummeted through the field. But the crew fixed the problem with multiple pit stops, and Truex regained his track position by staying out on old tires for a restart on Lap 101.

From there, it was a matter of staying in touch with the lead cars and avoiding a myriad of incidents that produced 16 cautions.

“I can’t believe after losing the power steering the first run we finished sixth,” Truex said. “It was not fun to drive for a little while there, but they did a great job getting fluid back in it and fixing the leak and everything. Just fought all day, just like we always do—fought, fought, fought.”

Of all his finishes this year, the run at Martinsville was perhaps most gratifying.

“It’s awesome,” Truex said. “I can’t say enough about the team. Again, to battle like we did today… We showed we never give up. We haven’t all year long. We haven’t given up on each other since I started here. It feels good to have another good run at one of my worst race tracks. Just can’t believe we were able to stay on the lead lap, fix the power steering and all that and drive back through there. It was a hell of an effort.”


With 30 laps left in Sunday’s STP 500, Matt Kenseth surged into the lead past Tony Stewart, who was driving on old tires.

But Kenseth couldn’t hold the position. He lost the top spot to race winner and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin on Lap 473 and later gave way to the Team Penske Fords of runner-up Brad Keselowski and third-place Joey Logano.

Nevertheless, a fourth-place run at a track that had given him fits until he joined Joe Gibbs Racing in 2013 and leaned heavily on Hamlin’s expertise provided some consolation for the 2003 premier series champion.

“In the long run, and at the end of the race, I thought we had the best car—me and Denny,” Kenseth said. “Then, on that last restart (Lap 467), the recent set of tires just didn’t agree with it. We didn’t have any grip and couldn’t go anywhere. Just kind of hanging on, which is unfortunate.

“It’s hard to be disappointed with a fourth at Martinsville. Really happy that Denny is in Victory Lane. He’s one of the biggest reasons I can actually run in the top 10. Good for him, and a great teammate—glad for him.”

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