One last time: Jeff Gordon finishes 16th at Sonoma
Gordon makes final run at hometown track.
When Jeff Gordon returns to Sonoma Raceway in 2016, he'll be in front of the camera -- not behind the wheel.
On Sunday, Gordon, 43, piloted the No. 24 AARP Chevy around the 1.99-mile road course for the last time of his Sprint Cup career.
The Vallejo, Calif. native qualified fifth at his home town track and received the loudest welcome from the fans as he was introduced to the crowd. While Gordon was "really optimistic going into the race" and competed among the top 10 drivers throughout the early stages, that sentiment did not last long.
"They dropped the green and we were moving forward," Gordon said. "I was pretty happy with it. I felt that rear starting to go off pretty early on and saw some guys coming from further back. And so we tried to make a couple of adjustments.
"It just seemed as the track continued to lay rubber, our set-up, which we were taking a little bit of a gamble and risk with, but it looked good in practice; but it just didn’t pay off for us."
The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team experienced a miscue on pit road on Lap 75 that compounded Gordon's problems and he was forced to drop to the back of the field - sacrificing 16 spots.
On the final caution, crew chief Alan Gustafson gambled and elected to leave Gordon out on the track with the leaders. He jumped from the top 20 to third on the Lap 104 restart. But on old tires, Gordon back to 16th.
“The car was really, really good there at the end," Gordon said. "Nothing’s going to take away from this weekend for me. I know it wasn’t the finish we all wanted, but it was a very memorable weekend.
"It’s still a little bit more fun to go to hang out with some of my friends and family here. But, I hate that we weren’t a little bit better. And that last thing, I was just taking some risk on that last pit stop. We didn’t have anything to lose at that point.”
Gordon is currently 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings heading into next weekend's race at Daytona International Speedway.
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