TALLADEGA, Ala. – It's been a rough year for Jeff Gordon, and Talladega was the cruelest kind of torture: A weekend that began so well ended in wreckage.
Gordon started on the pole at Talladega, but couldn't even lead a single lap. Constant problems with overheating dogged him all afternoon long, and finally on Lap 142, a multi-car wreck collected him and put him in the garage for good. He lost six positions in the standings and now sits in 23rd place, needing wins to have any hope of making the Chase.
"Man, this is just one of the most bizarre years that this DuPont Chevrolet team and Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet team has ever gone through," he said after climbing from the wreck and taking a moment to cool down in his hauler. "I mean, it's almost comical at this point. That was not fun. I didn't like hitting the wall. Gosh, I thought I was clear ... That's just the way our season has been going."
In particular, Gordon hammered on the temperature issue that plagued many cars all afternoon. A reduction in the front grille size allows less air to cool the engine, leading to more overheating problems almost from the start of every green flag.
"This temp thing is kind of a joke," he said. "They are going to have to fix that. We all knew that was going to be a big issue, but when you can't really even race because the temps, even in a regular pack, are an issue, we have to address that … Nobody is really pushing a whole lot out there."
Gordon conceded that NASCAR walks a fine line in trying to balance the desire for pack racing with the desire to let drivers run the best way possible on the track. "There is just that fine line between getting the temperatures right and not being able to push," he said. "To me, right now we are teetering on the side of having to be just a little too conservative. I'd like to be up there taking it three-wide, pushing cars and making some good exciting moves because I know we have a car that can be up front, but it's just too risky at this point in the race. That is why we were in the back where we were [when the wreck happened]."
So what can be done? Gordon noted that the actual solution was a matter for the engineers, but indicated that he hoped there could be some kind of concession made before the next plate race, Daytona in July. Otherwise, he suggested, we could see a lot more of the tentative, conservative kind of racing we saw through much of Talladega on Sunday. And nobody, drivers and fans alike, wants more of that.
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