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Ouch! For Jeff Gordon, Sam Hornish, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and others, Monday's race at the Glen was a painful experience

  Yes, it's just been that kind of season. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. isn't the only guy wishing the year were over (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   It was a rather strange afternoon for most NASCAR drivers, but certainly not for Tony Stewart.
   And most drivers left Watkins Glen International in less than a happy mood.
   Of course Sam Hornish Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton were glad to leave in one piece, after their savage crash.
   Kevin Harvick got tangled up in an early crash, when David Stremme bobbled. "From what I can see, he just ran out of talent -- drove through the crash and spun out and just crashed," Harvick grumbled.
   "That is just part of where we were in the field. The car was good….we just got caught up in somebody else's mess."
   It's been that kind of season.
  "I'm tired of wrecking," Harvick said. "You have got guys that qualify well up there that are probably well over their means of their experience level….
   "He just drove through the grass, and we just got caught up in the wrong spot, wrong time. Just the story of the year."
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. too. He ran out of brakes and crashed into Reed Sorenson.
   "Going into turn three I mashed the brake and it worked for a split-second and then it went to the floor like it blew a hose," Earnhardt said. "It was a brake line or something.
    "I tried to miss Reed and couldn't do a good job at that. But there wasn't much I could do. I couldn't slow my car down…and the gravel trap slowed the car down a little bit, and the tire barrier worked great. Hopefully the car's not too bad.
    "Just real bad luck. We've had some real bad luck.
     "Yeah, it's been a hard season. But we've been through worse stuff, and we're still real fortunate.
    "We've still got a lot to be thankful for in life.
     "I ain't never had the brakes just completely fail on a car like that, so that was really an experience.
     "That gravel trap and tire barrier worked perfectly, and the HANS device kept that neck from stretching too far. So we're really lucky with the things they've done to the cars (to make them safer). I'm glad the gravel trap did a little bit of work there.
     "But it's been a tough year, man.
     "I guess if I sat and thought about all the bad things and got further down, it would just be a longer time to get back….
     "You've just got to have some kind of positive thoughts, and pull something out of it, to keep yourself feeling like you've got a shot the next weekend and the next weekend.
    "So we can't give up, we can't quit, we've just got to keep trying.
     "I've seen some high spots… but we've had some pretty bad luck."

    Teammate Jeff Gordon finally had some tough luck himself, with that bad crash, that aggravated his already painful back.   
    "It wasn't that hard a hit – it's just my back can't stand too many hits," Gordon said.
    "But I really was concerned for Sam. He took a heavy hit into the wall, a heavy hit by me and Jeff.
     "I saw him go off into the grass, and I knew he was going to come out in front of me. I was just hoping to squeeze by…and didn't make it.
     "Then I got into the wall on the other side (hard, nose-first), and was just sitting there in the track hoping nobody was going to hit me again.
     "I was just bracing myself -- I saw cars still coming by pretty fast.
      "But as long as the car wasn't on fire I was good to sit in there until everybody went by.
     "It made a rough weekend for us even worse.
      "I'm hurting -- Everything feels good except my lower back, where I've already had issues. It will just take a couple of weeks for it to heal. By then we'll go to Bristol and get through that…then we'll be alright.
     "You take three or four steps forward (in dealing with his back pain) --  and then you take a hit like that and you take a couple steps backwards. It really took a toll on my back again.
     "It's not life-threatening or anything; it's just painful. I've had MRIs after these things, and everything looks fine. It's just some spasms that go on. You've got to calm that down. But it doesn't just calm down by itself in a day; it really does take a couple of weeks."
     Even before the crash the weekend wasn't going well at all for Gordon. The winningest road racer in NASCAR was never in the hunt Monday, and his last win here was back on 2001.
    "You want a good run, you want momentum (going into the chase)….and we just haven't been good here in quite some time," Gordon conceded. "Our car was actually decent, we just didn't qualify good enough (31st) to show it."

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