Mar 17, 2014, 5:31 PM EDT
Jeff Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports team would no doubt like to have a win in the bank soon to effectively get in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
But they can’t be disappointed with how competitive they’ve been to start the season.
Gordon is now the only driver to have earned Top-10 finishes in each of the first four races of 2014 after finishing seventh in last night’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The P7 run in Thunder Valley follows a fourth in the Daytona 500, a fifth in Phoenix, and a ninth in Las Vegas.
Starting sixth, Gordon quickly moved into the Top 3 but during his first stop of the day under the Lap 50 competition caution, he made contact with David Ragan that turned the Front Row Motorsports driver sideways.
The incident caused Gordon to tumble all the way to 34th for the subsequent restart but he was able to get back within the Top 20 by the time the red flag came out for rain at Lap 124 of 500.
More than three hours later, the race returned to green-flag conditions at Lap 136 with the condition that another competition caution would occur 50 laps later at Lap 186.
But Gordon was unable to keep his forward momentum going as tire wear problems set in.
“It’s crazy – when we went back racing after the rain delay, we just completely wore out the left-front tire in just like 20 or 30 laps,” he said after the race. “I mean, we were going backwards in a hurry. [I'm thankful] for that competition caution, we fixed that and got the car better.”
Adjustments under that competition yellow enabled Gordon to claw back toward the front and break into the Top 10 by Lap 300. He would rise as high as fifth with less than 100 to go before settling in seventh.
“The car came up through there so good on four tires that we decided to put four more on [for the final stop],” he said. The [final] restart just didn’t go the way I needed it to and we never got up through there again.”
Nonetheless, his Bristol result marks the first time in Gordon’s illustrious career that he’s opened a season with four consecutive Top-10s.
Additionally, his seventh and teammate Kasey Kahne‘s eighth-place result gave Hendrick Motorsports its 1,500th career Top-10 finish.