BROOKLYN, Mich. – Last Sunday at Pocono Raceway, Jeff Gordon’s frustration boiled to the surface, and the result was an uncharacteristically acrimonious radio exchange with crew chief Alan Gustafson.
Gustafson wanted Gordon to pit for tires late in the race. Gordon thought keeping his track position was more important.
“Tires are not our problem,” Gordon told Gustafson, an edge in his voice.
“What the (expletive) is the problem?” Gustafson retorted.
On Friday at Michigan International Speedway, Gordon explained the testy exchange and attributed some of the frustration to a star-crossed start to his final season of full-time racing.
“It’s intense out there,” he said. “We had a car far better than we finished. I would say (it’s attributable to) a little bit of build-up with the type of season that we’ve had so far. It seems like every time we have a car that’s capable of either winning or running in the top five, some circumstances come about that take us kind of out of that. That’s frustrating.
“…At that point, I think both Alan was frustrated, and I was frustrated. The restarts weren’t going great. We took a risk on pit strategy (earlier in the race), and the caution came out. That blew that strategy and put us back. I rarely ever question (Gustafson’s) calls. He’s the crew chief, and he makes great calls, but at that point, I felt like I needed to stay out, and it got a little heated.
“But it’s all good. We’re big boys. We respect the heck out of one another, and we had great conversations this week. I think it’s actually been more positive that we kind of got that out there and had that heated moment and said some things and got them off our chest. I think it has actually helped us come into this weekend focused, motivated and excited.”
Jeff Gordon led Saturday’s final practice for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway with a lap of 198.604 mph. Kyle Busch shared second on the speed chart with last week’s Pocono winner, Martin Truex Jr., at 198.571 mph… In cooler temperatures, Kevin Harvick was fastest in Saturday’s first practice session, posting a lap at 201.084 mph… Denny Hamlin spun off Turn 2 in Happy Hour and popped the right front tire, destroying the sheet metal surrounding the wheel well and damaging the splitter. The team opted to repair the primary car and preserve Hamlin’s 13th-place starting position for Sunday’s race.