Jeff Gordon fought a chancy setup early in Sunday’s race at Sonoma.
Then his team incurred a penalty when a crew member threw a spring rubber over the roof of the No. 24 Chevrolet—a violation of NASCAR’s rule against throwing equipment on pit road—and Gordon had to drop to the rear of the field.
Despite the adversity, Gordon restarted third with a glimmer of hope when pit strategy left him near the front of the field on old tires, but the top-five position didn’t last long at the 1.99-mile road course Gordon considers his home track.
Ultimately, the four-time champion finished 16th in his final run at Sonoma as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.
“I was really optimistic going into the race,” Gordons said ruefully. “Our car was good in practice. We qualified well. They dropped the green and we were moving forward. I was pretty happy with it. I felt that rear starting to go off pretty early on and saw some guys coming from further back. And so we tried to make a couple of adjustments. It just seemed as the track continued to lay rubber, our setup, which we were taking a little bit of a gamble and risk with--but it looked good in practice--it just didn’t pay off for us.
“So, we had to make some big adjustments and lose track position. But the car was really, really good there at the end. Nothing’s going to take away from this weekend for me. I know it wasn’t the finish we all wanted, but it was a very memorable weekend. It’s still a little bit more fun to go to hang out with some of my friends and family here. But I hate that we weren’t a little bit better. And that last thing (staying out) ... I was just taking some risk on that last pit stop. We didn’t have anything to lose at that point.”