For one week, Jeff Gordon was back in the thick of the championship picture.
Now, he’s back to square one.
Gordon had a tire go down during Sunday’s AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway and slammed into the wall on Lap 74 of 334, sending his No. 24 Chevrolet to the garage for repairs.
Gordon, who started the race third in the Sprint Cup Series standings and 27 points behind the leader, ended up in 38th place. He now sits in sixth place and 69 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson with two races remaining.
“I just know that the left-front went down as I was going down the front straightaway. I felt it before I got there, and I just couldn’t get it slowed down enough,” Gordon said.
“I don’t know; the wind was so strong that the car was doing funky things down the straightaways. I don’t know if that was a slow leak, or if it just went all of a sudden.”
With Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth running strong in Sunday’s race, Gordon’s early exit likely proved fatal to his hopes for a fifth Cup series championship this season.
“You just can’t have things like this happen if you are going to make a run at a championship or battle with those guys,” Gordon said.
“We had a great race car. We just didn’t take off good on the restarts, but once we got going, boy were we really strong.”
While Gordon was a late addition to the Chase field thanks to a decision by NASCAR Chairman Brian France following a cheating scandal at the Richmond race, Gordon had shown the ability to compete head-to-head with this season’s championship contenders.
Gordon won his first race of the season last weekend at Martinsville, Va., and prior to Sunday’s race, he hadn’t finished worse than 14th in the Chase.
“You know how things have to go your way in order to stay close to those guys or even make a gap up. But it doesn’t matter now,” Gordon said. “That’s the thing. We just have to put this behind us and go race hard the next two weeks.”