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Steer Clear: Avoiding the Big Ones at Daytona
Watch and listen as Ty Dillon, Benny Gordon and David Gilliland make impressive moves to avoid the huge pileups at Daytona.
Gordon gets comfortable, keeps expectations 'realistic'
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon was all smiles walking on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's pit road following qualifying for Sunday's Brickyard 400. The crowd cheered its approval of his 21st-place qualifying effort. Mostly they were happy for the opportunity to see the four-time NASCAR champion at work again. Gordon advanced to the second round of qualifying driving Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet. And the five-time Indy winner will start his final race here from the 11th row filling in for Earnhardt, who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon , 44, who was asked by team owner Rick Hendrick to come out of retirement and take the wheel for Earnhardt at Indy and at Pocono Raceway next week. "I feel like today I am much calmer than I was yesterday," Gordon said. "Usually my heart's beating more for qualifying than for practice, but that wasn't the case today. "So today, I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car and I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic and trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as around other cars." Gordon hasn't driven a Sprint Cup Series car since retiring at the end of the 2015 season and only had a pair of practice sessions Friday to prepare for qualifying and the race. The team used his old seat and steering wheel in the car and Gordon only arrived from a family vacation in France mid-week. "For the most part, all the work is done," Gordon said. "We did our practice yesterday, we did our de-brief with drivers and crew chiefs last night and we qualified today. "Every time we're on track we're gathering information and learning. We'll continue to talk about it, but that's about all we can do moving forward. Those guys will be working hard on pit strategy for the race. But for the most part, the work is done for me other than thinking of some things I could tell Greg. "The work all begins when the green flag drops." While this will be the first time in Gordon's celebrated career he won't be steering the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick, there was an unmistakable sense of excitement about the weekend's opportunity. In what was originally his final Indy start -- last year -- Gordon scored his worst-ever finish of 42nd. In a sense, this time filling in for his good friend and former teammate Earnhardt also affords him the chance to improve that career note, too. "My expectations are very realistic," Gordon said. "I'm approaching this the same way I've approached any race I've ever been in. I drive the car into the corner and the car gives me feedback and if it feels good, I drive it harder. If it doesn't feel good I find a way to manage it until we can make adjustments. "My goal is to make the car go as fast as it can go. Each time on track I feel like I'm getting better. This is a steep learning curve, to be off the track this long and then just jump in here. But luckily, I have a great race car and a great race team that's going to help me get through it." </p>
Stewart talks special moment with Gordon post-Indy
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " See the moment SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- With the field lined up for the first of what turned out to be two overtime restarts Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart clicked his radio and made a request. "Tell (the 88) after this is over let's go around the track one more time together," Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the organization's No. 14 Chevrolet, said. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and twice a winner of the The Combat Wounded Coalition 400, wanted to slow down instead of go fast, and soak in the moment with a familiar foe and friend, regardless of how his final race at IMS ended. Jeff Gordon , driving the Hendrick Motorsports entry in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was more than willing to oblige. Hours earlier, Gordon had paid tribute to Stewart, acknowledging him and what he has meant to NASCAR during the morning drivers' meeting. RELATED: Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. " WATCH: Gordon climbs in No. 88 So before race winner Kyle Busch made it to Victory Lane, prior to he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates gathering to kiss the bricks on the finish line, Stewart and Gordon , two old warhorses with a combined seven championships and 142 Sprint Cup Series wins between them, slowly circled the 2.5-mile track one final time to the cheers of the fans and many of those still on pit road. MORE: Relive 'Smoke's' 49 career victories Afterward, Gordon climbed from his car and approached Stewart; the two hugged on pit road amid a throng of reporters. "I can say that just ranks in the top-three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series," said Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup racing at season's end. "To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis, I don't know. I don't even have the words for it. That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life." For the record, Stewart finished 11th in his final Sprint Cup start at the famed Brickyard. It was a hard-fought 11th with the 45-year-old rallying from a lap down after running strong in the first half of the 170-lap race. Gordon , scheduled to make at least one more start next week at Pocono's Pennsylvania 400 in relief of Earnhardt Jr., rallied, too, to finish 13th. "Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years," he said. "But he and I have become really good friends. ... I'm just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race (at Indy)." Stewart ran as high as second early, moving up from his No. 3 starting position in spite of a slow takeoff when the race went green. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the pit crew continued to make adjustments throughout the first half of the race, keeping Stewart inside the top 10, but at one point admitted to his driver, "We're just barely keeping up with the track." Stewart hit pit road at Lap 119 under green, and when the caution came out for an incident involving David Ragan , it appeared the move might work in the team’s favor -- others that hadn't pitted would come to pit road, allowing Stewart to gain track position. But a speeding penalty negated any advantage, and Stewart instead found himself in 31st and one lap down. By then, it was too late to change game plans, according to Bugarewicz. "Normally you would say yes when it's early in the race," he said. "When it's late in the race like that, your fate's almost ... you just have to race for the (free pass) and hope you get it like we did. That's all you've got. "Nobody was going to pit again if it stayed green because they're already in the last fuel window so at that point it was just ... banking on getting a caution and being the best car out of the cars that were a lap down to get the lucky dog, which is what we did. "We got fortunate with a few more cautions to let us line back up at the tail of the field and start picking them off." On Lap 140, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) to be in positon for the free pass, and when the caution flag waved for debris moments later, he was back on the lead lap. Three more cautions unfolded before the finish, including one that involved Stewart, Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing) and Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports). WATCH: Big wreck claims multiple cars at Indy "That last one probably hurt us in one sense -- with the nose damage we had, the car was really tight," Bugarewicz said. "But ... we're not going to complain, we're just going to take what we've got and be happy for it." The finish moved Stewart up one spot, to 27th, in points. With a win earlier at California's Sonoma Raceway, he continues to improve his chances at earning a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But with Indy in his rearview, Stewart wasn't in a hurry to look too far down the road. "It was an awesome weekend," he said. "Everything went the way we wanted it to, we just came up short today. "I had fun all day and had fun all weekend. ... Everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible. It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it." MORE: 'Smoke' receives unique gift from Indy
Jeff Gordon and Junior fans react at Indianapolis
Several Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans offer their reaction to Jeff Gordon substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Brickyard Breakdown: Gordon , Stewart looking for one final crown
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Chris Rice talk about Jeff Gordon's return to the track and Tony Stewart's final race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Gordon honors Tony before Indy
Jeff Gordon honors Tony Stewart before his last Brickyard 400 during the drivers meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Jeff Gordon's driver introduction at Indy
Watch as Jeff Gordon gets introduced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet.
Gordon disappointed with starting spot at Indy
Jeff Gordon talks about being disappointed after qualifying 21st at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but is encouraged that he can work his way through the field during the race.
Stewart, Gordon reflect on final trip to Indy
Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart take time to reflect on what could possibly be the final time they race together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stewart and Gordon take a lap while Busch sweeps
NASCAR.com's Chuck Bush recaps the all excitement from a triple-header weekend that saw Kyle Larson put on a show on the dirt, Kyle Busch's historical sweep at 'The Brickyard' and two NASCAR legends drive off into the sunset.