WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Matt Sullivan/Getty Images North America photo —
Jeff Gordon’s coming-out party at Watkins Glen International didn’t end the way the four-time Cup champ wanted it to.
Brake issues plaguing the No. 24 car early on in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen forced Gordon to come down pit road to make repairs to the Axalta Chevrolet. By the time he came back out, the four-time Watkins Glen winner found himself four laps down and wound up 41st at the end of the day.
“We had a brake line issue, Gordon said. “It wasn’t broken, it’s not like I hit anything or something came into it and broke it that we can see. Something went bad with the line and started leaking fluid and we started losing brakes, so we had to come in. Unfortunately, it took us four laps to get that changed and it’s just so hard to make up laps and when you get that many gallons, especially at a track like this.”
Gordon started the day from the fifth spot before dropping to ninth on lap 8. After the race got going, he clawed his way back to eighth before the brakes became a problem on the No. 24 machine.
“We were OK at the beginning, we weren’t great,” Gordon said. “It’s a long race, a lot can happen, but you got to be it in and got to be on the lead lap and we weren’t.”
With Kyle Busch’s runner-up finish putting him back in the top-30 in points, one less spot is available for the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Gordon currently sits 12th in the points, 58 markers to the good to try to lock himself into this year’s playoffs. The weird luck that Gordon has had in the last three weeks leaves no breathing room for the No. 24 team.
“Right now, I just feel like we can’t afford to have these finishes if we’re going to make the Chase,” he added. “Just when you think you get something that’s going to go your way, and then something like this happens, so we’ll just keep fighting and digging and try to get the finishes we need to get ourselves solidly in there.”
Hendrick Motorsports has six wins on the 2015 season, with six-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson (four) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. accountable for all of them. Joe Gibbs Racing leads the Cup Series with eight wins this season, as a Hendrick car hasn’t visited victory lane since July at Daytona with Earnhardt.
“We need to improve slightly, performance-wise,” Gordon said. “I think our performance is not bad. Right now, it’s the unknown, it’s the concerns of freak things happening like what happened to us at Indy and here. Those are things out of your control and we’re all about the things you can control and from that standpoint, we are just trying to improve the performance of the car slightly.”
“We’re not far off.”
Gordon ends his road-course career with nine Cup wins combined at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. He ran the Glen without the inner loop once in 1991 in the XFINITY Series for Bill Davis Racing before two vicious crashes made the facility add the Bus Stop for 1992 to slow down the speed of the cars heading down the back-straightaway. The other road course in Northern California was re-configured in 1998 and Gordon won on the new 1.99-mile circuit that season after finishing runner-up to Mark Martin on the 2.52-mile layout there the year before.
With the road-course races done for the 2015 Cup season, Gordon heads to another track next weekend to make his final start at Michigan, where he is the defending winner of the race.