Jeff Gordon led the most laps from the pole and was leading the second Budweiser Duel qualifying race until a pit road penalty forced him to come back down pit road and relinquish the top spot. He spent the remainder of the race cruising well behind the battle for the lead and ultimately finished in 12th.
Despite the results, Gordon will still start on the front row of Sunday’s Daytona 500, the benefit given to the two-fastest qualifiers. It’s a small consolation prize for the four-time Series champion but one he’s grateful for after Thursday’s races.
“This is why you want to qualify on the front row,” Gordon said. “Little incidents like this are the reasons why we compete in this race. It’s better that we learned now, about our tachometer, so that it doesn’t happen in the Daytona 500.”
Gordon doesn’t believe his equipment failed but thinks he was a victim of pushing the envelope for every possible advantage.
“You want to maximize everything you have out there,” Gordon said. “You don't want give up anything on pit road, and we were just a little bit too aggressive with our settings. I ran it spot on where it needs to be... It wasn't that we had a problem or anything like that, we just pushed it too hard.”
Gordon led over teammate Kasey Kahne in the early stages of the second qualifying race and would have liked to have been there at the end. The teammates led a single-file group of about 10 cars and Gordon would have liked to have known how the second line would have affected the racing.
"I would have liked to have been up there with Kasey Kahne,” Gordon said. “You have got to have somebody go with you; you can't do it by yourself. But you can get a run, definitely. No doubt about it. I knew Kasey was just sitting there behind me just waiting for the right moment and opportunity late in this race. This is a real thinking race now. It comes down to the way it used to be.”
Gordon’s referring to the Sprint Cup car used in the late 90s and early 2000s – a car Gordon won three Daytona 500 trophies in. Despite running deep in the field and in a small pack of four cars, Gordon recognizes the style of racing the new Generation Six car should produce.
“Everybody kind of rides and thinks about what they have,” Gordon said. “You have to have your car handling pretty good, which is tough to do further back in traffic… But it is hard to make it up through the field when everybody is working together like that in a single file. That is the way it used to be.”