WATKINS GLEN – For half of the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen, Jeff Gordon was having a great time.
The 43-year-old four-time winner at WGI had led the first 29 laps of the race and was running second to Marcos Ambrose following his first pit stop. Then he lost all power to his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet – ending his chances to win.
It was that kind of day for Gordon, who finished 34th four laps down, as well as other top road racers like Brad Keselowski, who took some early damage, before limping home with a 35th place finish.
"Rough day but great speed all weekend for the No. 2 crew," Keselowski Tweeted. "I think we are getting all the bad stuff out of the way before The Chase."
Jimmie Johnson, who began the day starting third, was spun in a late incident in Turn 1 and finished 28th.
"I’m not exactly sure (what happened), I’ve got to get with the team to find out what exactly caused it, but it looks like we had two batteries go dead," Gordon said. "I didn’t see anything on the voltmeter that stood out, or anything that was alarming or stood out. Everything was going along really really well."
From the opening green flag, Gordon dominated up front, never being challenged hard by Ambrose, who seemed content to run second early on. Before the first round of pit stops, Gordon held a three second lead over Ambrose and a 10-second advantage of teammate Johnson in third place.
After giving up his lead 29 laps in, Gordon found himself in second place when the pit sequences went through. For the next 19 laps, he seemed content running second to Ambrose – who took the point.
"I felt like we were in control when we were out front," Gordon said. "We got a little behind on the pit stop sequence, but we were coming back.
"Man, I was having a blast out there. It was great to be that competitive here at Watkins Glen again."
Then seemingly out of the blue, Gordon was off the pace on Lap 50. The power failure happened at a bad time, as he was hung out on the outside of the final turn as faster traffic passed him on the inside – keeping Gordon from entering the pit lane. Gordon coasted down the front stretch, then down around Turn 1 before pulling his car off the course, where he was pushed by a wrecker behind Pit Row.
He returned to the track, but was four laps down. Unofficially, Gordon slipped into second place in the points standings, as Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved ahead of him by five points with an 11th-place finish.
When the race concluded, Gordon put the incident in perspective and stayed upbeat.
"I’d rather these things happen now, so we can determine what caused it – so it won’t happen again," Gordon said. "You can’t have those kind of things happen once The Chase starts."