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Gordon, Martin, Almirola taken out in same crash

- jjones@charlotteobserver.com
Monday, May. 27, 2013

With 75 laps to go in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Jeff Gordon didn’t anticipate winning his fourth 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but he certainly thought his group had a shot at a high finish.

Coming out of the eighth caution of the night, Gordon, Mark Martin and Aric Almirola went three-wide near the start-finish line and didn’t make it to turn one before going into the wall.

All three men saw their night end on Lap 326.

“We went three-wide, and I got squeezed in there,” Martin said. “There wasn’t quite room there.”

Martin went to the line just ahead of Almirola and Gordon. Almirola went underneath Martin while Gordon was on the outside.

Martin, possibly loose, clipped the back-right side of Almirola, sending him into Gordon, who then went into the wall. Almirola finished 33rd, Martin 34th and Gordon 35th.

“We couldn’t win,” said Gordon, who was racing at 16thth when he came out of the caution. “Kasey (Kahne) is unbelievable, but we had a top-five car.”

A top-five finish would have been Gordon’s third of the season after third-place finishes at Martinsville and Darlington.

The three men were competing to be the lucky dog, hoping to regain the lap and get back into contention in the final hour of the race.

“I couldn’t get any closer to the grass,” Almirola said. “It looked like Mark clipped me in the right rear. So I know he didn’t mean to do that. I’ve raced with Mark a lot and he’s a gentleman racer. Unfortunately it tore up a bunch of race cars.”

The ninth caution of the race meant Gordon would not be in contention for his fourth Coca-Cola 600 victory – and first since 1998. Martin won the race in 2002.

The caution also signaled the race tightening up. Just before on Lap 319, Danica Patrick and Brad Keselowski went into the wall after they went three-wide with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Almirola said he could feel things getting closer, but he was looking to be aggressive enough to be the lucky dog.

“It’s finally getting down late in the race and everybody’s racing hard,” he said. “That front stretch is narrow. You can make it three-wide but nobody can make a mistake. And when somebody makes a mistake you have what just happened.”

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