Led most laps
Finish wasn’t in his favor
Gordon felt he was deserving of more
LOUDON, N.H. - He led yesterday’s Sylvania 300 three times for 78 laps, the most of any driver.
He gained six positions in the Chase points standings, the biggest jump of any driver, climbing to fifth after stumbling out of the gates last week in Chicago and tumbling eight spots to 11th. And so, when he departed New Hampshire Motor Speedway after finishing fourth behind race winner Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon felt he was deserving of so much more.
The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet fielded by Hendrick Motorsports led for 67 laps until he was forced to surrender his lead to pit for fuel on Lap 230, sparking a series of green-flag pit stops. Gordon dropped to 19th and spent the remainder of the race trying to conserve fuel to preserve his top-five result.
“I’m just glad we finished fourth,’’ he said. “It is tough conditions to race in. I don’t think that we need to see back-to-back fuel mileage races like this, but it is kind of the name of the game these days.’’
Gordon, who had climbed to third with 40 laps to go, was surprised he had to conserve fuel. He learned from crew chief Alan Gustafson that a problem with the gas can exchange on his last pit stop meant he was running short.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to have to conserve as much as we did there,’’ said Gordon. “But to pull off a top-five, we got what we could out of it. We didn’t need to take any chances like we did last week at Chicago. All we can do is look at the good side and it is good that we made gain in the points.
“But we aren’t making enough gains on the leaders, and that is the only frustrating part.’’
Bumpy ride Kurt Busch went through driver introductions for yesterday’s race, took a prerace lap on the back of a pickup truck, and there was no sign of his No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge on the starting grid.
Busch, who qualified fifth-fastest, then stood for the Canadian and US national anthems, and still there was no sign of his car. It wasn’t until Natalie Turgeon, of Loudon, N.H., sang the last verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner’’ that Busch’s car had cleared inspection and was rolled out onto pit road by his crew.
“NASCAR wasn’t 100 percent happy with what they saw on one of their gauges that kind of checks where the rear end is in the car, so we had to do a little work on it,’’ said Travis Geisler, director of competition for Penske Racing. “It’s a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ type of gauge and it didn’t go.’’
It left Busch’s crew scrambling to get his car in compliance with inspection variances, leaving the driver fuming. When an ESPN camera approached him as he walked down pit road toward his car, Busch snarled, “Get the [expletive] out of the way!’’
“It was a frustrating day,’’ said Busch, who finished 22d and dropped five spots in the Chase points to ninth. “We were late going through inspection and that set the tone for the day.’’
Team effort Although he was a non-Chase driver, Greg Biffle wound up with the best result of the four Roush Fenway cars among the top 10, finishing third. Despite getting spun out on Lap 174 by an apologetic Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth finished sixth, David Ragan seventh, and Edwards eighth. “It was a great day for us,’’ said Biffle, who posted his seventh top-10 finish in 19 races at NHMS. “We’ve had a lot of good days this season, just not a lot of good finishes.’’ . . . Dale Earnhardt Jr. started 12th and climbed to fifth before a flat tire forced him to the pits on Lap 230. He dropped to 29th but fought his way back to finish 17th . . . Stewart’s victory was the 41st of his career. He broke a tie with Mark Martin for 16th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list last Monday.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.