It wasn’t the finish Jeff Gordon had hoped for, but the beginning of Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway couldn’t have been any better with his children giving the command to start engines.
Ella and Leo were given the honors by Bristol Motor Speedway as grand marshals for the race.
“Highlight for me,’’ Gordon said. “The day couldn’t be bad after that. That was so, so cool, and they nailed it. I’m just so, so proud of them. I’m just so thankful to Bristol Motor Speedway and Marcus (Smith) and Bruton (Smith) and all those folks.
“To do that, to invite them to do that means so much to me, and they just had a blast preparing for it, just practicing in the car on the way to school. So funny, and Leo, he had to put his little engine rev in there at the end, which I thought just kind of put it over the top. As soon as the red flag came, I went back to the bus and rewound it and watched it with them, and they were just beaming. It was awesome.’’
Gordon went on to place third. He scored his first top-five finish of the season despite falling two laps down at one point when he had to pit under green for a loose wheel.
“The car was really fast after that, and we were able to get back on the lead lap, which was great, and then we lined up in the outside lane, which was a huge plus, a couple times on some restarts and ended up driving our way into the top five,’’ Gordon said after his 321st career top-five finish. “We were in a good position to get a really nice, solid finish, and then all the chaos broke out with restarts and rain and crashes and everything else. Found ourselves somehow in second, and I thought we were going to run out of fuel for sure, but luckily we didn’t.’’
Gordon admitted that he “didn’t have a shot at winning’’ at the end, finishing behind winner Matt Kenseth and runner-up Jimmie Johnson.
“I really wore the right front tire out I think on that last run,’’ Gordon said. “I wanted to race Matt for the win, but I was going to pretty much either have to take him out or he was going to have to make a huge mistake just because that inside lane (on a restart) is such a disadvantage.’’
Now, Gordon focuses on Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway. He finished second to Brad Keselowski in September and placed second to Joey Logano last April, leading a race-high 173 laps that night. Gordon has finished runner-up in three of the last five races at Richmond.