- Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 19:57
- Published on Tuesday, 11 September 2012 19:57
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Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond was anything but a typical Saturday night of short track racing. It turned out more like an endurance race. They could have called it “The Six Hours of Richmond”.
The race was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., but due to a severe storm and the subsequent drying of the race track, it was nearly 9:30 before the race got underway. There were two subsequent red flag periods for rain. You have to hand it to NASCAR for not calling the race before they completed the entire scheduled 400 laps. It was nearly 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning when Clint Bowyer finally held off a hard charging Jeff
Gordon for the win.
Gordon fought an ill-handling race car most of the evening. They finally got the handle on the No. 24 Chevrolet after the final rain delay, and Gordon began an exciting and dramatic march through the field. He didn’t quite pull off the win, but finished enough positions ahead of the fading Kyle Busch to gain the final wild card position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup by three points over the disgusted and disappointed Busch.
In the post race interview Gordon was asked how he felt about his chances during the final rain delay, “I was pretty ticked off that we got that far behind. When you have that kind of start to the race, you don’t have a lot of hope you’re going to get it turned around. I went to (crew chief) Alan Gustafson. He never wavered. He was confident. They were looking at the data from what we had on our teammates. We had just done the rear bar. They were pretty confident that was going to get us close to our teammates. He was right. I still had a little doubt in him, though.”
Asked for his thoughts on being able to compete in this year’s “Chase, ” a very excited Jeff Gordon said, “I felt like I won the race tonight. When it was over, they told me I was in the ‘Chase,’ we made it, I mean, I was ecstatic. I was going nuts. To me, after you have that kind of effort, fall back, then come up there and finish second, almost win the race, make it in by one point, man, I don’t see any reason why we can’t go over these next 10 races and be a real threat for the championship. I went from last week being the most disappointed I’ve ever been to finish second to the most excited I’ve ever been to finish second. “
Asked if there was anyone calculating exactly how many places ahead of Kyle Busch he was running Gordon replied, “I’m sure there was. We discussed prior to the race that we weren’t going to talk about it till that final run. Even in that final run, they just kept saying, go get that next one, all right, go get that next one. We were going through a bunch of cars there because there were guys on old tires. We were passing cars. I didn’t know what position we were in. I didn’t know what was going on.
“Wow, what a race for us. We just flat-out missed the setup at the beginning. Luckily, Alan and the engineers got together and found the tools that we could utilize to make the car better. The biggest thing is that rear bar, we just had to get rid of it. We finally got some drive-off the corners.
“You can look at this race. All the things that have gone wrong for us this year, everything went right for us tonight. We had some guys stay out there on tires on basically that last caution that really cost them good finishing positions. We came in and got tires at that time. We were able to drive up through there. Had a good race car.”
“Alan called a great timing for that last pit stop because Tony (Stewart) was ahead of us. We short-pitted it, and it worked us getting out ahead of Tony and run Mark down at the end.
“It was amazing. I still can’t believe we actually did it. I know how proud Rick is to have all four teams into this Chase. That was a big goal of ours. Pretty amazing to know we accomplished that.”