LONG POND, Pa. - Jeff Gordon couldn't believe his eyes when he got out of his crumpled Chevrolet on the 192nd lap of Sunday's Pocono 500.
His car was crushed, the sheet metal stripped away from the driver's side.
"I don't know how I wasn't hurt," Gordon said. "That's as hard a hit as I've ever had. The guys at Hendrick Motorsports built a great car. The soft walls, seat and safety devices all worked. I wasn't knocked out or anything. I don't even have a headache."
NASCAR was so concerned about the severity of the crash they asked Gordon to remain in the infield care center for a few minutes to see if he had any delayed problems. He eventually walked away.
"It broke a right-front brake rotor going into (Turn) 1, and there's nothing worse in this circuit than not having brakes going into Turn 1 at Pocono," Gordon said.
His car slid through the grass, veered across the track and smashed into the outside wall.
It took track workers 13 minutes and 9 seconds to clean up the mess and make repairs to the wall before the race resumed.
THE POINTS RACE: Jimmie Johnson finished 10th at Pocono Raceway and will take a 48-point lead over Matt Kenseth into next Sunday's race at Michigan International Raceway.
Mark Martin is a distant third (down by 238 points), while the rest of the top 10 include Tony Stewart in fourth (257), Kasey Kahne in fifth (279), Dale Earnhardt Jr. in sixth (295), Jeff Burton in seventh (387), Kevin Harvick in eighth (430), race winner Denny Hamlin in ninth (463) and Kyle Busch in 10th (476).
The top 10 drivers after 26 races qualify to compete for the Chase for the Championship.
SPEED TRAP: A round of mid-race pit stops under the green flag proved costly for a lot of teams.
Race leader Brian Vickers was ticketed for leaving the pits too fast, while Busch was caught speeding onto pit road.
Johnson also got caught leaving too fast, and Carl Edwards lost two laps when his car fell off the jack.
Vickers, Busch and Johnson all were ordered to make a pass down pit road - at 55 mph - as a penalty.
Vickers rebounded to finish fourth, while Busch was 22nd.
Burton was running second during the final round of green-flag stops with 35 laps to go when he was caught speeding leaving pit road. His drive-through penalty dropped him as far back as 22nd place. He rebounded to finish ninth.
SHORT DAY FOR MEARS: The national anthem lasted a minute longer than Casey Mears' race.
Mears was bumped on the first lap, sending his Dodge into the third turn wall and out of the race.
"I was just on cruise control," he said. "A lot of times on the first lap around here you get two wide until you get things sorted."
Scott Riggs asked his crew to apologize to Mears for losing control of his car and running into Mears.
"We didn't even make a lap," Mears said. "Things happen, and I've been in those scenarios on the first lap where I took out a bunch of guys."
Reach Don Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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