Found September 10, 2012 on
Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, fans and drivers certainly would have loved to have a straight-up NASCAR Sprint Cup race where things started on time. But the delayed start, and the two cautions within it for the rain, really seemed to turn the race around.
You had people like Denny Hamlin that were leading the race and had been all night that, with a caution coming out for rain well past the halfway point, just couldn't afford to pit. You just couldn't. They did not know if that rain was going to intensify and you're looking at the clock and it's after midnight and they just couldn't pit and risk giving up position.
Obviously for guys running deeper in the field, like Jeff Gordon, pitting at that point was kind of a no-brainer. If you pit and the rain doesn't subside, what have you really given up?
I find it interesting that the top-two finishers had a very trying, very dramatic race. You look at Clint Bowyer, who won this race, on Lap 235 he was spinning around with a flat left rear tire and actually brought the caution out that maybe even helped his cause.
He had to pit before pit road opened so he had to restart at the tail end of the longest line, but he had a good enough car - and he showed that from the drop of the green flag - that he had enough time left to race up through there and get his second win of the year.
Jeff Gordon, who finished second and made the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and crew chief Alan Gustafson had an unbelievable weekend. Gordon went out and fired the first shot on this wild-card deal qualifying on the outside of the front row while his biggest wild-card spot challenger, Kyle Busch, qualified 15th.
So at the drop of the green flag, Jeff Gordon had the wild-card spot and he led a couple of laps - and the dropped like a rock. He was in trouble.
He and his Hendrick Motorsports team decided to disconnect the rear sway bar. Normally that's a case of desperate people do desperate things and they normally never, ever work out. But this time it truly worked out, then he pitted very early on his last stop under green, hoping he didn't get burned on a caution, and got the advantage of those fresh tires and drove through there and finished second.
Meanwhile, the night Kyle Busch had must have caught everyone, including Kyle, off guard. At Richmond he had a 4.7 average finish in 15 races, and then Saturday night he struggled. I would have never believed that Jeff Gordon would have beaten Kyle Busch by more than 12 positions to get that second wild-card spot, but he did.
You look at Kyle Busch and who would have ever believed that 26 races into this year he would have won only one race and missed the Chase?
But if you look back at his season, at the three engine-related failures in the month of June and what happened at Watkins Glen when he was leading and then lost it on the final lap, and I'm sure as Kyle flew home from Richmond he was probably realizing, "What a very fitting end to an absolutely disastrous season."
Really and truly, though, he handled all of this stuff this year a lot better than I ever thought he would and probably much better than I thought he should.
You wish guys who came as close as Kyle Busch could be in the Chase, but the box is only big enough for 12. Every driver, every team, had 26 races to get there.
I still think Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are going to be the ones to watch, but I don't want to shortcut anyone until we see these first couple of races and see where things start unraveling a little bit.
We can all look back at defining moments for different teams, I think if Jeff Gordon and his team go on and contend for this championship, they're going to look back at Richmond and say, "You know what, that was a defining moment."
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Just when you thought Jeff Gordon's mustache was just a bad memory from his 1993 rookie season in Cup . . . it's back.
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Jeff Gordon never gave up.
He promised his team - and his fans - that he wouldn't go down without a fight. And fight he and his No. 24 team did, with a second-place finish at Richmond International Raceway to snag a ticket to the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
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PHOENIX Skewing more toward the battle cry of a life coach than the confident resolve of a NASCAR superstar, Jeff Gordon served up this positive declaration:
After Saturday, anythings possible.
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After finishing second last weekend at Richmond and securing a "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" berth, Jeff Gordon said he felt like he had won the race. Actually, it was nearly three races that he won that night.
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THE MODERATOR: We have two of our Chase drivers joining us now at the podium. Our defending champion is Tony Stewart. He’ll come into the 2012 Chase seated third. And Jeff Gordon races his way into the Chase. Congratulations, Jeff.
Let’s hear from you, Tony. Third seed, you have three wins on the year, defending your championship. Your thoughts.
TONY STEWART: ...
Last night marked the end of the NASCAR regular season, next weekend we start what is known as ‘The Chase’ at Chicagoland Speedway. In The Chase, the top ten drivers plus Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon (the two “wild card” holders) will battle for their chance to take home the title at Homestead.
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Teammates Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne grab wild cards for Chase…
(Eds: APNewsNow. Will be updated. With AP Photos.) By HANK KURZ Jr. AP Sports Writer Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon looked dead in the water when NASCAR red-flagged his last chance to get into the playoffs because of rain at Richmond International Raceway.
His car wasn't running like it needed to be, and the chance seemed to be slipping away.
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After rain delayed the start of the Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday night, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon were both winners, of sorts, when the race finally ended early Sunday morning. Bowyer claimed the race win, his second of 2012, and with a second-place finish, Gordon took the second wild card spot and the...
Well folks, you have to admit that was pretty exciting racing on Saturday night.
I love the final race of the regular season -- it is one of the most exciting races of the year because there's so much at stake. Sure, you know who some of the Chasers are ahead of time, but the battle for the final spots, like we saw Saturday night with Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon for the final...
RICHMOND, Va. – With a second place finish in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, earned a spot in the coveted 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet, likewise clinched a slot in the Chase with his 12th place...
Clint Bowyer won the rain-delayed race at Richmond, and Jeff Gordon drove his way into the title picture by grabbing the last wild-card berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
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Richmond was one of the most drama-filled events of the 2012 season. And I'm not talking about the rain that threatened to postpone the event until Sunday (although that possibility was important to me personally, since I was covering the race but would've been forced to watch the race from home if it had been run on Sunday).
The story lines were intense as several drivers...