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Stuck throttle in Chase opener renders near death blow to Jeff Gordon's title hopes

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

JOLIET, Ill. – Jeff Gordon's Chase started just as his season did. Fast car. No luck.

Running in the top five with no sign of slowing down, Gordon's throttle stuck on Lap 187. The result: Gordon slammed hard into the Turn 1 wall and out of the Geico 400, the first race in the Chase for the 2012 Sprint Cup championship.

While there is still time for Gordon to catch up, a 35th-place finish even at this early juncture is a near death blow to his title hopes.

"The return spring broke," he explained. "It didn't go wide open; it just didn't come back. Just enough to cause it to carry enough speed in there where I locked the brakes up and went into the wall.

"It's disappointing," Gordon continued. "Car was feeling really good, and we were just a couple of adjustments from making it possibly a winning car."

Despite being the last driver to qualify for the Chase, Gordon came into the playoff confident he could win that elusive fifth title. And for good reason. He finished third, second, second in the last three races and scored more points than all but one driver over the last half of the regular season.

He started 19th Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway and quickly moved toward the front, planting himself firmly inside the top five.

"When the car is there underneath you and you can drive it hard like that, it makes it a lot of fun for me and allows us to go out and do what people maybe feel like we're known for over the years," Gordon said. "We'll be driving hard now."

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