Ill-handling cars draw complaints in Texas

April 6, 2008 5:43:04 PM PDT
Jimmie Johnson finished second and Jeff Gordon had a rare last-place finish. While at opposite ends of the field, both Hendrick teammates had complaints about how the new cars handled at Texas Motor Speedway. "The car is so dependent on aerodynamics that the guy in front has a major, major advantage," Johnson said. "More than we've ever had before."

Near the end of the Samsung 500 on Sunday, after two late cautions tightened the field and sent the race to two extra laps, Johnson still couldn't catch up with Carl Edwards.

"We're all afraid to run side-by-side, and you can only get so close to the guy in front of you," said Johnson, obviously frustrated despite he second straight top-five finish. "I can tell you how bad (the car) drove. ... My hands were full."

At least Johnson had a good finish to show for his day. Gordon was 43rd - last in the field - for only the second time in his 516 career Cup races. Gordon finished only 124 of the 339 laps.

When Gordon spun out and made contact with the wall on lap 109, he bypassed his pit and took the ill-handling No. 24 Chevrolet straight to the garage. After lengthy repairs, Gordon went back on the track more than 100 laps down and ran only a few more laps before finally parking the car.

"We've tried every setup we can find, but none of them seem to work," Gordon said. "I was just hanging on every single lap."

Except for a two-day tire test with two cars in mid-January, this week was the first time NASCAR's new cars ran at Texas.

Kyle Busch, after winning the Nationwide race at Texas on Saturday, was third Sunday in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for his best finish in seven Cup starts at Texas. And even he wasn't completely thrilled.

"Was it fun to drive? No. Was it hard to drive? Yes," Busch said. "Did it survive the day? Yes. So was it a good day? Sure."

Edwards had a different take, though, than everybody who followed him on the track. He insisted that the cars were "the same for everybody. It makes it more exciting to win. ... It's not supposed to be a drive on the interstate."

Gordon started 18th, dropped five spots the first three laps, then slipped to 35th after 11 laps. Then on lap 70, Gordon was passed by Johnson, who was leading the race at the time. Gordon was trying to avoid being lapped again when he spun.

Gordon has 81 victories and is one of only four drivers to run all 15 Cup races in Texas, but he still hasn't won on the high-banked 1½-mile track in any series. Gordon at least has a Nationwide victory at Homestead, the only other track he hasn't won a Cup race.

"We have had our moments when the car has been really good," Gordon said. "But, you know what, when the car is off, I am lost here. I haven't felt this lost since my rookie year at a race track."