Jeff Gordon expressed a gamut of emotions following his runner-up finish in the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
On one hand, he had reason to celebrate. The result moved Gordon from 10th in the standings, the cutoff for qualifying for the Chase via points, to ninth. And with five races remaining in the regular season, he is now eight points ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart.
Conversely, Gordon was leading with two laps to go and was in excellent position to claim what would have been his first victory of the year. A win that would that have gone a long way to securing a Chase berth -- even more so than the points he received for finishing second.
"I'm frustrated right now because we had a shot at it," Gordon said. "We know how important wins are, but second is a great points day for us as well."
Gordon was running second, over seven seconds behind leader Kasey Kahne, when a timely caution waved for debris with 11 laps remaining. With the field bunched up, Gordon took advantage and passed Kahne on the restart and pulled away.
But a Matt Kenseth spin necessitated another yellow four laps from the finish, erasing Gordon's sizeable lead.
Although Gordon got the jump on the subsequent restart, a determined Kahne powered by him on the outside heading into Turn 2. And with two laps to go Gordon had no answer as he watched his teammate drive away for the win.
"(Kahne) was superfast all day," Gordon said. "(The No. 5 team) deserved and earned that win today. We had them though. We certainly had the position. We got a good restart.
"I'm pretty disappointed that I allowed them to get to the outside of me down in (Turn) 1. That is the advantage you have of being second. Just like the restart before that, I had a little bit of an advantage by being in second to get position on him ... But, man, he got a killer run and blasted on the outside of me. Caught me by surprise, I'll be honest. In that case, and in that scenario, it just kills your momentum."
With Sunday's result, Gordon has a season-best three consecutive top 10 finishes heading into next week's race at Watkins Glen, a style of track he's won on a NASCAR-best nine times.
However, Gordon doesn't have a road course win in seven years and he hasn't won at Watkins Glen since 2001. And the drought has him doubting whether he can recapture his old magic.
"I think the competition has gotten so much stronger at the road courses than it used to be," Gordon said. "Here I used to go to the road courses feeling confident that we were going to gain points and have a shot at winning. These days, I've got to fight hard to get a top 10.
"But I'm looking forward to the Glen. This stretch of races that are coming up, I think it's one of the reasons we made the Chase last year. They're just good tracks for us, and if we can start to put the execution together with the performance, I feel like we have a shot at staying in the top 10."