Jeff Gordon says his Hendrick Motorsports team is still unsure what caused the right-front brake rotor to fail on his car last weekend at Pocono Raceway, sending the DuPont Chevrolet slamming into the turn-one wall in one of the hardest crashes in NASCAR history.
“We don't have a definite answer yet," said Gordon, adding that has sent what the remains of the shattered rotor to be analyzed. Gordon ran the same brake set-up as teammates Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers, neither of whom experienced problems. Jimmie Johnson ran had a slightly different brake package, and Gordon said he will likely use that assembly when the Nextel Cup Series returns to Pocono next month.
Gordon’s impacted the Turn One SAFER barrier with a force registered at 64 Gs – 64 times the force of gravity, I believe I reported 62 G’s on Friday’s show, but sources say it was actually 64; a number that caused officials in Pocono’s Infield Care Center to hold Gordon for extended observation. "I was ready to walk out of the Care Center when they came in with the telemetry numbers,” he said. “The doctors said, 'Wait a minute. We think you might want to stay a little bit longer.' That’s one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken.”
The wreck was serious enough that it took safety crews two tires to load the crumpled remains of the #24 onto a rollback truck. It damaged the SAFER barrier, and left huge amounts of dirt and debris on the track. But while the race was red-flagged for more than 13 minutes, Gordon climbed from his car and walked away with little more than a headache to show for it.
Recent advances in driver safety clearly played a major role in the crash’s positive outcome. SAFER barriers – unheard of in NASCAR racing as little as five years ago -- head and neck restraints, advances in seating technology, and improved car construction techniques all helped ensure that Gordon walked away from a truly savage crash.
Let’s hope the trend continues.