Jeff Gordon says things are fine with crew chief after heated radio exchange at Pocono


Jeff Gordon said he and crew chief crew chief Alan Gustafson are “big boys” and their relationship is fine after an argument over the radio during last Sunday’s race at Pocono Raceway.

The audio of their heated exchange came with just under 20 laps left in the race as the duo argued pit strategy.

“It’s intense out there,” Gordon said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. “We had a car far better than what we finished. A little bit of build up with the type of season we’ve had so far. It seems every time we have a car that’s capable of winning or running in the top five, some circumstances come about that takes us out of that and that’s frustrating.”

Gordon started fourth at the track where he has won six times, but finished 14th, just shy of his 2015 average of 15.1. He remains winless this season.

Gordon’s best chances at winning in 2015 have come at Daytona and Talladega (where he earned the pole) and at Martinsville. At Daytona, Gordon was caught in a last-lap crash (finished 33rd). At Martinsville, he was caught speeding on pit road (finished ninth) and Talladega saw a combination of both. A speeding penalty buried the No. 24 back in the pack, which led to another last-lap crash and a 31st-place finish.

“When you’re in the closing laps of a race or coming down to the final pit stops and decision, you’re not always going to like those decisions and you have to play a role in it,” Gordon said. “The restarts weren’t going great, we took a risk on pit strategy and the caution came out. That blew that strategy and put us back. We saw how hard it was to pass and track position being really important, especially in that final run.”

Gustafson wanted to pit, while Gordon thought his car was set up well for the final run.

“I rarely ever question those calls, he’s the crew chief and makes great calls,” Gordon said. “But at that point I felt I needed to stay out and it got a little heated.”

Gordon believes it is a positive that the two had their heated moment and “said some things and got them off our chests.”

The tiff came in the middle of Gordon’s final Sprint Cup season, which has seen Phoenix International Raceway rename itself after Gordon for its fall race, but has yet to see Gordon visit Victory Lane.

The No. 24 team is now focused on this weekend’s Quicken Loans 400. Michigan International Speedway is a track that Gordon has won at three times in 44 starts, including the fall race in 2014. A good performance at the 2-mile track would go a long ways to instilling confidence in Gordon’s team.

“Confidence that we need, not just here at Michigan, but everywhere,” Gordon said. “The team is working extremely hard to make those improvements, to give me what I need to go out there and have confidence and that’s really to me what we’ve been lacking a little bit of. The performance hasn’t quite been there, the confidence hasn’t quite been there. It all comes together when you have those things. It doesn’t happen overnight, but one race can make a huge difference in getting you back there, and I think this is a track that can do that for us.”

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.