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Publication: NASCAR News
Gordon Has Rough Day At Bristol

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          NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, March 20, 2008
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Gordon takes what he can after rough day at Bristol
Former winner salvages 11th-place finish, bump in points
By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Jeff Gordon left Bristol Motor Speedway 
Sunday evening a thoroughly beaten man, a ball cap pulled 
firmly down on his head and a scowl fixed on his face as 
dark as the skies over Bristol had been most of the weekend.

Five-hundred laps around one of NASCAR's toughest venues 
will do that to you -- especially when it's spent alternate-
ly cursing your car's handling and desperately analyzing 
it and seeking solutions with your crew chief. 

In the end, Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports pit boss, 
crew chief Steve Letarte, basically spent the day out in 
left field before finishing 11th. Not even a green-white-
checkered restart on new tires -- a typical Gordon staple 
to make gains -- was a plus. 

It was more than half an hour after the checkered flag 
dropped on Food City 500 winner Jeff Burton before Gordon 
made his way from his No.24 Chevrolet's transporter.

"We were just regrouping," Gordon said quietly, before he 
laughed about being ambushed by a tight racecar. "No, we 
had a little bit of that in practice, but we felt like we 
worked on it and got it better -- but we didn't. 

"We were not very good [Sunday] and to come out of here 
11th -- we'll take that." 

In his eminently professional style, Gordon politely 
answered every question posed -- and in the midst of a 
throng of fans, competitors and media outside Victory 
Lane, adjacent to the pedestrian tunnel leaving Bristol's 
infield, he even stopped to field questions from a couple 
TV crews. 

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Even though Gordon wasn't sure he had answers to what had 
troubled he and his crew all weekend. 

"That's a great battle, though, for this team to come home 
11th, with a car that, to me, was pretty far off," Gordon 
said. "So we've got some work to do before we come back 
here, but other than that, we survived, and that's an 
important part of Bristol." 

Burton, despite leading a 1-2-3 Richard Childress Racing 
sweep, for one wasn't about to dismiss Gordon's potential 
either at Bristol or anywhere else this season. Burton 
talked about "awakening a sleeping giant" when he was 
asked if RCR had overtaken Hendrick as the overall league 
leader. 

Though he considered his performance abysmal, Gordon's 
average running position Sunday was 11th. He never fell 
further down the running order than 21st. And when the 
final tally was run, he had actually gained a position 
in the Sprint Cup standings, to 14th. 

Still, Gordon was searching for sunshine, which had been 
in short supply most of the weekend, as he left Bristol. 

"Right now I guess we've got to be happy with an 11th-place 
finish but I'm disappointed -- we ran terrible," Gordon 
said. "It was just kind of frustrating. Steve and I were 
trying our darnedest to get that tight out of the car and 
we just never could. I tried different lines, everything." 

A telling aspect of how bad Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet is 
working at a given event comes from monitoring communi-
cations between the four-time Cup champion and his crew 
chief. 

When things just ain't right, the descriptions are tinged 
with varying degrees of cusswords -- which on Sunday was 
probably appropriate as the five-time Bristol winner 
Gordon was never able to mount a challenge after he 
started on the outside of the front row, thanks to NASCAR's 
rainout lineup procedure. 

"Man, we just got tight all day long and we never could 
get it out of there," Gordon said. "I mean, even on the 
restarts, shoot, it never would turn, so I knew we were 
going to lose positions on that last restart."

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Since tires are the word of the hour around Sprint Cup 
racing these days, maybe Gordon and Letarte should have 
borrowed some from Fred Flintstone Sunday. For sure, 
nothing else they did seemed to work. 

"Shoot, throughout the day we made a lot of adjustments 
to help it, and it never really did," Gordon said. "So 
it was kind of unfortunate." 

The transition from the previous car configuration to 
NASCAR's current chassis -- and in the racetrack itself 
from a precipitously banked 36-degree layout to the 
current progressive 26-to-30-degree design on a new layer 
of concrete -- has changed Gordon's dominance. 

Gordon won the 2007 pole for this event, his fifth career 
pole at Thunder Valley, and he finished third and led 
laps. But that was the old track. 

"We battled this track the last time we were here in a 
similar way," Gordon said. "So actually, in some ways we 
were better than we were last time." 

Last August, he qualified 18th, but only finished 19th, 
though he did lead two laps. 

"I love the racetrack but we haven't figured out how to 
get our racecar around here -- it could be the way I'm 
driving it, or the way we're setting it up or a combination 
of the two," Gordon said. "I don't know -- maybe I don't 
know how to drive this place. 

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"We certainly don't have much success here and I can't wait 
to get it turned around and get our car working like we 
have before at Bristol. I love the racetrack. We've never 
had the ability to run two-wide as much as we do now, so 
with that said I think the racetrack's great." 

On Friday Gordon had expressed some concern about the 
tire combination that would be in use at Bristol and his 
concerns over his car, as he mentioned, continued all 
weekend. 

With the Goody's Cool Orange 500 at Martinsville Speedway, 
another short track, coming up in two weeks, Gordon -- who 
finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson last Spring at 
Martinsville and third there in the fall -- said he had no 
worries over their Bristol woes following them east. 

"No concerns -- it's totally different," Gordon said as he 
walked out the tunnel. "It's not even the same at all with 
the banking and the speeds that we run here. 

"I'm looking forward to the off time and especially spend-
ing time with [daughter] Ella and [wife] Ingrid -- kinda 
just rejuvenating ourselves, evaluate where we're at and 
go to Martinsville. I always look forward to Martinsville."

Gordon has seven victories at Martinsville, the last 
coming in 2005, when he swept both events on NASCAR's 
shortest track. 

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END OF NASCAR NEWS 
Copyright 2008 by NextEra Media. All rights reserved.

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