Charlotte, NC (May 26, 2009) -- Heavy rain postponed Sunday's 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 until Memorial Day. Despite Mother Nature's gloom outlook, the No. 7 Jim Beam / Operation Homefront team began the day looking to improve its 37th...
Charlotte, NC (May 26, 2009) -- Heavy rain postponed Sunday's 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 until Memorial Day. Despite Mother Nature's gloom outlook, the No. 7 Jim Beam / Operation Homefront team began the day looking to improve its 37th place starting position as the green flag dropped just after 12 p.m. on Monday afternoon.
The first yellow flag of the race came out on Lap 7 for rain, and the No. 7 team decided to take full advantage of this opportunity to pit for four fresh tires and a chassis adjustment to help loosen the car.
Gordon called to his crew on Lap 25 to inform them that the car was still too tight and that adjustments needed to be made during the competition caution mandated by NASCAR on lap 40. The crew made several adjustments to the No. 7 Camry during this pit stop, and Gordon's car began showing signs of improvement upon the restart.
Rain brought out another caution on Lap 71, and Gordon and crew chief Kirk Almquist decided to stay out to gain five bonus points for leading the race. With Gordon at the head of the field, the red flag came out on Lap 73 for rain. This proved to be the break the team needed. During the fifty-five minute rain delay, Gordon and his crew were able to discuss what changes needed to be made to improve the car's handling.
Once the race resumed under a yellow flag, Gordon brought the car to pit road and the team made several key adjustments. He restarted in the 43rd position, but quickly began to move his way back through the field. At several points during this long green flag run, Gordon's lap times equaled those of the race leader and had gained eighteen positions before the team made a green flag pit stop on Lap 130.
At 3 p.m., NASCAR displayed the red flag for a planned Memorial Day tribute. The cars were held on the front stretch as a moment of silence was observed to salute the men and women of our armed forces who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This moving silent tribute observed by the NASCAR community and its fans was a poignant reminder that the freedom we enjoy every day was secured by the bravery of our fallen heroes.
The race resumed under a yellow flag, and Gordon made a pit stop on lap 167 for four tires and fuel. After another delay for rain, Gordon restarted 25th and was the last car on the lead lap. The green flag dropped on Lap 180, and Gordon passed several cars during this run as rain clouds gathered on the horizon.
Rain brought out yet another yellow flag on Lap 221, and Gordon and Almquist faced a major decision -- to stay on the race track or to pit. Almquist made the decision to stay out, gambling that the rain would set in and the race would be called by NASCAR. The majority of the cars in the field decided to pit on Lap 222. However, the Nos. 00, 39, and 7 were the only cars who chose not to come down pit road. Gordon was shown in 3rd place when NASCAR displayed the red flag on Lap 227.
Gordon's gamble paid off when NASCAR officially called off the race at 6:26 p.m. after a two-hour rain delay. His 3rd place finish places Gordon firmly inside the top 35 in owner's points and provides the team momentum heading to Dover later this week.