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Another fade for Jeff Gordon...and another downer for Dale Earnhardt Jr.


So what does it take for Jeff Gordon to snap out of this slump? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   So what the heck happened to Jeff Gordon?
   This was supposed to be his day.
   He started from the pole, he had the best pit, and for most of the race he and Denny Hamlin clearly had the two best cars, dueling hard.
   But down the stretch Gordon faded to fourth, while teammate Jimmie Johnson rallied to win.
   Gordon said the lack of much practice, the new softer right-side tires, and changing track conditions conspired against him.
   "That's what we were afraid of," Gordon fretted. "We were so good in practice Friday, though it seemed like the tires were going loose.
    "The set-up we went to was just so strong in practice that it was hard to get away from it.
   "Now, looking back on it, a little bit of practice only hurt us.
    "You know Jimmie is so good here. He has just dominated.
    "I was real impressed with Denny as well.
    "We were the third-best car.
     "I was hoping that number one pit stall we could take advantage of. But on the long runs we lost the handle on it that one time.
    "We were great on the short runs, just couldn't do anything on the outside.
   "Still, it was a great run, great team effort, and another top-five.
     "I was good in clean air, and at the beginning, when it rubbered up, we were just too tight.
    "Jimmie is just so good, that whole team is just so good…and so is Denny.
    "Unfortunately on that last restart I just couldn't get around the lapped cars and catch Tony Stewart."
   So Gordon lost another great opportunity to snap that long winless streak and get some momentum heading into Texas, one of his worst tracks.
    "I'm looking forward to seeing what we have there," Gordon said.
     "It is great to run in the top-five, but if we are going to contend for the championship, especially in those final 10 races, we've got to start winning races.
    "I am not really concerned with this streak of how many wins we haven't had in a row. I am more concerned with what we have to do this year to win races and win this championship.
    "You certainly don't want to give Jimmie momentum.
    "I know we are capable of winning. I thought we were going to do a lot better than we were today. 
    "I am actually looking forward to going to Texas and see how good this stuff that we have been running at the other 1-1/2-miles will be. It  has worked so well that we almost won.
    "I am not concerned about Texas. I am a little more concerned about the fact we didn't run better here at Martinsville."

The Rick Hendrick clan, before Sunday's 500: all smiles (L-R Jimmie Johnson, Geoff Bodine, bossman Hendrick, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    And teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Another afternoon with transmission trouble, though Earnhardt held on to finish eighth.
    "It was an all-right day," Earnhardt said. "We didn't have as good a car as I wanted to have. But we worked on it all day, and the guys stayed positive.
     "We were a top-five car most of the day, I thought.  So I'm not real happy about that finish.
     "This is excellent equipment; we've just got to know what to do with it.
     "We got to get a little bit better as team to compete.
     "The stuff is right there in front of us, man. We've just got to figure out what to do to make it work."
   And another transmission problems? "Our transmission wouldn't stay in gear, so we got a bungee cord and held it in gear the rest of the day," Earnhardt said. "It popped out of gear, so they put the bungee cord on it."
    So Earnhardt's struggles continue. And so do the questions. He agrees: "It seems like every race we go to, we are about five spots off where we were last year…and I don't know why.
   "It very frustrating.
    "But we are working hard."

Jimmie Johnson gets congratulations -- maybe -- from frustrated teammate Jeff Gordon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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Thanks, we're busting butt...and got a lot more new tricks and buzzers and bells coming....keep sending in comments, good or bad.

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