AVONDALE, Ariz. – Jeff Gordon ran near the front of the pack all season long in 2014, and Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway was no different.
He leads all drivers this season with an average running position of 9.163, and at Phoenix his average running position was 6.206 en route to a second-place finish.
But that result also came with some heartbreak, as a fellow Chase driver capitalized on contact with a competitor to pick up a crucial position and knock Gordon to fifth place in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. Only the top four advanced to Homestead-Miami Speedway with a shot at the championship.
“It’s disappointing,” Gordon said. “We’ve got a lot to hold our heads up high about – the way that we raced this race, the whole Chase and the whole season. We raced hard, we raced together as a team.”
Gordon started the season with back-to-back top-five finishes. Since then, he has added 12 more top-five finishes – all of which have been top-two finishes.
On Sunday at Phoenix, the driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS picked up his eighth runner-up finish of the season – and second of the Chase’s Eliminator Round -- to go with his four wins.
But ultimately it wasn’t enough to head to Homestead with a fifth NASCAR Cup Series championship in his sights.
That was in no small part due to his 29th-place finish last week at Texas Motor Speedway, which was a result of a competitor making contact with him on the first green-white-checkered attempt. Gordon entered that restart as the race leader but the contact caused a cut left-rear tire that ultimately spun him out.
He bounced back as well as he could Sunday, but narrowly missed the cut.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this Axalta Chevrolet team, (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and everybody,” Gordon said. “It makes last week hurt that much more. But we did everything we could in Martinsville (Speedway), we did everything we could here. Second just wasn’t good enough.”
But that doesn’t mean that Gordon will pack it in as the Sprint Cup Series heads to its finale at Homestead.
The four-time champion still has his eyes on Victory Lane.
“You know what? I’m not happy about it, but at the same time I’m really proud of what we’ve done this year,” Gordon said. “We’ll go and try to win Homestead and end this season on a positive note.”