FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jeff Gordon benefited from a late-race two-tire call to pick up five spots on pit road and take the lead with two laps to go on Monday at Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M Engineering Chevrolet SS lined up on the inside for the green-white-checkered flag attempt.
Gordon used a solid restart to stetch out the lead, but was unable to hold on and crossed the finish line second. He was joined inside the top 11 by teammate Kasey Kahne.
"We were really strong the first half of the race, and when the sun came out, some guys came to the front, and we just lost the handling," said Gordon, who is the new points leader. "We got real tight. That was a great (pit) call by (crew chief) Alan Gustafson."
Their Hendrick Motorsports teammates weren't as fortunate. Jimmie Johnson rallied after being affected by an early caution, but struggled to overcome a subsequent cut tire. Dale Earnhardt Jr., meanwhile, was involved in a Lap 13 incident that sidelined the No. 88 team.
Here is a look at how each Hendrick Motorsports driver fared on Monday:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 TIME WARNER CABLE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kasey Kahne started Monday’s rescheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup event from the 32nd position and almost immediately reported to pit road. The race opened under yellow-flag conditions, and Kahne wanted his team to address any hood flap issues that might have arisen due to pressure from the jet dryers. The track was declared green on Lap 11, and Kahne started climbing through the field. By Lap 40, he had improved 15 spots to run 17th. Kahne entered pit road on Lap 48 for four tires and fuel, but was boxed in by the competition. The stall cost Kahne track position, and he returned running 28th. By Lap 91, Kahne was clocking speeds faster than the leader and was running 12th. By Lap 131, Kahne had improved to run ninth. Kahne continued to run inside the top 10 as the race unfolded despite reporting a tight-handling condition. With 80 laps to go, the caution flag was waved for debris, and crew chief Kenny Francis called Kahne down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments. Kahne maintained his position inside the top 10, but was shuffled during a final green-white-checkered flag restart into the 11th-place result.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA/TEXAS A&M ENGINEERING CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Jeff Gordon rolled off the grid 12th on Monday at Texas Motor Speedway and picked up one position before the caution flag was waved for teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 13. Gordon continued his forward march, improving to crack the top five by Lap 48 when a competition caution was issued. Car temperatures and tires held steady for the driver of the No. 24 Axalta/Texas A&M Chevrolet SS, as he was running third by Lap 85. Eight laps later, Gordon moved into the second position and then the lead as green-flag pit stops began at Texas. Gordon led one lap before pitting for four tires, fuel and adjustments on Lap 99. By Lap 135, Gordon was running half-a-second behind then-leader Denny Hamlin. Gordon took advantage of green-flag stops around Lap 140 to lead a couple more laps at the 1.5-mile oval before hitting pit road. Gordon stopped for four tires, fuel and an answer to a tight-handling condition. Within 10 circuits back on track, Gordon slipped by Kyle Busch to take the lead on Lap 153. Gordon paced the field until Lap 176 when the caution flag was waved for debris. A swift four-tire and fuel stop by the No. 24 team put Gordon back out in front. Gordon led the field to green before sliding into second. Gordon remained inside the top five as the race unfolded, making a green-flag stop with 34 laps to go for four tires, fuel and adjustments to alleviate a loose-handling condition. Gordon returned to run sixth and started clocking lap times faster than the leader. With three laps to go, Gordon made a late-race pit stop under caution for two tires. The call made the difference for Gordon, who picked up five spots and returned to line up first for the green-white-checkered flag attempt. Gordon paced the field briefly before finishing second.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S SPRING IS CALLING CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Jimmie Johnson lined up 16th on Monday for the rain-postponed NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway, and he encountered several issues within the first 12 laps. First, he had an issue with the hood flaps on his No. 48 Lowe’s Spring Is Calling Chevrolet SS; a result of running alongside the jet dryer during the race-opening laps, which were held under caution. On Lap 12, Johnson was nearby when teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the grass and made hard contact with the wall. Debris from the incident apparently affected the windshield and nose of Johnson’s Chevy SS. Crew chief Chad Knaus addressed the damage with a new nose and significant other repairs, before sending Johnson to restart at the tail of the field and one the lead lap. Back on track, Johnson was making his forward march when a tire issue arose. Johnson made an unscheduled pit stop for fresh tires, fuel and further adjustments before returning to the 1.5-mile Fort Worth oval. As the race unfolded, Johnson earned back one lap and was running 27th by Lap 138 and two laps down. Johnson picked up another lap by Lap 271 and was running 25th, but a long green-flag stretch ultimately required the No. 48 team to make a stop. With the laps ticking down at Texas, Knaus asked Johnson to save as much fuel as possible to stretch their fuel window. Johnson held on to finish 25th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Dale Earnhardt Jr. opened Monday’s rescheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Texas Motor Speedway from the 19th position. NASCAR displayed a yellow flag for the first 10 laps so the 1.5-mile speedway could completely dry before waving the green flag. Earnhardt’s forward march was halted, however, when the driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS, accidentally ran in the grass on the apron of the front straightaway. Earnhardt was sidelined after the Lap 13 incident and, after his team assessed the damage in the garage, crew chief Steve Letarte made the call the No. 88 team would be done for the day. Earnhardt was scored with the 43rd-place result. “I didn’t have a good visual on where the grass was on the apron,” Earnhardt said afterward. “Just a mistake on my part. I didn’t know I was that close to the grass and just made a mistake.”