FORT WORTH, Texas – Jeff Gordon prefers to talk about what happened at Texas last year before his two race-ending crashes and the backstretch brawl with Jeff Burton.
“I put it behind us really,” Gordon said Friday. “We certainly want to put more focus on the good run that we had earlier last year. Felt like we had a car that could win. We want to try to recreate that again this time.”
Gordon had led six times for a race-high 124 laps last April at the high-banked 11/2-mile Texas Motor Speedway and was trying to get back to the front late before getting caught up in a spectacular nine-car wreck that took him out the race.
Then in November, Burton sent Gordon’s car crashing into an outside wall during a caution period.
An angry Gordon walked from the top to the bottom of the track and with both hands pushed Burton hard before taking some swings. The two were separated by NASCAR safety officials.
Burton took full responsibility for the accident – “100 percent, it was my fault,” he said – and had no problem with what Gordon did. The two then rode in the same ambulance to the infield care center.
In April, Tony Stewart got loose in a pack and made contact with Gordon, leading to the big wreck.
When Gordon got out of his mangled No. 24 Chevrolet, he walked directly to Stewart, who was only halfway out of his car, still sitting on the door frame. Stewart put his hand on Gordon’s shoulder and they then walked away toward the pits together. Stewart took full responsibility for that accident.
There has been plenty of tough luck at Texas for Gordon, who has two last-place finishes there to go along with nine top 10s. He won the spring race in 2004.
Gordon qualified 32nd for tonight’s race at Texas, which will be the 21st Sprint Cup race at the track but the first at night. And the altered schedule could have had an impact on that poor showing.
“It’s caught us off guard for sure. We made a little bit of a mistake and focused too much on the race setup (Thursday) and didn’t make a qualifying run and it hurt us because we couldn’t get the lap in to get our draw or running order position for qualifying,” Gordon said. “We won’t really know until we get through the race on the rest of it because we’ve not been on the track in the same conditions that we’re going to be racing.”