If he could, Jeff Gordon would love to have back the last five laps of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Instead, all Gordon could do was wonder what-if after finishing second to Carl Edwards Sunday.
"I started overdriving it a little bit trying to catch him and making a few mistakes," Gordon said. "I made one in particular that really cost me, and I think if I had just stayed smooth and stuck with it -- looked like his car really started falling off those last couple laps -- I might have had a shot at least putting more pressure on Carl to force him to make a mistake or maybe get a run inside of him."
What Gordon didn't second-guess was his decision not to wreck Edwards, an opportunity which presented itself in the final corner of the final lap. That was when Edwards locked up his brakes entering Turn 11 allowing Gordon to close-up on Edwards' bumper.
Thinking better of it, however, Gordon elected not to push Edwards out of the lead. Why? In part Gordon raced Edwards cleanly because of a series of mistakes made in the closing laps, which allowed Edwards to build a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
"He did lock up going in there, but he made the corner, and that was it," Gordon said. "At that point it's a desperate move. It's not one worth wrecking the guy on because hey, if you're racing the guy and you get a couple runs on him, he blocks you and he blocks you here and he blocks you there and you're faster, then you might not give an inch. You might go in there and you might use the bumper."
Gordon's afternoon also included a series of close calls with Jimmie Johnson as the two raced for position. The most notable incident between the Hendrick Motorsports teammates saw Johnson hit the No. 24 car from behind, nearly spinning Gordon out.
"At the moment you're just mad that it happened, so I took it out on my right front fender, but it did more damage to my car than it did to his," Gordon said. "Then I calmed down and we just went back to racing.
"You know, I don't like to make judgment until you see the video, but we raced hard, and we had a great race and banged with a bunch of guys, but I thought it was all just in good racing."