Jeff Gordon rallies from penalty, but disappointment lingers

Reid Spencer - NASCAR Wire Service Tuesday, Mar 31 1443
Exiting pit road after his final stop on Lap 462 of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon got the bad news.

Gordon had entered the pits as the leader under the 16th and final caution of the race and was fourth off pit road, but the news was much worse than that.

NASCAR had flagged Gordon for speeding in Sector 5, the stretch of pit road immediately before his stall. With his chances for a victory dashed, Gordon restarted from the rear of the field on Lap 467 of 500.

“Oh, my gosh, I’m so disappointed in myself,” Gordon said after the race. “I know I was pushing the limit. I didn’t think I had done anything different than I had all day long when I was behind other guys, so we’ve got to look at that. I’m very, very disappointed. I felt like we finally got the car, got ourselves in a position to win that race.

“It was a struggle. We were really battling with tire wear and the car getting really loose. I thought Denny (Hamlin) had the best car, but I thought with our track position there at the end, we had a shot at it. Oh, my gosh, I’m so disappointed. I don’t even know what to say right now. Of course, then the car is the absolute best it had been all day when I drove up from the back.”

Indeed, Gordon put forth a yeoman effort in the closing laps, driving from the rear to a ninth-place finish before Hamlin took the checkered flag.