NASCAR & Auto Racing

Race rewind | Pit stop costly for Jeff Gordon

Taking another look at Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the fifth race in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup:

REAR-VIEW MIRROR

When a car took the lead Saturday night, it looked like that car had picked up 25 extra horsepower. It was the same for everybody and Jeff Burton's winning team played that into its race strategy.

But if NASCAR's new car was supposed to end or reduce the effects of clean air, at least at Charlotte it has absolutely failed at that purpose.

Jeff Gordon defended his team's decision to make a pit stop after a caution came out on Lap 266, but it's hard to see the logic behind the move. None of the guys he was racing for the win stopped then, so Gordon lost track position on a night that was extremely valuable.

If the plan was to stretch fuel the rest of the way, then why come in again when everyone else did on the final caution with about 35 laps to go?

Gordon restarted seventh after the questionable stop and finished eighth, so whatever the plan was, it did not work.

Cindy McCain, Elizabeth Dole and Pat McCrory all made appearances in the prerace ceremonies. Apparently the Democrat detector at the gate to the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield tunnel is functioning fully.

KEY MOMENTS

Lap 68

Carl Edwards, already a lap down because of an earlier problem, can't get his engine to fire. He's pushed to pit road and his team has to change his ignition system. Edwards loses 15 more laps and is on his way to falling from second to fourth in the Chase.

Lap 103

Dale Earnhardt Jr. blows a tire coming off Turn 2 and hits the outside wall. His team would get him back out, but not until the No. 88 Chevrolet was 44 laps down and en route to a 36th-place finish that ended any flickering title hopes for Junior Nation.

Lap 278

Jeff Burton swings to the outside of Greg Biffle to take the lead for the first time in the race. The pass comes as Biffle and Burton are behind several cars on the end of the lead lap, which minimizes the impact of clean air and lets the two contending cars battle.

Lap 297

Crew chief Scott Miller orders his team to only put fuel in Burton's Chevrolet on the final pit stop. Miller said later Burton's car seemed "happy" with the set of tires it had on, and he wanted to keep the lead - and the all-important clean air that came with it.

Lap 305

After dueling for several laps after a restart, Burton finally pulls clear of Jimmie Johnson and secures the lead. Johnson eventually fades to sixth place. Kasey Kahne makes a late push toward the front, but can't catch Burton and settles for second.

NEXT RACE

Tums QuikPak 500

Where: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

TV: ABC.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Last year's winner: Jimmie Johnson.

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