Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 10/9/14
DARLINGTON, S.C. – In his 700th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career start, Jeff Gordon took the lead for Team Chevy by scoring a third-place finish at the Bojangles’ Southern 500 in his No. 24 Cromax Pro Chevrolet SS. A seven-time winner at Darlington, this marked Gordon’s 300th top-five finish in the sport; which recognizes him as becoming the fourth driver to accomplish this feat (joining David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Richard Petty). “We all wanted this 700th start to be a memorable one and not one like we had last year,” said Gordon following the 367-lap contest. “So, it was a great effort by this Cromax Pro Chevrolet team. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made great calls and the pit stops were fantastic; especially when it counted the most there at the end. We were just bouncing between tight and loose and right there at the end, it was about the best that it had been all night.” Last year’s Darlington race winner, and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, brought his No. 48 Lowe’s Emerald Green Chevrolet SS home in fourth. With his top-five finish, Johnson maintained his position as the current Series point leader. A stout fifth-place finish by Kevin Harvick in his No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, not only boosted him to 10th-place in the standings, but also gave Team Chevy three of the top-five spots in the finishing order. Three other members of the Bowtie Brigade posted strong runs at ‘The Track too Tough to Tame’, giving Team Chevy six of the top-10 finishing spots: Juan Pablo Montoya, in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS finished eighth, boosting himself three slots in the standings to 22nd overall. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished ninth, and is fourth in the rankings. Ryan Newman, aboard his No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, was 10th in the 500-mile race, and is 17th overall. Matt Kenseth (Toyota) was the race winner and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) finished second to round out the top five. Next stop on the tour will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 18th for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 CROMAX PRO CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED THIRD ON YOUR 700TH CAREER NASCAR SPRINT CUP START, YOUR 300TH TOP-FIVE FINISH, JUST HOW MUCH DID THIS TRACK CHANGE FOR YOU GUYS? “Well we all wanted this 700th start to be a memorable one and not one like we had last year. So, it was a great effort by this Cromax Pro Chevrolet team. Alan (Gustafson) called great calls and the pit stops were fantastic; especially when it counted the most there at the end. We were just bouncing between tight and loose and right there at the end, it was about the best that it had been all night. That’s what you want, you know? To be able to have good track position and have the car pretty well working for you; so, it was a really solid night. I’m very proud of this.” WHAT DID YOU NEED IN YOUR CAR TO GET THE BIGGEST NUMBER TO WIN TONIGHT? “Well I was excited that Darlington was going to be our 700th start and our team was ready to go out there and do battle and that’s what it takes at this tough race track. I’m really proud of this Cromax Pro Chevrolet team. I thought Alan (Gustafson) called a great race. We made the right adjustments at the right time and got good track position with tires there at the end and had some good re-starts. We needed track position. I thought our car was actually pretty fast there at the end. But, I don’t know, you know. We just couldn’t quite get it. We were always balancing between tight and loose and right there at the end was about the best the car had been. It took off really good, but it started getting tight on me and then Jimmie (Johnson) started catching us. So, I think that’s about the best we could have asked for. You always want to get out there in clean traffic and see what it will do.” JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S EMERALD GREEN CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED FOURTH HOW WAS THE RACING OUT HERE TONIGHT? “It was just a great 500 miles here at Darlington. There is nothing easy about this race track. It keeps you on your toes all night long. We had a great car. We lost a little tack position at the end. But we still got back into the Top-5; but I kind of ran second and third all night long; wish I was a little bit better, but this Emerald Green Lowe’s Chevrolet was doing a good job. We had fun (laughs). I love this place. I wish we could race here three or four times a year.” HOW DID THE TRACK CHANGE AS THE RACE WENT ON? “It changed a lot from yesterday in the first couple of segments. I wasn’t prepared for the track to change as much as it did there; and then it kind of stayed there all night long. But my first run or two was far different than I expected.” KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED FIFTH A NICE FIFTH-PLACE FINISH FOR YOU. TELL US ABOUT YOUR EVENING: “We had a good Budweiser Chevy all evening long, especially on the long runs, and that really kept us in the game at the beginning of the race when we had so many green-flag runs. So, we got caught with that one caution; luckily we were running fifth at the time and we were able to take a wave-around and restart I think 11th. So, it didn’t bite us too bad and we were able to get back where we were and that’s probably about where our car should have finished.” WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH THE INSIDE GROOVE? THAT’S SOMETHING WE REALLY HAVEN’T SEEN MUCH OF AT DARLINGTON: “It worked here last time. Probably not