Just when it looked like Jeff Gordon was going to pull off an amazing comeback from alternator issues that plagued him throughout the day, he melted a bead and blew out a tire on the last lap.
He hit the wall and, instead of a sure top-five finish, settled for 11th. It was just another twist in an up-and-down day at New Hampshire.
"Oh my goodness!" Gordon said afterward. "What didn't happen today?"
For much of the race, Gordon seemed to have one of the best cars on the track – in fact, it was probably the fastest overall. But he struggled to get track position in the early portion of the race until crew chief Alan Gustafson made a two-tire pit call to get him up front.
It seemed like Gordon had a shot to turn the race into a rout at that point, but his car suddenly developed alternator issues. He eventually had to switch out both of his batteries – he was fortunate the team chose to run two on this day – and had to turn off his air conditioning and brake fans for the rest of the race.
As he charged back up to the front after being a lap down – and even looked like he could rally for the win – Gordon realized he had a shot at Denny Hamlin, who was running third.
With Hamlin starting to back off in order to conserve gas, Gordon began to charge the corners a bit harder and perhaps put too much temperature on his tires. It blew out the right front, and he hit the wall.
"You have to survive these races in a lot of different ways, and we had a lot of obstacles thrown at us," he said. "...It was a challenging day in a lot of ways. But it was certainly something. We're excited about coming back here later in the year to this racetrack; our car was fast."
Indeed, Gordon will be one to watch at New Hampshire when NASCAR returns for its second Chase race in September. And he'll be a threat to take the whole thing if he can pick up his performance on a few other tracks.
"I think we've shown that we can put fast race cars out on these one-mile racetracks – especially the flatter tracks," he said. "We've got to back that up with effective performances on the 1.5-mile (tracks) as well – which we're closing in on, but we've got to get a little better."