NASCAR Chicagoland Notebook: Jeff Gordon Ties Sprint Cup Iron Man Mark

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Jeff Gordon (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

JOLIET, Ill.—After tying the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for consecutive starts, Jeff Gordon would have preferred a more appropriate venue to celebrate the accomplishment.

“Gosh it would have been so much sweeter if I’d been in Victory Lane right now,” Gordon said.

For the record, when the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet took the green flag in Sunday’s 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, he matched the 788 consecutive starts recorded by Ricky Rudd.

Gordon’s streak is unbroken from his debut in the Sprint Cup Series, dating to the final race of the 1992 season. Assuming he starts next Sunday’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Gordon will take sole possession of the mark.

In Sunday’s opening Chase race at Chicagoland, Gordon led 41 laps and had a car capable of winning. He was running second when the sixth caution slowed the event on Lap 257 of 267.

Gordon stayed out on old tires and got buried on the subsequent restart on Lap 263. Denny Hamlin, also on old rubber, found an opening on that same restart and won the race.

“Got a pretty decent start, and I was blocking him (Hamlin), and he was pushing me down on the apron. I just came up a little too early off the apron to get to the turn, and he was able to squeeze in there.

“Great job to him. I’m pretty frustrated that that caution came out, and that we didn’t capitalize on that last restart, but I’m highly encouraged by how great our car was today.”

Though he dropped to 14th at the finish, Gordon can look ahead with anticipation to the rest of the Chase.

“It’s the best I’ve run all year long—I’ll be honest,” he said.


It was a different sort of day for Matt Kenseth, who entered the Chase on the strength of a victory in the last regular-season NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond.

On Sunday at Chicagoland, Kenseth wasn’t a contender for the win. In fact, he spent much of the afternoon trying to stay ahead of the race leader to avoid going a lap down.

But Kenseth took advantage of the final restart with five laps left and grabbed a fifth-place finish. In the driver’s view, it was more than he deserved.

“We didn’t run well today, really all weekend,” Kenseth said. “We never were able to make it drive like we wanted it to and never found the speed that we wanted to. We were very, very fortunate to come home fifth. We had about a 15th-place car all day.”
But the restart that followed a late debris caution gave Kenseth the opportunity he needed to salvage a top five and enter the second Chase race at New Hampshire with the series lead (thanks in part to the 12 bonus points he carried into the Chase from four regular-season victories).
“The last restart, we were on the bottom,” Kenseth said. “They got all bottled up in Turn 1, and I think I passed about eight of them on the first corner. It turned pretty good on that restart, and starting on the bottom was an advantage for us.

“I slipped up the hill trying to drive Brad (Keselowski), or maybe we could have got one or two more (positions), but I can’t complain about that—way more than we should have.”


Ryan Newman must relish his role as the Chase’s stealth bomber.

The championship runner-up by a mere half-second to Kevin Harvick in last year’s season finale, Newman charged to a fourth-place finish in Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, and did it all in the final five laps.

Newman restarted 14th on Lap 263 of 267 but passed 10 cars to finish fourth.

“Coming from 14th to fourth in five laps was a handful,” said Newman, who advanced to last year’s Championship Round without winning a race. “That last caution played into our favor, for sure. We had a good car all day.

“We weren’t a 14th-place car, which was where we were running for the last restart, but we were able to fight back and finish fourth. I had one bad (restart), but I had a good one when it counted. We’ll just keep digging. That last restart gave us the opportunity, and we took advantage of it.”

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