as good as it did here tonight. But, it’s nice when you have some options and my car was just too loose to run really up in the fence. I did at the end, but the low line was fast enough to where you could conserve the car and still make decent lap times.” JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED EIGHTH SOLID TOP-10 RUN FOR YOU TONIGHT TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN: “Well, we didn’t unload as good as we wanted, but we got into it really good. We did a really good job. Everybody on the Target Chevy has been doing a great job. We have been running like this all year. We’ve just had all kinds of mistakes and things. I keep telling the guys we have got to execute. If every person here does their best we are going to be looking like heroes here.” DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED NINTH ON HIS RUN: “We had a real good car all weekend. Just never really got great track position. The last half of the race the car was a little bit up out of the race track, but we were still pretty happy. Traffic was terrible, just real dirty air out there. We were faster than the No. 42 at the end of the race, just couldn’t pass him. Probably faster than the No. 99 and No. 29 too, but got to be in front of them.” KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 TIME WARNER CABLE CHEVROLET SS – FINISHED 17TH HOW WAS IT OUT THERE TONIGHT RACING? “Oh, we were racing hard. I had a great Time Warner Cable Chevrolet and I cleared him, getting into (Turn) 3, so I had the outside and I then I saw he entered so early that I knew he was not going to be able to turn when we got to the corner and I was going along and the next thing I knew, I was spinning. So, I felt really good. The car was getting better and better as the race went, but they had to make a lot of adjustments and things. But, I don’t know. Three times this year me and Kyle (Busch) have had contact. And I’ve had capable of winning cars. It’s disappointing on the point’s side and not winning races. But that was close racing. He entered so early and he was just going straight to the corner. So whether he hit me or just blew the air off, whatever it was, he blew his entry and I’m not real sure what he was thinking on that.” ARE YOU DONE TALKING WITH KYLE (BUSCH) NOW? “Well, he needs to quit… I mean he’s got to just race me. I mean I’ve never touched the guy in my life as far as on the race track. Three times this year, there have been other times in other years. I don’t really know what his deal is with me. He blew that entry into (turn) one. I got to the outside. I got by him into (turn) three. We had a great restart. We kept getting our car better. The guys did an awesome job. Then he just blew his entry into (turn) one. Whether he touched me… I mean it was very close whatever it was. The angle he took into the corner, he had no steer and just went straight. Then I went spinning. It was definitely a tough way to end our race. We had just got to the point where I could move off the bottom. I could move up higher because we had been so loose and I felt really good.” WAS THAT A RECKLESS MOVE THEN ON HIS PART? “I think he just struggles racing me and he just made an error as far as his entry. Like he entered so early and had no steering. You figure that out throughout the whole race. He passed so many lap cars he knew what was going to happen. He tried to stop but he couldn’t slow down at that point. I don’t know he just kind of just screwed up again. This is his third time this year he has screwed up.” WHAT HAPPENED GOING INTO TURN NUMBER ONE? “It was just close racing really. He (Kyle Busch) messed his entry up; he entered early and then couldn’t turn once he did that. So he was just kind of going straight across the track. I was like ‘figure it out.’ If he would just figure it out we wouldn’t have any issues. I have never even ran into the guy. So it’s kind of crazy, but we had a great Time Warner Cable Chevrolet. The guys did a really nice job throughout the race. We kept getting better. At that point in the race was the first time I could actually move to the outside and had some grip. It was way looser up high, but there was more momentum or speed up there. I was just getting up to that area and it felt really solid with our car and where we were at. Disappointing way to end.” HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE MOVE KYLE BUSCH MADE? “I think he (Kyle Busch) just made another mistake. That is his third one when he has been around me this year. I don’t really understand it. We were battling for the lead or for the top two or three spots each time. Where he entered and hit his breaks he just crushed the splitter. We do it all race long and the way he did it he hit the brakes and he has no front-end. You just slide, he went straight on entry. His car is going straight it’s not even turning left. It’s just a mistake on his part. I imagine he will call me again tomorrow and say he’s sorry.” HOW WILL YOU RACE HIM NOW? “I will race him the way I’ve always raced him the way I have always raced everybody. I don’t know you try not to screw up and take people out when you are around them. That is how I’ve always raced.” DID HE ACTUALLY MAKE CONTACT WITH YOU? “It was very close. I could see him and I was like ‘oh shoot, oh shoot’ and then the car moved and just spun out. I don’t know if he actually touched me or what, but his angle into the corner. If he would have just entered like normal, the way he has entered the whole race it would have been no issues and I would have been leading off (turn) two and he just didn’t want that to happen so he blew turn one. So whether he hit me or not he still caused that whole deal with screwing up.”

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