Jeff Gordon takes blame for disappointing finish at Talladega: ‘You want to seize those opportunities’

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – For the second time in five races, Jeff Gordon was left wrestling with the agony of leaving a Sprint Cup track empty-handed despite having a car capable of winning.

Even more frustrating was that the blame for Sunday’s squandered chance at Talladega Superspeedway squarely fell on his shoulders.

“You want to seize those opportunities,” said Gordon, who finished 31st in the Geico 500 despite the No. 24 Chevrolet leading 47 of 188 laps after starting on the pole position. “This was an opportunity for us. We had an awesome race car. I definitely feel like we had the best race car.

“Junior was good, Jimmie was good, but I felt like we were amazing. That’s frustrating. I think the most frustrating thing is making a mistake. At Martinsville, I made a mistake. Here I made a mistake. We’ve got to eliminate those mistakes when we have race cars like this, because we have an awesome race team.”

Just as in the March 29 race at Martinsville Speedway, the critical error was a speeding penalty on the final stop.

Gordon was entering the pits just before the caution flew for an engine failure in the Chevy of Austin Dillon.

As he stabbed the brakes entering the pits, he knew something immediately was wrong.

“The car wasn’t slowing down,” he said. “I don’t know if I got on the splitter, but it would not slow down. I knew I was speeding.”

NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell tweeted that Gordon was caught speeding in the first two sections, roughly 20 mph over in the first sector

“I’m not happy with myself, really,” Gordon said. “I made that mistake coming to pit road. That was a make or break moment in the race. It could have put us in the lead. Instead, we were the tail end of longest line.”

After restarting in 31st with 26 laps remaining, the four-time series champion made up some ground but still was outside the top 10 when he was caught in a last-lap crash.

Though his car had blazing speed throughout the weekend (he won the pole with a speed that left rivals slackjawed), there wasn’t an opportunity to advance when the field formed mostly into a single-file line for the final 26 laps.

“If those guys decide to go single file like that, you’re not going anywhere,” Gordon said. “I was in the middle on that final restart, making some ground up, and all of a sudden they all went outside, and that point, it was over. You’re just sitting there waiting for the white flag to come up.”

It was the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s third finish outside the top 30 in 10 races but first since the March 1 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He also started on the pole at the Daytona 500, leading 87 laps and placing 33rd.

Friday’s NASCAR Cup, Xfinity schedule at Richmond

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The racing weekend at Richmond International Raceway kicks off today.

The NASCAR Cup Series has one practice session and late afternoon qualifying, while the Xfinity Series has two practice sessions at the 0.75-mile track.

Keep an eye on Jimmie Johnson this weekend as he goes for his third consecutive NASCAR Cup win, having taken the checkered flag at Texas three weeks ago and Monday at Bristol.

Here’s how today’s action shapes up:

(All times are Eastern)

9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.  – Xfinity garage open

11:30 a.m. – 12:55 p.m. – Cup practice (Fox Sports 1, MRN)

1 – 1:55 p.m. – Xfinity practice (FS1)

3 – 3:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (FS1)

4:45 p.m. – Cup qualifying; three rounds/multi-car (FS1, MRN)

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Michigan

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Every NASCAR Cup driver had to come from somewhere, and for Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones, they came from Michigan.

Today’s edition of “50 States in 50 Shows” takes you to the Great Lake State.

The track that gets our attention is Dixie Motor Speedway in Birch Run. A track Jones cut his teeth on and where he set a record in 2010 by becoming the youngest driver to win an ASA Late Model race when he was 14.

Oh, and they also race school buses at the track.

 

NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Richmond ‘pivotal’ race for Joe Gibbs Racing

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Compared to the winning pace Joe Gibbs Racing kept the previous two seasons, it’s been a long time since the four-car team visited victory lane.

JGR last won 11 races ago in the November race at Texas Motor Speedway with Carl Edwards, who is not racing this year. The last win by a current JGR driver was the fall race at Richmond International Raceway, where Denny Hamlin triumphed.

Now, none of its drivers are in the top 10 in points.

RIR is where NASCAR heads this weekend for a race NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte believes is “pivotal” for the team that’s won the last three races at the .75-mile track.

“We have to remember this is a new aerodynamic package for this year,” Letarte said. “There’s something about it that hasn’t really suited this JGR Toyotas. I don’t think they have found exactly the right combination, it seems Furniture Row (Racing) has. I look at Richmond, the speeds are a little bit down, aerodynamics won’t be as dominate. Even if they’re not dominate and they don’t win, they have to run better.”

 

NASCAR America: Comparing achievements of The King, The Intimidator and Jimmie Johnson

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Just two days after his retirement announcement, Dale Earnhardt came to the defense of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson on Twitter

After a fan attempted to criticize Johnson’s achievements by comparing them to fellow seven-time champions Dale Earnahrdt Sr., and Richard Petty, Dale Jr. said the system Johnson has competed in is twice as challenging as the eras of his father and Petty.

Watch the video to see Dale Jr. and other drivers discuss the differences between Johnson’s era and those of his predecessors.