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Pop Secret 400 - Rockingham Speedway

One year ago:
Jeff started third and tried to run down DJ in the closing laps for the win, but couldn't get it done.

Kelly Morris
Jeff Gordon started eighth in the Pop Secret 400 at Rockingham Speedway on Sunday! The cars could not even make it through the first lap without crashing. Going into turn one, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Petty got together and Petty spun into Bill Elliott. The first 60 laps, Jeff hung around the top ten, but then started to slip back a little. By the time he made his first green flag pitstop, the car was a handful and he was doing everything he could to keep it out of the wall. Jeff had a very loose car so they put some wedge in hoping to combat that problem. It got worse and worse and pretty soon Gordon had slid all the way back to 25th place!

Then the bad got ugly, Jeff pitted along with everyone except Kurt Busch and the caution came out and he was trapped a lap down. Jeff decided to come to pit road three times to try to fix the car. He restarted in the back but was hoping the changes would help him get his lap back. That did not happen. Jeff hung on to finish a disappointing 25th place three laps behind the leaders.

On the flip side, Joe Nemechek was blazing through the field and led 196 laps to win the race. This was the second win for Nemechek and his first of 2001.“Man, what a day! What a day!” Nemechek said. “We knew in the first practice on Friday that we were really good. The motor was awesome today.” Kenny Wallace finished a strong second in Steve Park's car and Johnny Benson was third.

Jeff graciously gave an interview after the race."I was driving as hard as I can but the car was just not allowing me to carry the speed through the corners," Gordon said. "The car just wanted to spin out. When you have a car like that you're actually working double hard."

It was a tough day for us," Gordon said. "I was fighting it every single lap. It probably looked like I was just riding around. We just got extremely loose and could never get it back. We had one caution and we worked on it but just didn't get it any better."

Jeff still leads Ricky Rudd by 326 points with three races to go, who finished 8th, one lap down. Next week they head to Homestead where Jeff tested a couple of weeks ago. While it will be harder to clinch the title this coming weekend it can still happen. If Gordon gains back 50 points on Rudd, the championship is his, if not, Atlanta will be the place where he can clinch.

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