Jul 13, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
But their plans went awry when Justin Allgaier‘s crash with four laps remaining in regulation sent the race into Green-White-Checkered.
Gordon would run out of fuel during the caution leading to the G-W-C restart, while Harvick himself hit empty as the field came down for the green flag.
The fuel woes relegated Gordon and Harvick to results of 26th and 30th, respectively. Not everything is bad for Gordon, however, as he retains the Sprint Cup championship lead by 12 points over Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After Denny Hamlin had to give up second for a splash of fuel under the final yellow, Gordon was to be behind leader and eventual winner Brad Keselowski for the G-W-C restart until his No. 24 Chevy went dry on Lap 302.
After getting to the pits for a splash, Gordon took the restart in 27th and gained one spot in the last two laps. Despite the heartbreak, both Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson still thought their late strategy was worth the risk.
In an interesting note, Gordon had actually fallen back as far as 26th during the early portion of the race due to handling issues.
He needed a wave-around to get back on the lead lap at Lap 113, but Gordon was able to move into the Top 10 by the caution flag at Lap 211. In subsequent pit stops, he was able to go even further up to third place.
Then, after staying out with 51 to go, Gordon assumed the lead for 18 laps before he lost it to Keselowski on Lap 270. Gordon would cede second as well to Hamlin at Lap 281 before Allgaier’s crash changed the complexion of the race.
“We knew we were very close,” said Gordon. “That pick-up is in the right side and so I was scuffing my tires and think I just took enough fuel out of the pick-up and I could never get any back in there. I tried.
“I think if we would have gone green, we would have been fine. I think it was really just because under caution it wouldn’t pick-up the amount of fuel that was in there. We might have run out anyway. But, it was the best effort and chance we had at winning this race.”
As for Harvick, he ran within the Top 10 before falling back to 19th shortly after halfway. On his final stop at Lap 213 (two tires, fuel, chassis), he was told to save fuel:
By this point, Harvick had climbed back within the Top 10 and he stayed in that bracket until the Lap 249 caution, where he did not pit. As the race hit its final stages, Harvick jumped into the Top 5.
When G-W-C went into effect, Harvick moved up to third with Hamlin pitting and then to second when Gordon ran dry. But instead of racing Keselowski for the win…
After the race, crew chief Rodney Childers both hailed Harvick and rued the late caution and extra laps.
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