DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were running among the leaders with one lap to go in Saturday’s Budweiser Shootout, when the teammates were collected in a multi-car incident that sent Gordon flipping in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.
Gordon emerged from his car uninjured to the thunderous applause from those watching the exhibition event at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Meanwhile, Johnson’s No. 48 team loaded up the Lowe’s Chevrolet, and Johnson was scored behind teammate Kasey Kahne, who was making his Hendrick Motorsports debut in the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet. Kahne held on to finish 13th, while Johnson was 14th. Gordon was scored 15th, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was collected the second major incident of the night, took 20th.
Earnhardt opened Saturday’s 75-lap event from the eighth position and quickly took the lead within the first lap, bringing the crowd to its feet at Daytona. He held onto the top spot for three circuits before being shuffled back among the top three. Meanwhile, Gordon improved four spots to 10th, but reported that he was experiencing some overheating.
Six laps later, a nine-car incident happened in Turn 1 that collected Gordon and Kahne. Both teams reported to pit road with varying degrees of damage. Gordon’s crew made swift repairs to the left rear of the No. 24 Chevrolet, and sent Gordon back onto the track. Kahne sustained greater damage, and his No. 5 Chevrolet required more body work. He returned to the track one lap down.
On the restart, Earnhardt held the lead, but couldn’t thwart the hard-charging field. By the end of the first 25-lap segment, Gordon had improved to third, despite reporting issues with his front shocks, and Johnson was running fourth. Earnhardt was scored 12th, while Kahne was in 22nd.
The Hendrick Motorsports teammates spent the 10-minute break making necessary repairs and preparing for the final 50-lap segment. Gordon’s pit crew took advantage of the time to repair a broken right-front shock as well as complete some body work. When the race resumed, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet lined up from the outside pole position and immediately took the lead.
Gordon’s grip on the lead slipped as the race unfolded and within the first six laps, the third caution flag was issued for a spin.
Earnhardt, Gordon and Johnson opted to pit under the yellow flag, while Kahne decided to stay on-track and improve his position. Earnhardt restarted the race in second, but on the inside of the front row, while his teammates rounded out the top 22. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet alternated as the race leader, frequently contesting with tandem packs.
With 28 laps to go, Earnhardt joined up with Gordon, and the teammates made their way to the front. But holding position was tricky, and they were shuffled into the pack. Nine laps later, Earnhardt’s night was cut short when the No. 88 Chevy was involved in a multi-car incident in Turn 2. While the incident initially unfolded high on the track, Gordon stayed on the bottom, slipping by unscathed. The driver of the No. 24 Chevy joined teammate Jimmie Johnson, who was running just in front of the incident. Kahne also was unaffected by the crash.
“All right,” Earnhardt radioed his team as he headed to the garage. “Let’s get this one loaded up. We’ve got a good car. We’ll work on it and be ready for next week.”
Johnson pitted during the ensuing yellow-flag period, taking right-side tires on his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. His teammates stayed on the track, and Gordon lined up on the front row for the restart with 14 laps to go. Johnson lined up behind his teammate and pushed Gordon into the lead. The duo maintained their presence among the leaders until the final major crash unfolded with one lap to go.
With the Shootout now in the rearview mirror, the Hendrick teammates will regroup for Daytona 500 qualifying session. Tune in Sunday to watch the action live at 1 p.m. ET on FOX.